Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Call from Lady Justice

So to save a few bucks a few months back, Natalie and I ditched most of our cable stations.   We figured we were basically paying for a bunch of TV stations that we rarely watched.  With school bills and such, we figured every bit helps, right? 

That said, we still have cable.  It's just the bare-bones package.   One station (I currently don't recall the name...) seems to play endless loops of Law and Order and its various spin-offs (of which there are millions).   It's always on! 

Of course, any legal show will have story-lines involving a jury, right?

Ahh, the jury. The coolest component of our legal system.  A trial to be judged by your peers.  How neat.  

Well, it may finally be my turn. No, not to be judged, but to be the jury. A few days ago, I received a jury summons.  This is only my third one. Ever.  

The first time I was excused as I was snowed in up north and could not get to the court house. 

The second time I made it as far as the court room. As I recall, the plantiff had moved in with his girlfriend and over a period of months, put about $50,000 worth of labor and materials into her home.  When they broke up, he felt he was entitled to some of that money back.  I was eventually dismissed. It was decided that my dashing handsomeness and suave behavior would be a distraction to all parties involved.  They had secured the complete jury before they even asked me any questions.  I never even saw opening arguments.

So what happens now? Well, we'll see. 

Let me be clear -  I want to do this! I really do.  Will it be a Kwame-style, month-long, duel of legal maneuvering?  I'll have to wait and see.  Maybe I'll get to see Geoffrey Fieger in action.

I do know this - if I'm selected, you won't hear a peep from me.  I've seen enough Law and Order to know how that works!

Cue the music!  Duh-dunn.  Da-da-da dah Daaaaah.  Duh.dunn.  Da-da-da tah-dah-duh daaaaa Duh dunn......

Saturday, February 21, 2015

On Guard in Detroit

Rich colors.  Bold geometric shapes. Lavish ornamentation (to the point of nausea).  Add some mechanical-esque features and go all glitzy with a building from the 1920's to, say, the 1940's, and you have Art Deco.

I won't lie to you.  Art Deco is not my thing. I mean, I get it, but I am more in tune with older architectural styles from the latter part of the 19th century.  Maybe Queen Anne, Gothic or Second Empire.  I have always liked them even thought I did not know what they were called. Boy, those scream "cool" to me.

That said, I have to give credit where credit is due.  

Take the Guardian Building in Detroit, for example. For my architecture class, I needed to write a short report on a building of my choice.  No, it was not a report in the traditional sense. It was more just a report on what I thought (or didn't think) about a particular building.  It was based on a walk-through and general impressions. 

What do you think?  

Yeah, not exactly what you thought, now was it? I say "Detroit" and you think "ruin porn."  I say "Detroit", you think "convicted felon".  I say "Detroit", you think any number of negative thoughts regarding a once great city (that is making quite a comeback, by the way, but that is another story for another time...)

Designed by Wirt Rowland, this gem was completed in 1929.   By all accounts, he was quite anal-retentive (which should be be hyphenated, by the way). Overseeing every step of all details, he went to the extreme of having the exterior bricks fired to be a specific shade of orange.  He was that particular with his design.

Now think about all that for minute. Every detail. He looked at all of them. Looking at the above picture, when you seen  an blue tile, it was a blue tile because he decided it should be.  Those arches aren't random.  They are as they are because he said so.  Each little nuance.  Every little this and tiny that was decided by Rowland. What an incredible mind he must have had.

Just look at the elevator vestibule below....

How long would it take you to design something like that?

Or what about this monel gate? That clock at the top is an original Tiffany Clock, by the way.

Here is something else to think about. Even if you don't like this building, the National Park Service does.  In 1989, it was selected to be listed as a National Historic Landmark as well as the National Register of Historic Places.  

On a somewhat related note, as I continue my explorations in historic preservation, I have now realized that I have a new label for this blog.  As you may have noticed, they all start with the letter "B".  Yup, "building" works, too. I would have never thought this B-thing would have gone so far.....

