Tomorrow? More time looking for those pesky passerines and then off to bungle around looking for owls. Perhaps I will check back in if I get the chance....
Monday, December 28, 2009
Tomorrow? More time looking for those pesky passerines and then off to bungle around looking for owls. Perhaps I will check back in if I get the chance....
Thursday, December 24, 2009
If you are having trouble reading this memo (the original, by the way, is not 8 inches tall), here it is:
San Antonio Texas
If you have any mail for me, please forward to the above address and oblige.
John H. Hanley
Did you see the date? February 25, 1879. Notice, too, how the memo's ink fades as he writes. The date has that same degree of faintness, suggesting, to me anyhow, that he wrote the date after drafting the memo. As someone who clearly has writing that rivals that of a third grader, I was really happy to see how he goofed up his "R" in "respectively". Apparently, sloppy handwriting has been around at least since the latter part of the 19th century!
As you may recall, I have been to San Antonio. The Menger Hotel? Been there, done that. Remember? It is convienienlty parked right next to the Alamo. Jammed full of history, any place that has been around since 1859 and served people like Teddy Roosevelt, Gutzon Borglum, and Babe Ruth gets an "A" in my book!
So what is up with the Thomson and Taylor Spice Company? Well, everything and nothing at the same time. What was going on when Hanley wrote his memo in 1879? It apparently has origins dating back to 1865. A few people came and a few people went. Taylor and Thomson were in charge by 1872 (so they would have been Hanley's boss). By 1920, the name was adjusted after a fellow by the name of Warfield bought the controlling interests; it became known as the Thomson and Taylor Co.. I know the building that served as the main office still stands in Chicago. Apparently, they are trying to get tenants to move in and make it sort of an arts district. You can read about it here.
Unfortunatley, I can't seem to find much about what happened between 1920 and now! As far as I can gather, T&T became a division of the Warfield Company. At one point, they were making root beer extracts well into the 1930's, but I can't seem to find much more. Very frustrating. The Internet is supposed to be the solution to all my problems!
Monday, December 21, 2009
So, for purposes of this exercise that defines the idea of "hire a professional", it would help if you knew the layout of my bedroom. The accent wall would be the wall at the head of my bed. Wall #2 has two doors - a door to the bathroom and the main door. Wall #3 has the closet door (a walk-in) and is mostly, well, a wall. Wall #4 is mostly wall (imagine that!) with the one and only window.
The plan was to color the main wall a dark green with the 3 remaining walls a light green. Why green, you may ask? Everything else in the room is green (bedding), dark cherry (book shelves and night stand), light beige (carpet) or an old coppery green (ceiling fan, lamp, and bed frame). So, if you ask me, green tones to the walls would be a super look.
Hmmmm, now what green should I get? Have you been to Home Depot lately? Lowe's maybe? The available colors are enough to make you feel green while spending it, right? Colors include Asparagus, Mountain Forest, June Vision, Celery Sprig....oh, I could on and on. There are only dozens to choose from. Mind numbing, isn't it?
So what did I pick? Christopher's Robin's Swing. Now, before you roll your eyes and chuckle at my masculine bedroom with paint named after a child in a poem, understand a few things. First, it was a nice green. Really! Second, it was a free can of paint! Basically, a deal had been haggled with a friend - I get a gallon of paint for 10 minutes of my time setting up their computer printer. That color would be my accent wall. I just needed to find a lighter shade of green for the three remaining walls.
Now, I did preview the color on the wall at my friend's house, but admittedly, it was poorly lit. I had the card, saw the wall, and said "Yeah, this will do." After my trip to Home Depot, "Skipping Stones" got the nod for the other walls. Hey, they were on the same little card and looked okay together, all right? So, yes, technically this guy was painting his wall with Disney colors. But, get off me, okay? Would it have been better if I painted things "bile green", "duodenum green" or "bruise green"? Just shades of green, right? Shades of green. Names don't mean diddly.
Within a few hours, everything was taped up, and the first coat went on the accent wall. "Funny. I thought it was going to be more green... Oh, it still wet. But, hey, this looks great!" Coat number two goes on a bit later. Hmmmmm...still not quite as green as I thought it would be. Ahhh, its the light. The paint looks great!
The following day (this would have been Thursday), I started on walls #2, #3 and #4. The first coat went on just fine. At least, from what I could see. It turns out "Skipping Stones" is more like "We Skipped the Pigment". I could hardly tell where I had painted and where I didn't. All that time and effort and I can barely see anything? Hmmmm, I gotta do something. Back to Home Depot. Let's try "Dried Palm". By dinner, the first coat is on. By bedtime, the second coat is on. The tape comes off. Final clean-up should be set for Friday morning.
