Saturday, October 31, 2009


So this is the time of year when people want to get the leaves out their yards, right? Not enough people rake anymore. Everybody wants a leaf blower. I saw three people using those infernal machines today. So what's the big deal?

Winds today are gusting up to 30mph.........

Happy Halloween

Monday, October 26, 2009

3 Passions In A Day

Everybody has things they like to do. No surprise there, right? For me, I got to knock off three of them in one day.

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

Overactive Imagination Part 2

Be-"fore" you know it. As in "forehead"! Ugh! A greasy forehead print!

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

Overactive Imagination Part 1

Are you one one of those people that finds shapes in clouds? Nothing wrong with that, right? Or what about those people that see the Virgin Mary in a hospital window, a bird dropping, or a grilled cheese sandwich? (Um, nevermind those examples. Don't get me started.) Anyhow...knowing we all have seen crazy images because we all have overactive imaginations (in a healthy sort of way), I got a huge kick out of the picture below. Do you see what I see?

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

Bald and Handsome

It's hard to believe, but I had hair once.  In fact, I had long hair.  Well, things have certainly changed, right?  This handsome devil, a Turkey Vulture, was photographed yesterday at Lake Erie Metropark.

I wonder if he uses a Mach 3 like I do?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Arbor Brewing Company

So October means pumpkins, right?  So is there a better way to celebrate the coolest month of the year than with a brewery that is named after the coolest squash on the planet?

Well, that was the plan, anyway.  The Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales in Dexter has now has a few locations scattered around where you can eat, drink and be merry.  The Jolly Pumpkin Cafe and Brewery in Ann Arbor would have been cool, I'm sure, but there was a little problem - a 90 minute wait!    You HAVE to be kidding me!  90 minutes?! Sure it was a Friday night in Ann Arbor, but still....90 minutes?  Ohhhhhh, what to do....

Right around the corner, on Washington Street, is the Arbor Brewing Company.   Knowing I liked some of their beers (not this one),  we figured this was a chance to see the whole show in action.

While enjoying a blackened chicken fettuccine in asiago cheese (!), the Big Ben House Mild (#651) hit the spot. Its light on the eyes (as far as we could tell in the dim light), but not on the tongue or nose. Well balanced but certainly hopped (it is a Pale Ale). Crisp. Beautiful lacing.  Pretty fair stuff.  3 out of 5 for sure (maybe more for some). The No Parking Pilsner (#652) was very well done.  It appeared golden in color (again - dim light) and demonstrated a nice, long-lasting head.  The hop finish was a little punchy but still made a for a great beer.  4 out of 5.  (Note - the above pic was ISO 200 f8 for 15 seconds (hence the striped ghost (the hostess!)) That is how dim it was! Good thing I had my Gorillapod!)

On top of having some very good beers, some decent food, and the coolest dining atmosphere I have seen in a long time, they are starting to "go green".  Like the Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland,  they buy local and organic, and make a lot of stuff from scratch. 

Good beer.  Great service. Friendly staff.  Cool place. Get there.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A New Historic Photo

I suspect many of you have heard of the Titanic.  Over two thousand miles into her maiden voyage (from Enlgand to New York), she struck an iceberg and sunk. The loss of life shortly after midnight on April 14th, 1912 was huge -1,517 lives were lost in the bone-chilling waters of the North Atlantic.  

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...

One of the most eerie pictures I have ever seen is the one at the left.  It is said to be the last known picture of the doomed passenger liner as she steamed away into the history books (via Davy Jones Locker).  From a photography standpoint, I like it for the most part.  The ship is left of center (following the Rule of Thirds) and the horizon (though not level) is not cutting the scene into a top half and bottom half.   For me, the creepiest aspect of the photo is not what it shows, but we know happened afterwards.

Today at Lake Erie Metropark, I shot my own creepy, historic photo.  

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pseudo-Deja Vu...Twice

You know Deja vu, right? The eerie feeling that you are currently witnessing something that you feel you have already seen but you are not certain how you could have simply because the current situation is new?   In the past few days, I have had two huge episodes of what I might call "Pseudo-Deja Vu".  I have seen them before( and I know exactly when and how), but I still get a creeped-out feeling because I am watching it on TV.

