Beer Brewed With Elephant Dung

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I’ve had my share of beers made with odd ingredients, from pizza beer to Wynkoop’s bull testicle beer, with all manner of flowers, nuts, fruits, vegetables and tree parts in between. But this one has to take the cake. The Japanese brewery Sankt Gallen created a beer with elephant dung, which reportedly immediately sold out.

Sankt-Gallen-elephant-dung

According to Drinks Business:

The beer, which is called Un, Kono Kuro, is made using coffee beans that have passed through an elephant.

The Sankt Gallen brewery called the beer a “chocolate stout,” despite it not containing any chocolate. The coffee beans used in the beer come from elephants at Thailand’s Golden Triangle Elephant Foundation, which cost over $100 per 35 grams. The beans are so expensive as 33 kgs of beans in the mouth yields 1 kg of useable coffee beans.

According to another source, International Science Times, the beer “utilizes the flavor of Black Ivory Coffee, a variety of your morning brew that retails for about $500 per pound because the beans are harvested from elephant poop. And by “harvested” we mean picked out of a big pile of dung and rinsed off. The elephant poop beer uses the coffee beans to enhance the flavor in its coffee stout.” They continue.

Un, Kono Kuro is a pun on “unko” which is the Japanese word for “crap,” a fitting name indeed for elephant poop coffee. Although the elephant poop beer was a sales success, don’t expect it hit shelves anytime soon. The brewer, Sankt Gallen, isn’t adding it to their regular line-up. It’s not cheap beer, either; the retail value of a keg of Un, Kono Kuro is around $1100.

So apparently it’s pretty popular. At least one reviewer said it wasn’t bad, saying “there was an initial bitterness that got washed over by a wave of sweetness. Following that, a mellow body rolled in and spread out through my mouth.” Still, this may be going too far. What do you think?

Sankt-Gallen

Beer From Beard Yeast, Yes; From Vaginas, No

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You most likely remember that Rogue harvested some yeast from the beard of their longtime brewmaster, John Maier, and White Labs analyzed it and propagated a brewing yeast that Rogue in turn used to brew a beer with. Not everyone responded favorably to the news, but in terms of attention and publicity, it’s been a huge hit, with almost every news agency, website and blog writing about it. I made it the subject of part of one of my newspaper columns back in July. A Google search of “rogue beard beer” turns up over 1.4 million hits.

But just when you think things can’t get any weirder, my wife — who’s been working in Shanghai this week — just sent me an article from a feminist blog she reads regularly, Jezebel. Inspired by John Maier’s beard beer exploits, they wrote an article about one more place known for its occasional yeast production that we can write off as a place to harvest for brewing. The article, entitled Just So You Know, You Can’t Make Beer With Your Vagina, answers the question I’m not sure anyone was asking. But now that I know there is an answer, I can’t look away. It’s like that car crash on the side of the road. I know I shouldn’t look, but I just can’t help myself.

Beginning with the premise that “[y]east is everywhere, even (as we ladies well know) buried deep inside our vaginas, waiting to go bad and ruin our week at any moment,” they wonder if anyone could “turn a yeast infection into a full-bodied IPA.” At this point, I’ll let author
Madeleine Davies share the results.

We did some research and, in a word, no. The yeast used in beer is a completely different strain of yeast than the one that causes yeast infections. And there goes your artisanal brewery idea!

The yeast used in beer is called Saccharomyces cerevisiae and works by converting carbohydrates to carbon dioxide and alcohols. This is also the yeast used in bread, which is why baking yeast can be used to brew beer, though it generally makes the end product doughy in flavor and texture. Yeast infections are caused by Candida albicans, a fungus that grows as both yeast and filamentous cells and can cause oral and genital infections in humans. Using this to brew would be entirely ineffective, not to mention, guh-ross.

So there you have it. No vagina beer. I, for one, am relieved. It was one thing to have Sam Calagione and his team spitting in his Peruvian-style chicha beer, and Maier’s beard never bothered me too much, because White Labs removed any lingering ick factor by growing the yeast in their San Diego lab. But in the on-going quest to push the envelope, generate publicity and maybe even make something worth drinking, this may be crossing a line. What do you think?

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Close, but no vagina.