Friday morning comes. Who in the hell snuck into my room and re-painted everything? These colors? Nasty. That green on the three walls does NOT look right with the accent wall! Okay, I'm done trying to match colors. Forget it. Accent walls are great, but I must be color blind or something. I have enough of the Christopher Robin's Swing to finish the room. Wall #2. Done. Wall #3. Done. Wall #4. Arrggghhhhhhh! Not enough! Big deal. Back to Home Depot to get enough to finish the wall and therefore complete the room. (If you are keeping track, by the way, that would have been my 923rd trip to Home Depot since I began to conceptualize this project.)
New tray. New paint. On the wall it goes. Hmmmmmmm.......arghhhh!!! IT DOESN"T MATCH! The original can was totally wrong. Holding the new lid against the old lid, it is crystal clear now - all the color matching issues were rooted in two problems. One - the original can (the hand-me-down can) was botched when they (the store) mixed it. Two - I shouldn't be painting. What was supposed to be Christopher Robin's Swing was looking more like Winnie's Pooh. More of a brown-green than green. The picture at the left really shows the shocking contrast. The green line on the wall should perfectly match the wall itself. Not even close. (For the record, the color was fine. It really was. There was just no way to duplicate it....)
Okay, lets make the best of this. I have my color and now all four walls need to be painted. Work backwards from wall #4 to to #1. If I need to, get more paint to finish the job. Wall #4. All trim work done. Wall #3. All trim work done. Wall #2. Ditto. A few rolls go on to Wall #1. Hmmmmmmm...how come the new paint that is going on Wall #1 doesn't look like Walls #2, #3 or #4? For that matter, why doesn't #3 look like #4 or #2 look like #3? New tray. New paint. Ohhhhhh, it was the old roller smothered with Winnie's Pooh! Ta-dah! I was mixing paint! Yaaaaaaayy!
Okay. Clear the head. Lower the blood pressure (Drum sets come in handy here. I can't believe I didn't shatter the thing). Think happy thoughts. New paint? New tray? New roller? Done. Commence rolling. A few hours later? Completion. Finally.
I think the picture at the left more or less shows what the final product looks like. A nice subtle green with a white ceiling. Total paint colors used? Four. Total gallons of paint? 149. Total length of blue painter's tape? 16 miles. Total time spent? About 3 days. Total cost of project? 1.8 million dollars.
I have lived here since 2004. This is my third DIY project. At this pace, I might do my next one sometime around 2011........
Sunday, December 13, 2009
With a day off and and plans for the evening hours from home, it was decided to mosey our way west along Michigan Avenue. Someday, maybe, we can take it all the way to Chicago, but not today. Casual driving until dinner time. That was the plan.
Sure enough, the bird was patient enough for us to glass it and confirm it's identity: adult partial albino Red-tailed Hawk. Unfortunately, the camera gear was in the back seat. After grabbing it, getting the lens cap off, setting some dials, and swinging the camera into position (after an elapsed time of 27 years), the bird took off. Oh, hell no, he couldn't just fly when we stopped the car. No way. He had to wait for me to be a split second shy of "ready" and then take off. I managed a few shots as it flew, but as you would expect, it went the wrong way. Finally landing a few hundred yards out, I managed the shot you see here. Had the bird cooperated, I think I may have been able to get some pics comparable to this one from Belle Isle a few weeks back.
In case you are wondering why it is considered a partial albino with all that white present, it is simple - it must be completely white (no pigment anywhere). A bird with even one normal feather would be considered a partial albino. This bird had some red tail feathers as well as a scattering of colored primaries, secondaries, and coverts. Any way you look at it, it was an awesome sight!
By 4pm, we found ourselves in Marshall. While small, but huge compared to Brooklyn, the town is older than dirt. It was established in 1830. With an awesome, historic downtown jammed with cool art galleries and antique shops, we really did not do ourselves a service by allowing less than 90 minutes to look around. That said, I did find a dandy little coffee book published in 1932. Neat stuff. I could easily have dropped over 200 buckos on any number of cool antique mills, but that wasn't going to happen. That $325 coffee crate was so tempting, too.
At this point, I am sure you're wondering "Why in the world Marshall?" Did I really drive almost 2 hours to find a $3.50 coffee pamphlet? Of course not. What often beckons me? Yup, beer and friends.
