Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Rollin' With It

This past Saturday night, Captain Killshot took the star from a pivot and, after a whip from a blocker, evaded the wall. She scored.

Pretty cool, huh?

I really have no idea what I just said.

After all, Saturday night was my first attempt at, yes, ladies and gentlemen, roller derby.   No, I wasn't in it.  I was just there.

Making a long story short, my girlfriend's dad has a co-worker who is a roller derby-ist? ....plays roller derby?....does roller derby? I don't even know the grammar here.

She's on a roller derby team. In fact, she's a Southern Belle.  

I'm not going to lie.  I have no idea how this game is really played.  I had to read a bit online for this blog to make sense.  Bullet points go something like this....

- Two 30-minute periods.

- Two teams of five skate on a oval track counter-clockwise.

- One person, called the jammer, is the only one that can score. The jammer has a star on their helmet.

- Pivots, marked with stripes on their helmets, can also become a jammer.  (I'm not clear on how that actually happens. It just does.)

-- The "other four skaters" block the opposition's jammer and block the opposition's blockers so "their" jammer can score points. They play defense and offense at the same time. Blocks can not involve hands, elbows, heads or feet and cannot come from behind.  (Sounds kinda like hockey to me.) The seven referees watch for cheap shots. 

-Jammers score by getting ahead of the pack and literally lapping everybody on the track.  

As a pretend photo guy, I really did not have a chance to follow the game. I found myself paying attention to photo ops.  I found the "pack" rather hard to photograph. Basically, just small crowds of people zippin' past with the occasional tumble, stumble, or spill.  Eh.  Notice, by the way, how the jammer (white helmet with the red star) is squeezing through the "goatherd" (another fancy term).  Pretty damned fancy skating.  Really.

I found it more exciting, from a photography standpoint, when the jammers cleared the herd and put it into gear.  No extra bodies in the way.  A somewhat pleasing blur in the background. 

I think this tighter crop works better.

 All that said, I think this is my best photo...

Isn't cool and art-sy how I completely mastered the blur in a low-light situation that photographers so often strive for?  (Actually, I just botched the camera settings. Shhhh....don't tell anybody.)

My photos aside, I know what you're saying - "People take that roller derby stuff seriously?"

Yes. Yes, they do.

I rest my case.

So my photography resume is expanding.  Landscapes, birds, fireworks, horse shows, parades, and, most recently, roller derby.   Granted, I suck at all of them, but I think I'm getting at least a wee-bit better.

Now if I can only remember to take the lens cap off......

Friday, April 19, 2013

Soap Operas

A few days ago, I took the chance to head to the Park and catch up on my favorite soap opera.  While this season is not complete, you might think of it as being in syndication - its play out over and over year after year...
While lots of characters can be found in this morning-time soap (as opposed to television day-time soaps - those all suck), you basically have the guys and the gals. Afterall, it is a soap opera.  What else should you have? 
Anyhow, here is one of those characters now.  Lets call him John Red-winged Blackbird.  (Maybe he hyphenated his middle name so he can be cool or something...)

My picture shows him doing his thing - singing and flashing that red.  While most people seem to think that he does that to impress the chicks, that is simply not true.  He does it to scare off the other dudes so he can get the best territories. Without the red, he can't get much done and his real estate basically sucks.   (One researcher colored over the red patches with a black marker. It was kind of like taking away the biceps from those clowns we all remember from college.) 
After a month of this "My red is better than your red!", the babes show up.  I don't have a good photo of female, but here is one.  Here, too. 
So I already said she is not interested in the John's red. What is her game?  G-o-l-d-i-g-g-e-r.  It is all about his property. Forget his colors. Forget his song.  She pays attention to his turf.  She also, believe it or not, pays attention to the turf of his neighbor. She gets around. Studies have show that the children are actually half-brothers and sisters. 
Now before you think all woman are horrible in this scenario, keep in mind that the dudes aren't exactly innocent.  I'll bet you can see where this going.......
Yup. Mistresses.
A review might be needed.  
John, Bill, and Mike all show off their wares (use your imagination as you see fit).  (Also, please note that I am from a different generation.  Using modern names, they would be Cody, Hunter, and Cameron.  Anyhow, I digress....)  John shows off better than Bill and Mike. They cave and John gets the $500,000 house.  Mike and Bill each get the $250,000 houses on the same street.
Joan shows up and hooks up wih John. She has kids but tests show that Bill, the neighbor, is the dad to half of the them. Meanwhile, unknown to Joan, John has Jill sleeping in the guest house.  Little does John know that half of Jill's kids aren't his - they're Mike's. 
There goes my mini-scnenario with four names.  Imagine now a marsh with dozens of Toms, Johns, Bills, Daves,Jills, Carols, Dianes, and the like.  Absolute craziness.
Why do you need "General Hospital" when you can have "Cattail Marshes"? 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I Found My Photo Where?