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Deja Vu

Metro Detroit got hammered Sunday night. Probably not as hammered as Boston after the Seahawks gaff in the Super Bowl.  I'm talking snow here, not alcohol.  Depending on the city, snow totals in the region more or less ranged from 12" to 16". That, folks, is a lot of snow!

As you might imagine, schools across the region closed.  A long story short, I was off for the day.  Natalie's work was closed. What to do...what to do....

Natalie has managed to do some cross-county skiing this season already.  She was clearly fired up to do it again given the fresh snowfall.  With my past history as an Olympic level skier, I was certainly interested, as well.  I still have my solid and reliable gear from high school. 

Despite the snow totals, roads were amazingly clear.  We opted to head to Oakwoods Metropark.  

Skiing on fresh snow in your local park with you wife is really quite a bit of fun.  Its good for you, too.  Everybody knows how good cross-country skiing is your health.  

What is not fun is notion that your shoe could simply strip right off of the sole when you are plowing your way through deeper snow. It turns out my trusty high school skies were not so trusty.

If you are a regular reader of this blog (if you are, I'm really sorry), you might be thinking to yourself "Didn't this already happen to him?"  No. Well, yes.  Well, sort of.  

You may recall the sad day in June of 2013.  Natalie and I were hiking in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.  My hiking trusty hiking books...suffered a serious malfunction. The sole sheared right off.  The boots had already been repaired but it did not take.  In the tradition of Viking burials, I filled my boots with rocks and heaved them into Lake Superior as I could not deal with the thought of angering their spirit with more repairs.  (Keep in mind, Im atheist - I'm just having literary fun here....)

So, what shall I do with the ski boots?  Well, I'll certainly see what I can do to get them repaired.  Everything about them is fine, except for the fact they broke. Sure it is alot like saying a boat is just fine except for the giant hole in the hull, but I think you get my point.  

I'll take this whole thing one step at a time...

Monday, January 26, 2015

Day 10 - All Good Things....

Sunday morning was exactly what things were supposed to be – more play time with the drapes.  Why didn’t they have those when I was a kid? 

Walking the hall to the lobby, the sound of a crying infant echoed through the hall.  At least we thought it was a child. Perhaps it was a grown man crying after he lost a fortune.  I like that version better. Who in the hell would bring kids to that town? The insanity and the debauchery?   For kids?  Come on.  Someone might argue Insanity and debauchery have their place, but with kids around?  Cripe. 

After securing an amazingly delicious, but amazingly overpriced, buffet, we had a few minutes to poke around the grounds.  It really is a beautiful property.  How ever do they pay for it……

Sadly, all good things must come to end.  Cautioned of potential airport grief as a result of the ending holiday stretch, we opted to head to the airport a tad early.  Breezing through the security, we settled in for the flight home.

Okay, here is the rundown…

Birds Species: 159
Paul’s life birds: 5
Paul’s total life list: 668
Paul’s California list (before):117
Paul’s California list (after): 198
Paul’s Nevada list (before): 0
Paul’s Nevada list (after): 29
Natalie’s lists: not known

Miles driven: 1,700 (or so…)
States visited: 2
States visited (lifetime): 45
National Park sites visited: 5
National Park sites visited (lifetime): not sure…but a lot…

Breweries visited: 4 (with a 5th brewery from New York sampled )
Beer species: 15
Beer species (lifetime): 1,535

Elvis impersonators:  none.  NONE!
Dollars spent gambling: $0.00

What will a future trip be?  Well, certainly back to the Channel Islands for the Scrub Jay.  If we did it later in the spring, we could secure more pelagic species (including some Murrelets) as well as the Elegant Tern (long gone in the winter).  Perhaps a later trip would also help us secure the Yellow-footed Gull at the Salton Sea. I understand the smell of salt and dead fish is very romantic on a brutally hot summer day......

Day 9 - Sin City

With the hotel breakfast in our bellies (a fine meal, it was!), we pressed on for Las Vegas.  Hearts were a little heavy because we knew out trip was winding down but we still had plans for a full and fun day.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is just outside of town.  While I suspect the birding there is better outside of the winter months, we didn’t let that stop us.  With a 13-mile driving loop and plenty of opportunity for pull-outs and hikes, we made the best of our morning.