The Dark Horse Brewery was a fine meeting to catch up with my friends Josh, and his wife, Kara. My first impression (of the place, not Josh and Kara!) was "small". The quarters were very tight and had the feel of a garage-turned-bar. The table that was a door helped to set that mood! Very cozy. Shame on the person who does not shower and comes to a place like this! All in all, it was actually very cool! Thousands of ceramic mugs (I mean it - thousands!) were hanging from every square inch of usable space. It was all a part of the beer club, apparently. No two mugs were the same. As we were told from a friend of Josh's who showed later, most of the mugs are made by some guy in the Upper Peninsula who has no electricity. How a guy in the U.P. becomes the go-to guy for ceramic mugs needed by a brewery less than one hour from Indiana is anybody's guess!
So how were the beers, you ask? Both were great. The Boffo Brown Ale (#684) was awesome. As someone who is getting a better appreciation of brown ales, I can tell you this one is tops. Carmelly (is there such a word?), smooth, and creamy, this scored a "5" hands down. The Too Cream Stout (#686) was every bit as good. Chocolaty , smooth like liquid silk , and with well balanced roasted tones, it was incredible. Having two great beers with another one of the basic food groups - pizza - made for a great meal. At least 10 other brews were available, but obviously, I couldn't try them all! With an alcohol level pushing the limits of aviation fuel, the "Plead the Fifth Imperial Stout" will have to wait. I do, however, have a four-pack of the "4 Elf Winter Ale" in the fridge. I'll keep you posted.
By the end of the evening, we confirmed a few important facts of life: Red-tailed Hawks are stunning regardless of colors but annoyingly uncooperative, and the Dark Horse Brewery is a must for anybody within a two-hour drive.
(Oh yeah, we also decided iPhones rule and Big Wheels are cool.)
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
What a bizarre sentence, huh? Such was part of some radio chatter the day after Thanksgiving. Here is a little background....
Prior to the passing of International Migratory Bird Act of 1918, a sinkbox was a regular and accepted way to hunt waterfowl. What in the world is a sinkbox, you ask? Imagine a box large enough to accommodate one or two people. Take that box and place it in the water so the hunter is more or less below the surface. When he stands up, his shoulders, head, and shotgun are above the water. Panels lying at the water's surface like wings provide stability and a place to set a series of cast-iron decoys. By the time the Bird Act was passed, it was known that the sinkbox was too lethal. The ducks never saw the hunters. Post-1918, it became illegal to hunt waterfowl when the body of the hunter was below the surface of the water.
Enter the layout boat.
Combine, if you can, a coffin with a giant pumpkin seed. That's it. A coffin and a giant pumpkin seed. This "boat", upwards of 8 feet long, made of wood or fiberglass, will now have a very low profile and a place to accommodate a hunter (or two sitting shoulder to shoulder). Here is the catch - the bodies of the hunters will be above the the surface. Not by much, but they are.
There is no power on this boat, by the way. It is towed into place and anchored. You have to have a second boat, at least. Some use a third boat. Our rig? Three. The layout boat, the main boat, and pick-up boat (used to ferry the hunters between the other two and to pick up the ducks).
Oh wait. Now we have to trick the ducks into coming closer, right? That is where the decoys come in and their arrangement is key. In our case, we had seven lines maybe 75 feet long (I'm not sure). At each end? An anchor. So, if you throw it in the water, it is weighted at both ends, right? Evenly spaced across the line are 10 or eleven decoys attached to the main line by a shorter segment of line. Set perpendicular to the wind, five main lines are placed in front of the boat with the other two lines behind the boat. The boat is set so that the length of the boat is parallel to the wind. Got all that?
I think the pic on the left pulls it all together (I took it last year, but that is not the point!). Mid-frame? That is the layout boat. While this is a two-person boat, you can have a one-person boat, too. See the low profile of the boat? Now imagine the two hunters are on their backs. Gone. You won't see them. The ducks won't either. The two-person craft is, well, cozy. In the distant right portion of the image you can see two boats - the main boat and pick-up boat.
Ultimately, it comes together like this. The ducks, looking for a place to feed, see the decoys and think "Hey, they have some chow! I want some, too!" Not concerned about the boat, they come into the decoys from downwind. By landing into the wind (just like planes on a aircraft carrier), they have better control of their speed and lift and can land more smoothly. With the hunter's head propped up over the combing of the boat, the ducks "out front" are clearly seen as they make the final approach. Just before they land, they drop their legs. That's the signal. If they are in range (within the distant-most line of decoys), you sit up, aim, and fire.
All in all, the day went very well. Current regs allow for six total birds per person. I shot my six. Five Buffleheads and a Redhead. The best chances I had with the Buffleheads (historically known as Bumblebee Dippers) involved them slowing down to land or taking off (at one point, I had birds landing in the decoy spread!). In both cases, air speed was minimal. During flybys, the groups would pass low over the decoys, as if to investigate the situation. Their petite size and speed combine for the ultimate illusion and make them look like they are flying even faster than the published speed of 60 mph. Not quite the speed of light, but certainly too fast for this guy...
