Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Big Itty Bitty - #1,5??

Sure, I'm in Graduate School. Sure, I have rocked most of my papers and other assignments.  Sure, I'm busy with life in general....

...but I always have time for a beer.

Imagine my surprise when I went to the Vreeland Market to return some bottles a few days ago.  There, stacked neatly with cases of other goodies, I found this beer...

Now, I suspect I know what some of you are thinking.  "What a dumb name..." or "How stupid..."  Some of you might be thinking "Oh cool! It's a bird label for Natalie's collection of beer bottles with birds labels!"

Here's the kicker - it's  a real bird.  Well, sort of. Sure, the bird looks a bit more like a Burrowing Owl than it does a Northern Pygmy-Owl, but whatever.  Its a neat name with neat label from the folks at Big Sky Brewing Company.  

In any case, I have three records of Northern Pygmy-Owl.  June 17, 1997, one was heard in Madera Canyon, Arizona. In the same canyon, June 22, 2012, Natalie, Joe, Corrine and I had one calling.  

But it is my June 22, 2007 record that is the neatest one.  

Rocky Mountain National Park. I was taking the Trail Ridge Road to the top of the park at sunrise in my quest for White-tailed Ptarmigan.   Stunned by the beauty of the place, I pulled over at the Rainbow Curve Overlook.  Standing on the edge, I just stood in awe.

The "whoosh" sound came from behind my right shoulder. I would gather the source was no more than 24" from my head.  Before I could even turn to identify what the hell it was, the blur was already heading down the mountain in front of me. With my bins to my face as fast as I could muster, I watched as this Blue Jay -sized brown bird swept down the mountain.  It wasn't flying straight like a bullet. It was more like a bounding flight, similar to a goldfinch.  Now and then, the wings would blur as it pumped for speed.  

If you recall as a kid throwing pebbles or what not into ponds or creeks, you might remember just standing there watching them go deeper  until you couldn't see them anymore. This was the same effect - it bounded its way down the mountain until I lost sight of it.  Fascinating.  Hypnotizing really.  

Northern Pygmy-Owl.  I guarantee it. No other bird in North America looks like that, moves like that or can be found in Rocky Mountain National Park.  I snitched this image below from Wikipedia.

At this point, some of you might be ready to call me out as a liar.  Maybe you are thinking that I have had one too many of these 4.2%  alcohol beers as I write this passage.  Perhaps you're thinking that owls fly silently and that, like compulsive liars, I have gaffed my story and you caught me red-handed."There is no WAY he heard an owl......."

Yeah, well, bite me.

It turns out the the Northern Pygmy-Owl hunts during the daylight hours.  Evolutionarily speaking, there is no advantage to silent flight during the day so predatory birds hunting between sunrise and sunset don't fly silently.  Think about it -what is the advantage of silent flight when the prey can see  you coming?  On the flip side, if it's dark out, prey can't see you coming, but if they can hear you coming, they can escape you.  If you are silent in the dark, they'll never know what hit 'em. Makes perfect sense.....

But, now the big question - how is the beer?! Just fine, by my standards.  Yellow.  Crystal clear with a short-lived white,foamy head.  Don't let the name mislead you - sure it is "Itty Bitty", but the hops are plenty strong on both the nose and palate.  Yes, it was  a bit light-bodied, but you would expect that with session IPAs.  Are traditional IPAs better? You bet. But don't let that stop from you buying it...

....especially because it had a bird on the label.....

3 out of 5.

(Don't, by the way, ask me where this beer falls on my list. I have not totaled it in months.  My notes are currently voice memos on my phone.  I've been backed up with school and all.  I'll get them into the spreadsheet at some point!)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Bucket Lists and Buckets

It's closing in on 9:00am and I've been at the bar for almost an hour. 

No, not any bar. The Fort Street Brewery. After all, it's St. Patrick's Day. This is the day people who aren't Irish drink themselves stupid, don fake accents and drink green beer. 

Anyhow , Doug, the brewer, goes traditional. Four new stouts (which are brown ) are on tap. One has enough alcohol to fuel a small city for a week. I won't be having that one!!!

Plus, it was a nice way to start my day as I just had french toast, bacon and eggs. 

Note the binder. I have some reading to do for my museum administration class. It's all about the 990 tax form used by non-profit agencies. That is some fine reading, folks !

So now I can say I've done it. I've opened a bar on St. Patrick's Day. 

Some call it a bucket list. It's a list of things to do in life.  I'm good with that. 

A bucket?  I won't need  one today. The yahoo across the way at the dive bar drinking green crap?  Yeah, he'll need it. I suspect his vomit will be green, too....

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Foreign Body

This past Sunday, I was at work on the computer doing busy stuff. I've been doing a lot of that lately.  Natalie, with the day off, opted to bird the park on her own.  Standing 4'11", she came hustling into the building, "floating on air", as the saying goes (making her stand at least 5'3").  