Japanese Paper Beer

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Most people have probably heard of origami, the Japanese art of paper folding. But the Japanese propensity of coming up with unusual hobbies knows no boundaries. One of the tamer examples is the related art of making 3D paper models. Using vector software like Pepakura, 3D models are created in 2D and then sheets are created to cut out and build the paper models. I stumbled on one of these while searching for another image. It’s of a waitress serving beer to a bar patron. The title of it is Bunny Beer Maiden because the waitress is dressed in a bunny costume, a popular Japanese fetish theme. Instructions and more photos are also at Papercraft and also at Paperworks’ And Wind Until, which has even more views of the component parts of the paper models.

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First a vector drawing is created on a computer, and then individual pieces like a dress pattern are created that must be carefully cut out for assembly.

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After being put together, the server in bunny costume looks like this. See many other angles here.

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Here’s a close-up of the glasses of beer.

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And the customer with his beer. See many other angles here.

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And here’s the entire scene with the server, the customer and tables and chairs, all of which are made out of paper.

Inflatable Beer Mug Coolers

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I don’t exactly know why this called to me, but for some reason it did. I’ve seen inflatable beer coolers before, but these seemed kind of cool to me. I guess I like the idea of putting the bottles or cans in a beer mug to cool them down. Like most people who take drinking seriously, I have a number of beer coolers of different sizes, shapes and materials. I also have three big keg tubs, too. But those you have to carry back from the beach or park or wherever remote location you’re hauling them to. With an inflatable one, you don’t have nearly as much to drag back home, which seems like a definitive advantage.

Anyway, the one I like best is from Europe, specifically Switzerland, and there’s one pretty similar available from England.

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I couldn’t find that one available in the U.S., but a different — though somewhat the same — inflatable mug cooler is available from eCrater and through Amazon.

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Session #38: Cult Beers

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Our 38th Session is hosted by Sean Inman at Beer Search Party, is cult beers; those beers that are in short supply, high demand and often require going to great lengths to acquire.

Here’s Sean’s thoughts on the cult of beers:

I started thinking about what beer or beers that I would get up at 4:00 in the morning, drive across state lines, stand in a long unmoving line in the cold and rain for the chance to taste with a crowd the size of Woodstock.

So here is my question to you (with a couple addenda).

What beer have you tasted recently (say, the last six months or so) that is worthy of their own day in the media sun?

And to add a little extra to it, how does “great” expectations affect your beer drinking enjoyment?

AND If you have attended one of these release parties, stories and anecdotes of your experience will be welcomed too.

So that’s the assignment, so to speak. While I’m not big on actually standing in lines, if anything might so motivate me, it’s the promise of a truly extraordinary beer for my trouble.

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But what makes a cult beer? Scarcity seems to be a factor. An intangible hype also sees to be part of the legend. Of course, Coors was once a cult beer, at least East of the Mississippi. Some people think of PBR as a cult beer even though it’s hardly difficult to find. So beers that were once cult favorites can lose that peculiar appeal to become more pedestrian beers. Years ago Mendocino Brewing’s Eye of the Hawk was considered a cult beer and its biannual release was highly anticipated, but they foolishly decided to make it all year round. As a result, it’s really lost virtually all its cache.

Of course, it better taste good to back up the hype or it’s going to lose its cult status pretty quickly. All but a couple of the beers on my list were pretty damn good. So perhaps the real question is does having to work to get a cult beer to try bias one toward rating it higher, in effect giving it points just for the effort involved? I think that can be a factor. Human nature being what it is, most of us don’t want to admit that all that effort wasn’t worth it. In a sense, like many quests, it’s really the journey that’s important.

Every geeky discipline has it’s holy grails that its most ardent fans will seek out. I also collect View-Master reels and there’s one reel among the early single reels (before packets — never mind, V-M geek talk) that always commands the highest price in auctions. It’s Reel #1305 and the last time it was auctioned, it fetched over $800. I think it’s title will explain, at least in part, why: “President Kennedy’s Visit To Ireland.” And indeed, the late John F. Kennedy is in several of the reel’s seven pictures. View-Master geek that I am, I’ve had the reel for a number of years and while it’s certainly a highly-prized part of my collection, there are countless reels with more stunning 3-D photography that I like to look at far more often.