The layout boat and the main boat are in communication with radios. Apparently, no one uses their own name over the airwaves and no one picks their own handle. "River Wolf "was running the show. Normally, "Magnum", his son, is on hand too, but he was hunting in Ohio. "Decoy Slayer" was in for the day, while "Buckshot" was there for part the afternoon. My name? I was happy it was not "Moron", "Dufous", or "Asshat". Sure, I like beer, but mixing a beer call sign with hunting would be hugely stupid and no joking matter.
Good ducks. Good friends. Good times. The weather and temps cooperated (it was a bit windy, but manageable) and the home-baked pumpkin pie, courtesy of my mom, made for some good nibbles while waiting out in the main boat. All things considered, it was a great day.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Cous-cous with dried cherries and pine nuts. Huh? Cous-cous is nothing more than a funny little pasta. Pine nuts are, well, nuts from pines. Cherries? I'm sure you know what they are, but did you know recent studies have shown that they lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in rats?
Wait....don't think about that last one too hard....
So, what more could you want than something that is done in minutes, tastes great, and dare I say it, is good for you?! And what should one pair with a cherry-based dinner? Why, a cherry beer, of course!
Ultimately, I found the Derailed Black Cherry Ale from the Erie Brewing Company to be fair. A pale red but clear drink to the eye, the smell of cherries was all over it, as you would expect. On the palate, I found it sort of tasted like marachino cherries, but not too sweet. You would think that some sweetness might kill you here, but didn't. I found it politely refreshing. A light malty finish rounded out a fair beer. Three out of five.
A great simple meal. And not just for rats.
Friday, November 13, 2009
See that pile of feathers in the foreground? Yup, there was meeting there, too. But it wasn't friendly....
Starting at the south end of the river, we hit Elizabeth in Trenton, Bishop Park in Wyandotte, Dingle Park in Ecorse, Loranger Park in River Rouge and found exactly zero ducks! Okay, we found we a few Mallards, but that was it! You have to be kidding, right? With spirits a bit befuddled (despite finding Ring-necked Pheasant just a few block east of the GM HQ and finding Jim the Mockingbird and his squeeze on West Jefferson in Trenton by the car wash), we made our way to the final part of out tour, Belle Isle.
After making the turn on to the Island, we swung into the first lot. That duck one hundred yards out into the river seemed to be defying all of our attempts to name it. Finally, with a scope it was confirmed. Hah! A plastic decoy! Find THAT one in a field guide! Further down the way, a small raft of ducks needed some attention. For the record, it was basically the ONLY raft of duck we found - some Scaup, a few Canvasbacks, some Redheads and some Buffleheads. That was more or less it. Maybe 30 ducks, right? Ooooooooohhhh (sarcasm). Intent on finding something cool, we set off to check the rest of the island. Maybe a Cackling Goose?
After moving to the other side of the island, we spied a group of Canada Geese. Beyond them in the grass? A Peregrine Falcon on a kill! No doubt one of the Detroit birds. Now we're talkin'!!! Using the car as a blind, we moved to the other side of the field. There it sat, not 50 yards out. It was basically "stoop, tug, and eat" with feathers from the kill flying all over the place. After a few minutes, it started to get vocal and took off. Like a bunch of biology geeks, we had to find out what it had been eating. Boy, it was really nice of that Ring-billed Gull to sacrifice itself so the Peregrine could live....
As if the whole episode wasn't cool enough, it came back moments later! Unfortunately, we were still dilly-dallying at the kill site so it kept going....and landed on the light pole less than 100 yards away. Again using the car as a blind, we crept up under the bird, but the lighting was all wrong. So, we kept going (under the light pole!) and moved about 100 feet past it. Perfect late afternoon light. Crawling half way out of the sunroof, I took a whole series of photos (including the cropped but unaltered image below). Breathtaking.
So the total duck numbers were a bust. Very disappointing for mid-November. But to see one of the world's most impressive raptors at spitting distances? Too cool.
So, yeah, I guess the Casino on Belle Isle still is a meeting place of sorts. Mr. Gull? Meet Mr. Talon....
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
This is actually a pic of the "Kingette", by the way. Interestingly, unlike many other birds where the name is derived from a male's trait, the Kingfisher is named after a trait found on the female. See that rufous belt? That's it! Hence, the Belted Kingfisher. An easy way to remember who is who is simply keep in mind who wears a two-piece swimsuit...usually....
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
Except when it breaks....