In case you have been living in a bubble, Ken Burns has done it again.  You might recall a few years back, he did that Civil War documentary that was very well received by the public and historians alike.  Great stuff, right?  Well, his National Parks piece is every bit as cool.  While I have not seen all the episodes, I have seen snippets here and there. 

A few nights back, I was catching the final minutes of an episode.  They seemed to be showing some filler material before the next episode started.  The scene?  The Brooks Falls at Katmai National Park.   Perhaps you have seen the films of Grizzly Bears catching the salmon in mid-air as they jump up the falls during the spawning season?  If you have, it was shot here.  Back in 2004, I was there with my sister.  One bear in particular was very cool to watch. With what seemed a permanently "pouty" lip, she stood on the edge of the falls waiting for a salmon to jump.  If she missed the fish, she did a very noticeable "head throw" after the failed attempt.  You could almost hear her say "Ahhh, duck!" (except she wasn't saying "duck").  So guess which bear Burns highlights during his filming?

Tonight, a fellow was recounting his trip to many western parks with his family. He was highlighting an episode at Glacier National Park where he had driven to Logan Pass and took a walk with son to Hidden Lake.  To their surprise, a Mountain Goat wandered within a few feet of them.  The exact same thing happened to me when I was there in 2003.  Logan Pass.  Heading to Hidden Lake. Woah!  Gotta stop and give the right-of-way to the goat!

Pseudo- Deja vu. Twice. Cue the "Twilight Zone" theme, please....

A Theoretical Warning

Just a thought...purely theoretical, of course....

In the off chance that you have a cooler in the trunk of your car, you might consider either removing it or at least emptying it of the contents.  Just thinking out loud here, I suspect it would be possible that the cooler could tip and dump water into the trunk of one's car.  Now, for many, who cares, right? But for others, it would suck because I know some of you in blogland keep miscellaneous books and such in your car.  Wouldn't it be a drag if the cooler dumped and basically ruined...I don't know...50 bucks worth of books?

Again, this is all hypothetical. Really.  I'm just trying to watch out for all of you forgetful people...

Hmmmmm... good thing my Amazon account is still good......


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Chicken-Pumpkin Tacos with a Post Road Pumpkin Ale

Well, if you checked the calendar today, you saw that today is October 1st.  You know what means, right?  Stores are already selling Christmas stuff!  Tis the season!  It also means were are moving towards the single coolest holiday of the entire year - Halloween.  

What makes Halloween so cool? Scary (but fun) themes, cooler temps (a frost last night here in southeast Michigan), changing leaf colors (they don't really change color so much as they expose colors that were already there), the end of ragweed season (yay!) and, of course,  pumpkins. In the hands of crafty people, pumpkins can mean two things for sure: witty dinners and craft beer

Using "Pumpkin: A Super Food for All 12 Months of the Year" (you can get it here), the Chicken-Pumpkin Tacos hit the spot. The Cliff Notes version of the recipe is this: use chicken, pumpkin, red peppers, and a small mix of onions, cumin, tomatoes, salt, hot sauce, cilantro, and chili powder for the filling.  Top it with cheddar cheese, sliced avocado, salsa and sour cream  in a flour tortilla,  and you have one hell of a meal.  Leftovers galore, too!   Pop 'em in the nuker and you  have food for the next few days.   If I weren't such a pig, I could easily get three days out of it. Careful with the filling, though. It does not take much to turn your taco into a super burrito.

Unfortunately, while the tacos were awesome, the Post Road Pumpkin Beer (#648) was a bit rough.  Brewed in Brooklyn, New York by the Brooklyn Brewery (no way!), you had better like spices if  you are going to give this one a go.  Cloves, allspice and cinnamon are all there and in big quantities.  In the aroma, the body,or the  finish, it doesn't matter - you can't escape it.   I really like beer to be a journey of the senses (smell, taste, and feel).  This beer is a journey of...cloves, allspice and cinnamon.  Also, that small limbo between the swallow and the finish was cluttered with a weirdness that is hard to describe.  You might think of it as acidic before it gives way to a bitter, somewhat icky completion.  The color, body, and head are all great, but the spices were simply overdone.  It is very unlikely you would want more than one.  On the best day, I can't give this a three out of five.

I guess you could say I had a Halloween-style dinner last night - a seasonal meal with a somewhat scary beer.