But one thing you can say about geeks is that they’re never satisfied, always restless and in search of the next thing, big or small. And so cult beers will always be a part of the craft industry. Making too little beer for demand is something small brewers can easily excel at. All they need to do is make sure the demand is high enough, sprinkle some hype around and a quick sell out is all but assured, which in turn makes its cult status only grow. And, naturally, they need to brew a beer that can live up to the hype, something most seem readily able to do.

I frankly think the scarce beers are great for the industry. They provide a creative outlet for the brewers, beers for the most ardent fans and make reputations for the breweries themselves while simultaneously allowing them to concentrate on their core brands that make the majority of their profits for them. The most successful breweries seem to me the ones that can both have a flagship or stable of beers that everybody loves and a few stand-outs that appeal primarily to the beer geeks. That’s real multitasking, brewery style. Think New Belgium’s Fat Tire/La Folie. Deschutes’ Black Butte Porter/The Abyss. New Glarus’ Spotted Cow/Everything Else. Sam Adams Boston Lager/Utopias. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale/Bigfoot, Celebration and quite a lot more. I don’t think it’s an accident those are some of the most successful modern era breweries.

beer-koolaid
Drink the cult beer Kool-aid.

But which beers are cult beers? Which ones belong on a list of cult beers? I’ve made a list below off the top of my head Without putting too much thought into it, these are a few that immediately came to mind.

  • Black Albert (De Struise)
  • Black Tuesday (The Bruery)
  • Cable Car (Lost Abbey)
  • Cuvee de Tomme (Lost Abbey)
  • Dark Lord (Three Floyds)
  • Exponential Hoppiness (Alpine beer)
  • Kate the Great (Portsmouth Brewery)
  • Leviathan Barleywine (Fish Brewing)
  • Local 1 (Brooklyn Brewery)
  • O.B.A. (Anchor Brewery)
  • 120 Minute IPA (Dogfish Head)
  • Pliny the Elder (Russian River Brewing)
  • Pliny the Younger (Russian River Brewing)
  • Poseidon Imperial Stout (Fish Brewing)
  • Raspberry Tart (New Glarus)
  • Sink the Bismarck! (BrewDog)
  • Speedway Stout (AleSmith)
  • Tactical Nuclear Penguin (BrewDog)
  • Toronado 20th Anniversary Ale (Russian River Brewing)
  • Westvleteren Blond, 8 and 12 (Westvleteren)
  • Wisconsin Belgian Red (New Glarus)

These seem like no brainers, for the most part. Of course, I’ve tried all of them. I assume there’s plenty of ones I can’t think of simply because I’ve never tried them, or perhaps even heard of them. What else should be on the list? Anchor’s Christmas Ale? Sierra Nevada Bigfoot?

As it happens, I recently sampled a number of the beers on this list at this year’s Keene Tasting at Brouwer’s Cafe in Seattle. I’ll have my report from that tasting posted shortly and will update it here with a link.

Pliny-the-Younger
The original cult figure Pliny the Younger.

Fucking Hell, I Need A Beer

austria
File this under news of the weird. According to the UK’s The Sun, the European Patent Office had to reverse their decision denying a company the right to produce a beer called Fucking Hell, when they were able to prove that Fucking is a real town in Austria. Or rather village, since there are only 104 people who live in Fucking, which is just 2-1/2 miles from the German border.

According to Wikipedia,

It is believed that the settlement was founded around the 6th century by Focko, a Bavarian nobleman. The existence of the village was documented for the first time in 1070 and historical records show that some twenty years later the lord was Adalpertus de Fucingin. The spelling of the name has evolved over the years; it is first recorded in historical sources with the spelling as Vucchingen in 1070, Fukching in 1303, Fugkhing in 1532, and in the modern spelling Fucking in the 18th century, which is pronounced with the vowel oo as in book. The ending -ing is an old Germanic suffix indicating the people of the root word to which it is attached; thus Fucking means “(place of) Focko’s people.”

Brewery spokesman Stefan Fellenberg said they plan to brew a Helles style beer. After years of trying on vain to keep people from stealing their town’s sign, and engaging in intercourse either in front of it or in town, the village instead decided to cash in instead. They may have gotten the idea from nearby Wank Mountain residents, who gave them some advice recently. Frankly, I can’t really blame them, though no doubt the U.S. will never give label approval. Guns and violence, yes. Sex, never. Even the Sun piece wouldn’t print either the word Fucking or Wank even though they’re legitimate place names. I’m constantly amazed at how utterly fearful we are about just … words.