Today, I spent just a few hours at the hawkwatch. A few Golden Eagles and some other goodies, too. Apparently, it was even better before I got there. Anyhow, I was taking a few pics of things here and things there when I managed to snatch a couple of shots of a Great Egret.
You might think they are easy to photograph seeing that they are large and white. Large is cool because they are easier to track in flight. Plus they basically lumber along so you can manage a fair number of shots with the hope that a few might be worthwhile.
The white, on the other hand, makes it a bit tough. It is very easy for the camera to overdo it. Any and all detail in the white areas is "burned out" and the pics looks like junk. It is a big white blob. When you look at the pics on your camera's display, the burned out portions blink. The dreaded blinkies basically tell you "Dolt! You blew it!".
So, this Egret comes sauntering by at a fairly close range, right? The lighting is good. Shutter speed is good. Aperture is, uh, apertured. Exposure compensation is compensating(I had is adjusted right for the bird against the sky). I took maybe 15 pics as the white beauty moved along. A preliminary look at things on the camera suggest it might be a nice shot sequence! Cool!
Cool... until just now. I loaded up the compact flash card in to the computer and it can't read it. Hmmmmmmmmm. I removed and re-inserted the card. Nothing. Lots of swearing didn't do a damned thing either, so I finally re-started the computer. Still nothing. I put the card back in my camera. Toast. Totally gone. All files gone. CF card is trashed. The camera even told me to replace the card! It currently sits on the bottom of my garbage can. Damn. Those Egret photos that might have been nice? Gone forever.
But, I am still not sure you understand what has happened here. It was not just the Egret photos that I lost. Last night, I was along the Lake Erie shoreline and photographed Bessie. This morning at breakfast, that was Elvis at Kate's Kitchen eating grits and I think that was a UFO taking Glenn Beck back to the Planet Idiot (and FOX wants you to think it was his appendix!). I have the pics...er, had the pics to prove it. I guess you just have to take my word for it.
Aaah, oh well. A few lost bird pics and some stuff that would unravel society as we know it. So what. I would be really miffed if they were vacation photos!
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Any way you look at, this year, the Hunter's Moon fell on November 2nd. On the 4th? My buddy Kevin and his father, Bud, lease property not far from here. For the third year, I was invited to join them for a deer hunt.
After dropping Bud off near his site, Kevin and I trudged our way across the bean field, under the light of the Hunter's Moon (plus two days). We shook hands wishing each other a good, safe hunt, and went off to our separate tree stands. A few minutes later, I was settled in nicely to a platform half the size of a bistro table 15 feet off of terra firma. My bow was on my lap. An arrow on the string. Frozen like a statue, eyes peeled, and ears tuned to everything, I waited.
Before long, I found myself surrounded by the dawn chorus. The Cardinals. A flight of Canada Geese. The coolest sound of them all? The flight of Sandhill Cranes calling as they headed south (you can hear the call here). There is something still pretty magical about hearing Crows in the cool autumn air. Did they see me? Then there was that Red Squirrel. For a few minutes, boy, he just did not want to shut up! After a while, I think he got tired of hearing himself and went on to other things. Watching the sunrise is really something. I just don't think enough people pay attention to it. The colors. The shifting patterns of dark, light, and shadow amongst the trees. Too cool.
At one point, as the morning ticked by, I found myself in the midst of a bird feeding-frenzy. Tufted Titmice, Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers, and a Brown Creeper (maybe two) seemed to be on every tree in my vicinity. It amazes me how loud those little toes grabbing tree bark can be! For a brief moment, somebody was on my tree. I never saw who it was, but I knew they were there simply because I could feel the vibrations of their movement coming up the tree. I was even waiting for a bird to land on my arrow (it happens).
The picture below is what I saw from the treestand. While it seems a bit cluttered in this view, there was actually plenty of shooting room. It faces basically south and this was the view to my slight left. Below me? A deer run. Do I know deer have recently used it? I certainly do, but that is story for another time.
In the late morning, I found myself straining to a get a fix on the sound behind me to my left. Leaves rustled. It sounded kinda big. Finally, moving ever so slowly, I peeked around the tree and found myself in a staring contest with a Woodchuck. Sitting high on his haunches, he was clearly on alert. I will never be sure what he saw, but it makes perfect sense that he realized I was there but had no idea what to make of the "tree with eyes". After what seemed minutes, he went on with his day (getting fat, not chucking wood).
By noon, our day was done. My Pop-tarts where gone and sitting functionally motionless in the the chilly weather was taking its toll. We knew going out we would only have a half day available. No, we did not shoot any deer. For that matter, we never even saw one. But it didn't really matter. It was a great morning to be out with my friends and my thoughts.