We managed a flock of Mountain Bluebirds.  Let’s be clear – the stunning shade of blue on these birds against the browns, tans and reds of the desert is really quite a sight!  So was the point-blank view of the Juniper Titmouse (new for Nat). The Golden Eagle was neat, too.   

We can certainly say that we were not the first ones to take a look at the birds of the canyon.  With pictographs and other evidence of at least six different Native American cultures dating back almost 13,000 years, it looks like people have been using the canyon for a loooooooong time…..

With Vegas just a few miles away, slipping into town for lunch was easy.  McDonald’s got the call.  The closest brewery was actually the Chicago Brewing Company.


We fly across the country to experience what the west has to offer and one of the few breweries is influenced by Chicago?  Whatever.  The part that really bugged me was the policy with the sampler. They have nine beers on tap. Cool, right?  You must order all nine.  Nine or nothing. No choosing.  How stupid.

In any case, I had the All Nighter (#1529). I think it was  pretty fair beer overall.  They consider it one of their lighter beers (which was fine with me given the hiking and all).  Very grainy.  Lightly hopped.  Okay overall.

After lunch, we did what any reasonable couple would do – we returned to Red Rock.  Natalie was really itching for another hike, and the last time I looked, Detroit does not have any deserts.  I’m not sure we saw a single bird on that hike, but we experienced the same thing we did outside of Death Valley – pure silence.

That was about to change.

By late afternoon, it was time to get to the rental car back so we could get to our hotel. For 15 minutes, the only sound that could be heard was me swearing enough to make a sailor blush.  It turns out the return desk for our rental was inside the casino with no signs outside. The GPS had us in the right place, but we had no way of knowing it!  How patently stupid.  A quick taxi ride got us to our hotel.

Except it is not a hotel.  It is a palace.  A casino.   A shopping mall.  Restaurants.  A movie set.  If you can think of it, it is probably a part of the Bellagio.  As a part of our wedding gift, my parents thought it would be nice to put us in one of Las Vegas’ most amazing hotels. 

You can just ask Fran Tarkington.  I saw him.  No, really.  I did.  I swear it was him.  Every kid growing up in the late 1970’s would know him not as a Minnesota Viking,  but as one of three hosts from "That’s Incredible."  It was him. I’m certain.  Of all the people to see and recognize in Las Vegas?  That’s incredible.

After cleaning up from our hikes and acting like a 10 year old by controlling the blinds with the switch on the wall, it was time to go find the beer….

…in the mall?

Yes, folks, the Sin City Brewery has an outlet in what can only be described as a shopping mall. Mind you , this is a different mall that would be across the street in the Bellagio.  This was average stuff, where the Bellagio is more high-end.  In any case, the outlet is about 8 seats at a bar.  That’s it.   They don’t even serve food (something many breweries are doing nowadays…or not doing depending on how you look at it).  So after having a nice pizza a short walk up the way, we returned to the Sin City Brewe….,er, uh, outlet , for some of the most average beers you are ever going to get.

First off, the names are boring.  If you are regular reader of this blog, you know I hate dumb names for beer.  Calling your hard effort nothing more than Amber, IPA, Light, Stout, and Weiss (#1,530-1,534) is just soooo lame.  You're in Vegas - give is something with some more pizzazz. That said, you might try and give you beer more pizzazz. I not knocking them, but they we all very very average.  Well, not the Light. That was water.  I gave that one a "2".

A brief walk around the strip showcased the insanity that Vegas.  The lights and the people. The people.   Did I mention there were people?  It was easy to see who was  a local and who was an out-of-towner.   Locals were dressed like the “tick kid” from A Christmas Story as they struggling with the cold.  Nat and I were wearing a fleece. 

After enjoying a brief water show at the Bellagio fountains, it was time to just turn in.  Nine days. Lots of hikes.  Even more driving.  Exhaustion might be a good word.  The image below is from our room.