Fing-Austria

Here’s another humorous addition about the signs in the village. “One version of the sign features the village name with an additional sign beneath it, with the words “Bitte — nicht so schnell!”, which translates from German into English as “Please — not so fast!” The lower sign – which features an illustration of two children — is meant to inform drivers to watch their speed, but tourists see this as a double-meaning coupled with the village name.”

Session #37: Drinking The Good Stuff

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Our 37th Session is hosted by The Ferm and Sir Ron’s theme is The Display Shelf: When to Drink the Good Stuff, a dilemma many of us face. We’ve all accumulated “numerous bottles of beers that [were] subsequently cellared and designated as ‘to be opened on a special occasion.’ [The] dilemma, however, is matching an occasion with opening a particular bottle in [the] collection.”

The Ferm continues to elucidate their topic:

Finding a drinking occasion that lives up to the reputation of the bottle and the story of its acquisition is not a dreadful struggle to have, but it is a struggle nonetheless. When my good friends are over and we have had a few other beverages, will we still be able to enjoy my cave aged Hennepin that I bought after my tour of the brewery and have cellared for ten years? Will I miss it like I miss that four year old Golden Monkey?

The topic is open ended and the rules of The Session are close to nil. You can use your post to be persuasive or therapeutic. You may choose to tell a story of a great bottle you once opened or boast of your own beer collection.

So that got me thinking about my own beer cellar. It’s not as grand as a lot of impressive ones I’ve visited or have heard about. It’s not in a goldmine, for example. It doesn’t have Celtic granite columns. It’s not a converted walk-in, sadly. It’s just part of my network of four refrigerators, three of which are devoted exclusively to beer. One of the refrigerators is used for everyday beers, the ones my wife is allowed to drink. I used to employ a system where I put sticker dots on the beers she wasn’t allowed to open, but she (and my friends and relatives) just ignored them. So now there’s a separate refrigerator in the hallway, just off the kitchen, that I keep stocked with beer for her and guests. It’s worked beautifully, and I suspect the reason is a sort of “out of sight, out of mind” phenomenon where people aren’t tempted by what they can’t see.

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But nestled coolly inside one of them (the other is partly the queue for beers I need to taste for work) are a number of gems, but nothing I’d consider overly spectacular. I’ve seen spectacular, I’ve been fortunate to taste a lot of spectacular stuff, but I’ve never set out to collect beers in any systematic way so what I’ve got aging is a mishmash of what people were kind enough to gift me and a few things I’ve stumbled across that were just too good to pass up. I’ve got magnums and 12-oz. bottles of Anchor Christmas Ale going back into the 1980s. Some Thomas Hardy from the same time period. A few strong beers, old ales, dubbels and tripels, things like that. Some waxed-top barleywines from several brewers, and the ubiquitous Samuel Adams Triple Bock that it seems everybody has a few bottles of, myself included.

safe

But I suspect many of us have a least a few special beers we’ve been holding on to, and for me the more interesting question is when to open them. When is the right time to open the safe and let them flow freely? As the Ferm put it, the trick is “matching an occasion with opening a particular bottle in [the] collection.” Obvious choices are events like birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and holidays. As the humorist Dave Barry expressed it, he will “drink beer to celebrate a major event such as the fall of communism or the fact that the refrigerator is still working.” But for some reason that rarely seems to work, and the bottles stack up. Literally.

I have a colleague who has a party to clear out his cellar — I think once a year. I’ve hosted a few “clearing out the garage of beer” events and they’ve been great fun. What it comes down to is that I don’t want to open a special bottle just for me. I want to share it. But I also want to share it with people who can and will appreciate how special it is. And while my wife has developed a great palate over the years, the rest of the family has largely not, so that makes holidays and family gatherings not the ideal occasion. There are some beers so cool, rare or otherwise special that you want to have as many people try them as you can. It’s that social aspect that make beer so worthwhile.