I have yet to shoot a deer. Maybe next time.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Because he knows the time is short
Let him who hath understanding
Reckon the number of the beast
For it is a human number
Its number is six hundred and sixty six
That quote, from the Book of Revelation, is the spoken word that begins the Iron Maiden classic "The Number of the Beast". No, it is not a song about demon worship; it is about a bad dream. (So says the guy who wrote it! He should know!)
Also consider this: "Pandemonium" is the capital of Hell in the epic poem Paradise Lost by the 17th century English poet John Milton.
Then there is "Interview With the Vampire". Remember that one? Tom Cruise (before he went publicly loony) and Brad Pitt (showing his acting skills have sucked since day one) as the vampires Lestat and Louis? What a cool movie. Very demonic, huh?
Hmmmmm. The number 666. Pandemonium. Blood sucking weirdos. How could these things come together on Halloween night?
Yes, folks, my 666th beer was the Pandemonium Pale Ale from the Short's Brewing Company. In spite of the demonic name, it is far from hellish. It pours a beautiful copper color with a head that swells up and stays there. The hops are there from start to finish, as you would expect with this style of beer, but not enough to ruin the effect. Powerful hops in moderation is a great thing here. On the tongue? An ever-so-slight creamy feel. Pleasant finish. Overall all, a fine beer. A 4 out of 5 for sure.
Good company, good food, a great beer and a spooky movie on Halloween night. The only thing missing was the Iron Maiden tune blasting the background...
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Winds today are gusting up to 30mph.........
Monday, October 26, 2009
So today was my first of three days off in row, right? While there were certainly many things I could have been doing (or should have been doing), I was, in any case, prepared to just to stay local. I found myself checking my email this morning, and saw a posting that changed my mind immediately. Within 10 minutes, I was out the door. Destination? Lake Michigan.
Late yesterday, a Western Grebe was sighted at Douglas Beach near Saugatuck. As the name might suggest, the bird is from "out west" as in Utah, or Wyoming or the like; not the "Western Great Lakes". While certainly not the first time this bird has been to Michigan, they are so often too far away (often Lake Superior) for me to even consider going to see them. This one was just 3 1/2 hours out and was still there the following day(this morning).
By 12:45, after driving through a few rain squalls, I find myself looking at my 337th bird for Michigan. Oh, but it did not come easy; well, at least not as easy as I was expecting. Upon arriving, I walked a few hundreds up the beach to be closer to the location it was seen this morning. Nothing. Realizing I should have my camera with me (I left it in the car) I started to walk back to the car. I did one final look - POW! - there it was! What the...?! So I enjoyed it a for a minute or two when I opted to head back. It had started to rain and my rain coat was, at the moment, a blanket for the camera. By the time I actually got to the car, it was raining hard. No use in bringing the camera, right? On goes the raincoat and off I go back to the beach to see it again. This time I was joined by the Laylins, a couple from the Lansing area. There it was...right where I left it. Now the rain has stopped, right? I should get my camera right? As I was walking back to the car (for the second time), I bumped in to Sean Bachman and Tex Wells (pictured at the left). I made sure they knew where the bird was as I continued to the car. Dump the scope. Grab the camera. Walk back down the beach (the third time). No grebe. Totally gone. Sean and Tex got it, but it evaporated soon thereafter. Poof. Gone. No photo op for me. We looked for it a few minutes longer, but it was not to be had. The swells were hardly big enough to hide a bird from multiple observers but that is exactly what happened!
I had actually planned to turn around and head straight home but I thought about it a bit more and figured lunch in the area would be fine and rewarding. Sean, by the way, is a Beer God (notice the use of capitals). The man knows his beer. His knowledge of the craft makes me look like a chump. As is often the case when we cross paths, we started talking shop. Ultimately, he suggested the Saugatuck Brewing Company. He had NOT been there (no way!) and was interested in what I might think.
I guess, all in all, it was okay. The new home is a former warehouse so it is very large and very spacious. If you like smaller, darker, more comfy places, uhhhhh, I'm not sure you will like the feel here. It is not bad, just not my vision of a brewery. That said, the bartender was very knowledgeable and even mentioned that the owner and the master brewer were both in the building and he could introduce me to them. Very nice! I did not take him up on it. Instead, I had some hummus as an appetizer and sampled two beers (they had ten to choose from!) - the Vienna Ale (#659) and the Butler Street Brown (#660). Of the two, the brown ale was much better. Wonderful caramel tones throughout. Medium-light body. Very well done. The ale, while good for some I suspect, was just too hoppy for me. I have had hops beers I have liked, but this one was not my style.
