Pretentious Ice

It’s a question as old as alcohol itself:  “The aesthetics of this drink are pleasing, but the cloudiness of the ice is juxtaposed to the refractive index of the crystal vessel.”  I’m fairly certain those were the words used.

Historical interpretations aside, the question has been asked before.  “How do I make clear ice?”  I know this because a quick internet search revealed this dilemma to be ubiquitous.  It is the natural progression in drinking:  Discovery –> Refining tastes –> Enhancing the function of vessels –> Presentation/Aesthetics.  Each stage in the discovery is dependent on its predecessor.  Alcohol must be discovered before one can develop personal taste.  A refinement of taste is required before the functionally enhancing aspects of the vessel can be appreciated.  And ultimately the primary and secondary purposes of alcohol, namely its inebriating and tasty qualities, must be acquired before the ultimate tertiary properties of aesthetics can be applied.

As an experienced drinker (or depending on who you ask: functioning alcoholic), I have long since advanced upon this hierarchy of needs.  Having mastered the art of garnishes, and having acquired a respectable quantity of crystal bar-ware, one point of concern remained.

So, as with all of life’s great mysteries, I immediately started a journey through the Internet.  The Holy Oracle, i.e. Google, referred me to numerous blogs and forums which attempted to address this glaring deficiency in mixology.

As a side note, I wanted to jest a moment on the nature of Internet forums.  After the golden age of the Internet’s nubile novelty and innocence, its inevitable ubiquity brought with it the general trash of humanity.  Trolls.  But after the tipping point, when the Internet became universal, when more forums entered existence than could be discovered in a lifetime, well, trolls tend to gravitate towards the larger masses of Internet presences to achieve maximum effect.  That is, the more esoteric the discussion, the more decreased the likelihood that a troll will crawl out of the filth to infect the core of knowledge.  While I only found limited information on the way of ice and its translucency, there definitely weren’t any trolls in those discussions.

But back to the problem at hand.  I compiled a list of repetitious advice:

  1. Use distilled water
  2. Freeze slowly
  3. Use hot water
  4. Use boiled water
  5. Use twice-boiled water
  6. Freeze in large blocks

After thorough testing, most of these were either nonsense or had no measurable impact.  I will elaborate:

  1. Use distilled water  More importantly, use relatively clean water.  The focus here is to reduce dissolved impurities, so the quality of local tap water is paramount.  If it’s very bad, then yes, I suppose distilled would net obvious improvements.
  2. Freeze slowly  Nonsense, and not worth the effort.
  3. Use hot water  Bingo!  Hot water of course holds fewer dissolved gasses, which are the primary cause of cloudiness.
  4. Use boiled water  The temperature hits a point of diminishing returns.  Any variations above say 130 degrees were negligible.  And if the water is too hot it’s just dangerous to handle, and it can melt plastic.
  5. Use twice-boiled water  I’m not sure what the logic on this one is.  Maybe it purges any gasses not purged the first time?  I’m sure someone with more knowledge in chemistry/physics could explain this theory, but in practice it’s negligible.
  6. Freeze in large blocks  Also bingo!  The volume allows the trapped air to congregate as the ice freezes inward, leaving the periphery devoid of air.  [Edit 2017.4.28:  Leave the water sit out for 20 minutes before placing in freezer.  This will allow it to offgas more before ice traps the air, without allowing so much time that the cooling water absorbs more gas]

Conclusion:  reduce the total amount of dissolved gas by heating the water, then freeze the water in a volume large enough that the amount of remaining dissolved gas isn’t noticeable at the edge of the resultant ice.  This second part–the volume–is open to experimentation.  I’ve tried various volumes and container shapes with wildly different and inconsistent results.  I will say that long and flat Tupperware seems to work better.  Maybe it’s the increased surface area of exposed water.

One problem remains–how to separate the clear ice from the cloudy.  I found the solution lay, as it often does, in violence and needless waste.  A hammer and old steak knife chipped the ice into manageable chunks, and a running faucet of hot water could melt the cloudy ice off the clear.  Is the latter wasteful?  Yes.  But…the cost of perfection always leaves casualties in its wake.  Besides, look at this:


Also, the clear ice melts slower, so bonus.  Your guests might not appreciate it, but there will be no argument on your pretentiousness.  Toast yourself on having achieved drinking self-actualization.