She found a Long-eared Owl on the nature trail. She found it herself.  No one showed it to her.  That's important for some birders.  

My co-worker and I could not leave the building unattended to go view it. So, I opted to stay behind while Nat played tour-guide.  Within a few minutes, it would be my turn to see the winter visitor.  

I never the got the chance.

After they returned, I was going to gear up for the long walk (350 feet).  But first, I excused myself to the restroom. Walking back into the lobby, I could see into the office and noticed a look of distress on Natalie's face.  I could hear her say it....

"I swallowed a candy whole!" 

Obviously, she didn't mean it, but she did it. Things happen. Gulp. Down it went.    

Note the size of the candy at it relates to the dime. What the photo does not show well is that the candy is as thick as a stack of five least.

Within seconds, it was obvious something was wrong.  Very wrong.  

The pain and discomfort on her face were obvious.  Multiple attempts to wash the candy into her stomach with drinks of water failed.  Every time she swallowed, the pain would sharpen and get worse only to fade back to a persistent but horribly powerful ache.  This candy was going nowhere.

Now rest assured, I had the situation under control. I, after all, am a doctor.  I have watched all episodes of M*A*S*H and I don't vomit at the sight of blood (though I may vomit at the sight of vomit).  One of my favorite shows is "Untold Stories from the E.R." and my handwriting has sucked since the days I learned to hold a pencil.  Perhaps most importantly, I have been told by multiple people that I, once upon a time, looked like Anthony Edwards from ER

So there you have it - I look like guy who plays a doctor on TV and watch medical shows. I can do this. 

I went into the aquarium room for a coat hanger, duct tape, tin snips, and bubble gum.  The plan was to wad up the chewed gum on the hanger, insert it delicately into her nose, down her throat, stick the gum to the candy and pull gently. This works. Ask any kid who has dropped something of value into a sewer.  (The duct tape and tin snips were just for effect. I had no intention of using them.)

If, by the way, you really think this was the plan, you're a complete idiot.  We went to hospital. 

While obviously worried, I, at the same time, knew the situation: the candy was firmly lodged in her esophagus.  It was the only thing that made sense.  If it was in her throat above the epiglottis (that cool little flap that keeps food out of your trachea (windpipe to you novices)), she would not have been walking, talking, or....oh yeah, breathing.  If it was in her trachea, she would, again, have been choking. 

Yup, Doctor Paul knew the story.  The candy was in her esophagus inferior to her epiglottis but superior to her stomach (that would be "below" and "above" for you medical school drop-outs) and twisted at such an angle where water could get around it. I even told Natalie's mother this before the doctors saw her. 

In fact, the doctors agreed with me.  Fortunately, Natalie did not have to endure a esophagogastroduodenoscopy (come on, boys and girls, say it with me!  Eee-soff-uh-goh-gas-tro-due-oh-den-OSK-oh-pee).  Still, they were prepared to try an x-ray to confirm the situation. After screaming at them (telepathically, of course) to just get the God-damned candy out of her throat, she was given a shot and a pill. No really. A shot of a high sugar solution combined with a nitroglycerin pill (administered under the tongue) slightly lowers blood pressure. The side effect is a relaxation of smooth muscles including those that line the esophagus. With less muscular tension to hold it in place, it could drop free and clear. 

Within 90 seconds (give or take), the pain was gone. The reaction on her face said it all.   Boom. Gone.  Just like that.  That obnoxious little candy slipped down the esophagus and into her stomach were it rightfully met a fitting death by immersion in fluids only slightly less acidic than battery acid (I'm serious). How cool.

After a few minutes, the doctor paid her another visit. She was fine.  Life was good. Off we went.  Looking back on the paperwork, I am concerned about the diagnosis....

No, she did not.  No, no, no. She did not swallow a grown-up foreign national. It was a candy.   

Sadly, despite my reputation, it does not appear that we will be extended a professional courtesy in this matter. We await the bill.  

(All kidding aside, this whole situation could have sucked so bad, I don't even want to think about it. Needless to say, she has sworn off all hard candies.  Really. I don't think she can ever bring herself to eat one.  Ever.  Fine by me.  Her mom, dad, and I returned to the park to pick up her car. We poked around briefly - the owl was not to be found.)

Monday, February 17, 2014

My New Home

Here it is - my new home away-from-home. Below is a random aisle in the Halle Library on the campus of Eastern Michigan University. 

It's a great place for all of the reading and writing I need to do for grad school. No snoring cats, drum sets or guitars to distract me. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Frozen Morning

Working on a morning like the one we had today can be a drag. While I'm not certain of the atmospheric conditions that caused it, the drive into the park was staggeringly beautiful. It struck me as a movie scene based on a fantasy novel. 

With my camera at home, I took a few shots with my phone. While you may like them, it is important to understand that they do not give the beauty justice. 

I opted to tweak them a bit using my phone.  The skies were cloudy so the contrast of whites and blues could not be accomplished. That said, I've been partial to black-and-white snow images for some time....