So what could be cooler than seeing a tough state bird and then having some good beers? How about a walk through the antique mall that is attached to the brewery! Same building! Sure, I'm atheist, but it was as close to heaven as I will ever get! Antiques and beer under the same roof? Coffee stuff was pretty limited, but I did manage a smaller vintage cardboard sign from Hulman and Company for my ongoing coffee collection.
The day could have been a bit better if I had a travel partner but it was not to be given the spontaneity of it all. Otherwise? For the day, a new state bird, two new beers and more coffee crap. Awesome. Really.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
But you can see it can't you! The skull?! I outlined it for you! What are the chances!? A skull! In a greasy print on a window.........during a Halloween walk!
It must mean something, right?! It just has to! The Skulls are looking out for me? Or maybe its the opposite. I'm cursed! Yeah, that's it!
I'm cursed! Ohhhhh, what to do........
Monday, October 19, 2009
First, let me explain the image.
Every Halloween, with over 800 lit Jack O' Lanterns to guide the way, visitors can take a walk through Greenfield Village and meet creepy characters associated with Halloween, our coolest holiday. The Headless Horseman. Witches. Fortune Tellers. Ghost widows waiting for their long dead husbands (it was really a dude in a dress using a voice synthesizer, but work with me here, okay?).
The building is Edison's Menlo Park Complex. Is there a better way to make a building look spooky than to cast eerie green lights on the inside? I think not! Very cool! We were encouraged to check things out on the inside by peering in the window. As I got closer to the window pane, I began to see what is quite possibly the creepiest thing of the night. With my little point and shoot camera in the dark without a tripod, I did the best I could.
I'll post my interpretation tomorrow. That will get here be-"fore" you know it.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Monday, October 5, 2009
Almost a century later, we are still left answering questions. What if Captain Smith had heeded the ice warnings? What if the ship had struck the iceberg head-on instead of that glancing blow that ripped her open? What if she had enough life boats? Was there really a mystery ship close enough to the disaster that it could have assisted in a rescue before the Carpathia arrived? Would there have been enough time to implement a rescue?
We are so often left with just questions...
Today at Lake Erie Metropark, I shot my own creepy, historic photo.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Depending on where you call home home, seeing one on the way to harvest will provide a good yield. Hearing one may mean a child will get sick or someone will die..unless you're a pregnant woman at which point you can expect a girl. For some, however, if you hear it while you are in labor, the child will live an unhappy life. In India, a broth made from owl eyes could be used to help a sick child. In Algeria, placing the eye of an owl in the hand of a sleeping woman will force her to tell the truth. Guess who believes that if an owl flies in your house, you have to kill it because it leaves with your luck? Yup. The Irish.
I think you get the point. I could go on forever.
But, I would rather start my own myth - if you hear a Great Horned Owl calling before sunrise in a suburban Detroit neighborhood, you will consume a milestone beer.
Actually, it is not a myth. It 's true. Really.
Yesterday morning, before sunrise, from the comfort of my warm bed, I heard the calling of a Great Horned Owl. Birders often describe the hoots of this particular bird as one asking a simple question: "Whoooo's awake. Meeeeeee, toooooo !" Seeing that it was 5am, I guess I got to answer the question "Meeeeeee dammit. Thaaaaaaaaanks alot!"
With dinner yesterday (parmesian chicken bake with julien potatoes), I "enjoyed" my 630th beer. What is the big deal with that number? 630 is now a point when my bird list and my beer list are the same! I never thought the day would come, but it is here - I have sampled as many beers as I have seen birds!
So what was the milestone beer?
The Hitachino Nest Beer from the Kiuchi Brewery in Japan got the call. Unfortunately, it was not worthy of such a milestone beer. It started good with a great look (cloudy straw yellow and a shortlived white head). Everything crashed when I smelled it. Lemon, lemon, lemon. On the palate? Guess what? More lemon with a titch of carbonation. The finish was dry, lemony,and tart. There was no suggestion of hops at any point. All in all, I think it could be described as a funny, watered-down, carbonated lemonade. 2 out of 5.
So why would I have chosen a sub-par beer for such a milestone? First, I did not know it was sub-par. Ultimately, I had something else in mind. I simply wanted to have a beer with a bird on the bottle. Nothing more. As you can see from the bottle cap, this fit the bill. I have had it in my fridge for over a week.
Tuesday was kinda interesting if you think about it. An owl in the morning. An owl in the evening. One was a bird. One was a bust.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Take a chicken breast and clean it (you should always to that). With it laid out on a cutting board, cut into the side and create a pocket like a pita pocket. Shove into said pocket a few sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese and some basil leaves. With an oiled toothpick (I used simple vegetable oil), close up the pocket. While the grill warms up, marinate the breast in olive oil and lemon juice with liberal amounts of salt and pepper. Grill. Done. Delicious. Gone.