I keep trying to start a tasting club that would get together to taste beer once a month, but am continually stalled in trying to get the ball rolling for no better reason than I feel so busy all the time. The idea is to set aside the last Tuesday of every month and have a good number of brewers, other writers, and just people I know would appreciate trying different beers get together and open a few bottles, a mix of new samples and old gems. My plam is to have roughly 50 people on the list with the idea that if 6 or so show up any given month, we’ve got a good group. In that way, no one will feel any pressure to come every month, only if they’re free and have the desire to come. I think in that way, the garage wouldn’t get so clogged with beer to the point where I feel overwhelmed just trying to decide what to drink some days. And while I realize that’s not a problem for which I’ll be getting any genuine sympathy for having, it is a problem nonetheless.

Whitbread-Pale

But there is one beer I have that continues to vex me concerning when and where to open it. Actually, I have two bottles of this beer, which were given to me by a Costello Beverage distributor’s rep. in Las Vegas, when I was still the beer buyer at BevMo and we still had two stores in Nevada. The bottles in question are from the Whitbread Brewery, and though I can’t confirm the veracity of everything in their story, here’s what I was told.

Port-Napier

Back in World War II, a British minelayer, the HMS Port Napier, sank off the coast of Scotland. Here’s what happened, according to Wikipedia:

After being loaded with her cargo, she dragged her anchor during a gale in the Kyle of Loch Alsh on 26 November 1940 and grounded in shallow water. While being unloaded there was a fire in the engine room, whereupon the harbour and towns nearby were evacuated, and she was towed well out into the loch and cast adrift in anticipation of an explosion.

A massive explosion on 27 November, which fortuitously didn’t set off any of the mines, blew her apart and she tipped over on her starboard side and sank in 20 metres of water with her port side visible at low tide.

In 1955 the Royal Navy took off the steel plating on her port side and removed the mines and 4000 anti-aircraft shells.

Today, she’s still a popular site for divers, even though the wreck is silty, “owing to its relative intactness and shallow location.”

hms-port-napier-clr

But in 1993, some divers found something interesting that others had missed.

In 1993 eight divers visited the wreck of HMS Port Napier off the Isle of Skye, Scotland. The ship was a WWII mine layer which sank on its maiden voyage in 1940 when fire broke out in the engine room. The wreck lays in 24m of water. The divers found two crates of beer in the galley. They contained 48 bottles of Whitbread pale ale and the contents had been preserved by rubber-sealed screw-in bottle tops. The divers sampled some of the beer back on dry land and found it to be even better than new beer. “Foamy with a mature flavour” said one of the divers. They didn’t finish off the 48 bottles though. They saved a few of them for the Whitbread company.

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So that part of the story I can more or less confirm. From here on out, it’s all uncorroborated, unless someone out there has more information. The Whitbread Brewery examined some of the bottles and managed to extract some still-living yeast from them, using it to brew some special beer. The bottles that I received were supposedly that beer, made with the 50+ year old yeast. If the yeast was found in 1993, then I don’t know exactly when Whitbread made the beer. They were still in business at least until 2000, when they sold out to what was then InterBrew (and now is InBev or Anhueser-Busch InBev) for £400 million. A few years later, in 2005, Whitbread (now a hotel chain, though they call it a “hospitality company”) even sold the original brewery building on Chiswick Street on London, where Samuel Whitbread founded his brewing empire in 1732. Today it’s an event center called, fittingly, the brewery.

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This is one of the bottles. Note: the glass is perfectly smooth, what looks odd is just condensation as I’d just taken it from the refrigerator moments before taking this photo. Some of the bright red wax is starting to chip off just a little bit, but is otherwise in pretty good shape, all things considered.

I was given them around 1998 and was told to wait until the Millennium to open them, but to be honest I forgot about them that New Year’s Eve and then I never quite found another occasion that seemed worthy of opening one of them. So they’re roughly twelve years old now, and I’ve kept them properly chilled virtually the entire time (though I can’t vouch for the time before they were in my possession) brewed with yeast from a beer bottle that was under water since 1940, 70 years ago. I’ve heard of other people who’ve seen them, but I don’t know anyone else that has one, let alone two of them. I’m very curious what the beer tastes like, of course. I’d employ the above rule about “when surrounded by enough people who can and will appreciate trying it,” but somehow that doesn’t seem quite right. So when exactly should I open them? For what occasion? I’m stumped. What do you think?