S/MIME Email Encryption

As long as I’m shouting into the void, I’ll mention a recent tutorial I summarized on implementing S/MIME email encryption, specifically within iOS.

The lock means encrypted

I am very cognizant of the fact that people as a whole, when faced with the decision of mildly inconveniencing themselves for security vs. not using security at all, will inevitably choose the latter.  It is a predictable constant which infuriates me immensely.

There, I voiced my opinion on the matter.  With that preface, I will avoid the more lengthy soapbox speech.  You’re welcome.

I categorize various technologies into one of three overly-simplified classifications: “Not Secure”, “Probably Secure”, and “Secure Beyond Reasonable Doubt”.  The email protocol as a whole falls under “Not Secure”, however, circumstances may allow it a “Probably Secure” status.  For example, when the sender’s email provider’s server sends the email to the recipient’s email provider’s server, it has the option to negotiate encryption.  This encryption is not enforced, so if either server opts to not support it, then there is no encryption.  Also, there is no way to verify this level of encryption as the user doesn’t see this process.  Now, certain email providers can be assumed to use encryption as the default, based upon their established reputation.  Google, for instance, does default to encryption with their Gmail service.  Therefore, if both the sender and the recipient are using Gmail accounts, then it can be safely assumed that the email remained encrypted in transit, therefore it is “Probably Secure”.  But this a very specific example, and cannot be assumed or confirmed by the end users.

Another example of “Probably Secure” is Apple’s iMessage.  This messaging service not only defaults to, but requires encryption.  The caveat is that Apple itself creates and maintains the encryption keys.  This is where a lesson in how public key infrastructure operates would add context, but any explanation I could offer would be far less robust than that of a crypto-analyst’s, so if curious, you know, LOOK IT UP!

The conclusion here is that while iMessages are indeed encrypted, we’re relying solely on a third party to keep them that way, and again the user has no way of verifying the process.  Therefore: “Probably Secure”.

The point being: in certain circumstances you are probably okay, but sometimes being probably okay isn’t good enough.  My wife and I often have the need to exchange sensitive information, as no doubt many married couples do.  Health information, other personal information about ourselves and our daughter, financial information, the need to exchange login credentials to sites that house this information–these are instances where “Probably Secure” doesn’t inspire much confidence, whereas coordinating dinner plans doesn’t need that level of security.

Which brings me to the solution and my ultimate point: a system exists that can provide “Secure Beyond Reasonable Doubt” communication, and as the title of this post would suggest, that is called “S/MIME Email”.  The base concept is that both users obtain encryption certificates and, using the public key exchange system on which all modern asymmetric encryption is based, encrypt and decrypt each others’ emails before they are sent and after they are received at the device level.  Nowhere in transit will the email be unencrypted (such as in webmail).

For a better understanding and background on the technology, some keywords to search for are: “S/MIME”, “Public Key Infrastructure”, and “Asymmetric Encryption”.

Moving on: the process is somewhat irritating to set up initially, plagued by the individual quirks of each device/computer and email client.  After trial and error, I have compiled a brief walkthrough of the process for iOS–of which, I note, I was unable to find in its entirety elsewhere on the internet (specifically uninstalling previously installed recipients’ certificates).  I have housed the walkthrough on my Wiki: .

iOS Mail Encryption Settings
S/MIME is not on by default for some reason

Good luck, and keep your private information safe!



I’ve been curious about WordPress, and when I saw that I could install it on my server, I concluded that I would experiment.  It was either that or work, and since I turned down an invitation to a seminar on Emotional Intelligence, decided that I should put that suddenly open block of time to better use.  And since doing anything else is literally more constructive than  hearing about the values of said fad, well, the bar was set fairly low.

Introducing: my WordPress Experiment!  Because surely what the world needs is yet another angry and brooding individual shouting their thoughts into the void of the Internet.  In actuality, as is with the majority of my personal projects, this is simply another attempt to amuse myself and learn about a new technology in the process.  Therefore, if you have no interest in hearing the dissenting ramblings of a troubled mind, begone!  You have been issued a fair warning.