For a side dish, it was simply portobello mushrooms stuffed with cream cheese and spinach. Oh sure, at this point, I suspect I could tell you how I spent tons of time preparing them. The actual time involved was the time needed to swipe a card at the grocery store. Sure, they were ready to heat, but don't let that fool you. They were delicious, too.
Dessert was every bit as fabulous and every bit as easy to make. We need, by the way, to square away the name - Bananas Foster (not to be confused with Bananas in Fosters ( I can only imagine how gross that would be!)). While I did not torch the recipe, it was really damned good. Butter, brown sugar, a squeak of vanilla, and a shot of rum in the frying pan. Add some walnut and sliced bananas for a few minutes. Serve over vanilla ice cream. Damned good.
Of course, a full-fledged gourmet meal would not be complete with out a gourmet beer (read: non- junk). I have recently become a fan of saison style of beers, but, unfortunately, the Golden Cap (#628) from the New Holland Brewing Company does not pass muster. Well, let me take that back. It was horrible by any means ; it was just not as good as others of the same style. Average at best. A three.
The dessert beer paired with the Bananas Foster, as recommended by the cook book, was a Pale Ale. Stoudts Double IPA (#629), from the Stoudt's Brewing Company, got the call. An absolutely spectacular coppery color with a solid creamy feel on the palate. The light to moderate hop finish was subdued by the sweet of the sauce on the ice cream making for a solid after dinner beverage. A solid four out of 5.
Total prep time for the whole meal was in the order of minutes. Really. Easy and good.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Beginning in 1999, I opted the play role of every 4th grader in the country. I went out and bought one of those binders for the 50-State Quarter series that had been set up by the Treasury. I'm sure you have seen them, right? Each state gets its own quarter with some cool design that signifies that particular state (Michigan is the exception here. What an ugly coin...). Anyhow, over 10 years, all 50 states released their coin in the order in which they entered the Union. (On a related note, the Treasury is doing the same thing with the National Parks.)
Anyhow, I decided to make life difficult and get a state coin from each mint (either Philadelphia or Denver). So, instead of 50 quarters, I needed 100. It all had to be done with basically one simple rule - I can not go out and buy the quarter. In some cases, a trade was used to acquire a needed coin or people where operating as...well, operatives and looking, too. I just can't buy the coin. Up until a week ago, I was almost done. I only needed the Denver mint Alaska quarter.
I was complaining to a buddy of mine about how hard it has been to secure that 100th coin. So, yesterday, he brings me a little envelope when I was in the parking lot. Some people might have looked at that little package and the circumstances and thought "Cool! Drugs!" but, that is not my thing. This particular envelope was quite heavy. I dump the contents in to my hand and voila, there it sits - the Alaska quarter from the Denver mint. Coin #100. Woo-hooh! Mission accomplished, right?
The envelope was rather heavy because it was stuffed with a few other quarters - Samoa, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Washington D.C. with both mints accounted for.
Huh? Well, it turns out somewhere in the last 10 years the Treasury department decided to include the United States Territories, as well. So, I acquired #100 only to find out that I now need to get 112 coins. The goal posts got moved. I hate that. I will now be on the lookout for the US Virgin Islands and Northern Mariana Islands coins. Then I'm done. I think........
Oh, speaking like a lawyer or politician, Mike's gift does not violate my rule. I said I can't buy them. The rule doesn't say anything about someone else buying them and giving them to me as a gift.
By the way, guess what the US Territory quarters cost if you buy them from a coin shop?
Fifty cents a piece.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
As a fish eater, they soar in lazy circles or hover over water when it is meal time. When a fish is located, they simply crash into the water feet first. If they manage to actually grab it (they miss quite a bit), huge talons (I mean huge!) and rough soles on the feet help them hold on tight. They can even re-position their outer toe to improve their grip. (You can do that, too. Lay your hand flat on the table. Take your pinky and bend it back towards your wrist. Okay...nevermind. I was kidding. If you heard a popping sound, call a doctor.)
This bird did a bang-up job of nailing this fish. There was no hovering. As she(?) was cruising up the creek (maybe 30 feet off the water), all forward momentum suddenly stopped, the body was repositioned for entry, and she crashed right in. Unfortunately, she was just a bit beyond the reach of my lens (I use a 100-400mm f5.6). When possible, I try to ID the fish, too. While this pic does not clearly show it, the fish may be a steelhead.