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Here’s a close up of the embossed bottle.

Toyota Puts The Brakes On Pints For Prostates

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This is a bit of a head-scratcher, especially give the recent troubles that Toyota has been experiencing. You probably already know about my friend and colleague Rick Lyke‘s great campaign, Pints For Prostates, that seeks simply to raise awareness about prostate cancer and encourage men to get tested for it. As a cancer survivor, Lyke is understandably passionate about his cause and has done a lot of good work toward his goals.

As he notes, despite all the Toyota controversy, the car company is, of course, still trying to sell its cars. One marketing scheme they’ve introduced is asking NASCAR fans to “Sponsafy” a race car using an online graphics program. Fan-craeated cars are posted in an online gallery and are voted on, with the winner having their actual car design on the pace car for NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race in Charlotte, NC on May 22, 2010.

Here, I’ll let Rick pick up the story: “Well, I thought “sponsafying” a car for the contest might be a fun way to promote the Pints for Prostates campaign and reach a few men with a simple message: “Get a PSA Test.” After all, look at what the NFL did for the cause of breast cancer awareness early this past season by allowing players to wear pink.” So he designed and submitted the car below.

PfP-Toyota

Here’s where things take a turn for the weird. Again, here’s Rick:

Amazingly, Toyota Racing has rejected the design saying it “Contains offensive or inappropriate content.” Really? What is offensive about a car design that encourages men to pay attention to their health? Using the universal language of beer to reach men with an important health message certainly cannot be inappropriate for a sport that was once sponsored by a tobacco company and has had cars sponsored by beer, spirits and wine brands for decades. Makes you wonder if Toyota has something against men’s health?

There is still time for the Pints for Prostates ride to be part of the Toyota Sponsafy promotion and with your help we can make it happen. Please send a quick email to Kym Strong (kym_strong@toyota.com) of Toyota Motorsports and Greg Thome (greg_thome@toyota.com) of Toyota Corporate Communications. Use the subject line “Race the Pints for Prostates Car.”

As of this morning, there were 6,390 cars on Toyota’s online gallery but none with a healthy, helpful message to keep men safe from prostate cancer. And the reason for that — which I still can’t quite wrap my head around — is because it’s “offensive” (to whom?) and is “inappropriate content (what exactly?).” Take a look at the design. What do you see? I see a light blue ribbon, the logo (a pint glass with the text “Pints for Prostates” and another light blue ribbon) and the text “Get A PSA Test” in several places. Seriously, WTF!?! If you agree that makes no sense, let’s all e-mail Toyota as Rick suggests. Tell them you don’t find Pints For Prostates inappropriate at all, but you are offended by Toyota’s response to it.

Facebook A Tool For Big Brother?

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In trying to catch up with everything going on in the world, here’s one that fell through the cracks. Drew Beechum, of the Maltose Falcons homebrew club fame sent me this over the holidays and it’s still relevant. It appears law enforcement is monitoring social media like Facebook to catch crooks … well, not crooks, exactly, but underage drinkers. And not just monitoring Facebook, but according to the LaCrosse Tribune, police actually created fake Facebook profiles then tried to friend underage kids (with or without probable cause, it doesn’t say) to look for mentions and photos of underage drinking. They’ve even made arrests. Beechum wades into the questions raised by this practice in a post titled We’ve Always Been At War With Eastasia. There are a lot of privacy issues raised by this, I think, and it bears watching IMHO.

Hacked

If you did a search for the Bulletin lately, using Google or Yahoo, or any of the common search engines, clicking on the results would take you to a Web Pharmaceutical company. A big thanks to Keith Brainard, who first brought this to my attention almost two weeks ago. After determining that someone had hacked into my website and inserted an insidious script, we tried to remove it, but it kept coming back. It turns out that there was some even more pernicious code that kept re-inserting the script every time you removed it. Today we thought we finally solved it and I upgraded my software to — hopefully — make it more secure and make sure this doesn’t happen again but the code instead ended up bringing down the website for the better part of today. Obviously, we’re back up again but missing everything I’ve written since January 25. And I still have to try upgrading the software again. Hopefully, things will be back to normal in a day or two. Thanks for your patience.