For giggles, I encourage everyone to do Google search using their own name.  I just did. What fun.  

Sure there is the British drug trafficker. Yeah, that's not me.  Duh.

But, check out this link.

The picture for #5 should look familiar.  It's mine. 

I could not disagree more, however.  Pumpkin Tacos are pretty damned good. I would argue this DJ has never had one before.  

In any case, ya gotta like his LP joke.  No, I have real plates - they just look like albums in the photo!

But, hey, at least he gave me credit for the image!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Patrick Lied

July 14, 1881.  Near midnight.  Fort Sumner, Sante Fe County,  New Mexico Territory.

Two men are sitting in a bedroom. It's dark.  A third man enters. (Come on, people - it's not naughty.)   Shots ring out.  A body falls. There is gasping and death.

Two of the men present continue on their journey to legend. 

The shooter? Patrick Floyd Garrett.  Once a bartender and later a Customs Agent, he is known to most as an Old West Lawman.  

The deceased? Henry McCarty.  William Henry McCarty.  Henry Antrim.  Billy Antrim.   William Antrim.  William H. Bonney.  Billy Bonney. Kid Bonney. All aliases for one man.....

Billy the Kid.  Lifestock rustler, gambler, outlaw, murderer.  

With the shot and the fall, one of the most interesting storylines in the Old West starts to unfold - probably even before the blood on the floor was dry.  As you well know, unfolding can sometimes lead to unraveling.  

It wasn't Billy the Kid.

A few weeks ago, I snagged a book off the discount shelf.  In its 126 pages, it lays the groundwork to establish, more or less beyond a doubt, that Billy the Kid was not killed by Garrett at Fort Sumner.  The case is solid and shows that he actually lived to the ripe old age of 90 and died in Hico, Texas under the name Bill Roberts.   During his post-Sumner life, he toured with Buffalo Bill (under an alias), rode rough with Roosevelt in Cuba (under an alias), and even  married. 

I'm serious.

If you are looking for a good read, go for it. If you are absolutely certain everything you have ever read or heard is absolutely true, don't bother.

But if you're curious, and don't want to read it, here a few things to keep in mind.  Don't worry - I won't bring you to tears by reciting the entire book. Here are just few thoughts to whet your appetite.

*  There are at least five affidavits from people who knew Billy the Kid and who identified Roberts as the same man. The affidavits were initiated by an attorney between 1949 and 1951. To many, his laughter, gait, and piercing blue eyes were unmistakeable.  (A sixth story from Hico Texas in 1945 has a retired lawman who knew the Kid from the New Mexico days shout "'re under arrest!" when they passed each other outside a barbershop.)

* The Kid was known to have large forearms and small hands. By taking his thumb and "palming it", he could slip out of handcuffs.  Roberts had the same peculiar anatomy. In addition, and perhaps more relevant, Roberts had scars that corresponded to bullet injuries known to have occurred to Billy the Kid.

* Roberts demonstrated a knowledge of the Lincoln County War that more or less baffled historians.  He was so precise with his recollections, he noted details that were overlooked but later confirmed as true.  For example, he mentioned a letter that he had written (on his behalf) and sent to Governor Lew Wallace. He was asking for a pardon.  No one knew of the letter until it was uncovered in the archives of another state.  

Another example - Apparently, black troopers from Fort Stanton were involved in the siege at McSween's house (made famous in the movie Young Guns).  Roberts noted it, but was mocked for the suggestion until detailed analysis of fort records showed that black troopers were, in fact, stationed there.  For the record, he likely did not research this himself as he was functionally illiterate

* The details of the actual shooting at Fort Sumner are horribly marred with inconsistencies.  Garrett, Maxwell (the owner of the home) and who is presumed to be the Kid were the only individuals in the room, but two of Garrett's deputies (Poe and McKinney) were outside.  An easy analysis of the testimonies shows problem after problem after problem.  In a modern court of law, this inconsistency would have been a huge issue.  Was it a knife or a gun? Did the victim walk into the room or back into the room?    Were the final words spoken by the victim - "Who is it?"- in Spanish or English?  Years later, McKinney made statements that cast serious doubt on the accepted versions of the story.

*  Why does the historic record show multiple coroner's reports, when, to this day, the actual reports have not been located?

*  The man presumed to be Billy the Kid was likely a young man by the name of Billy Barlow (at least that was the name he was using at the time).  The "Billys" were running together for a few weeks prior to the shooting.  He  (Barlow) was dark complected and happened to have a scraggly beard at the time of his death.  A newspaper interview with Billy the Kid (when he was in jail) just six and half months before Fort Sumner  clearly states that he was pale skinned and had a peach-fuzz mustache.  According to endocrinologists, peach-fuzz to full-blown can't happen in six months.  

*   To this day, some historians wonder why Garrett did not do more to publicize the death immediately after the shooting.  Common practice of the time would have him basically parading the corpse for the public.  He would have shown the guns, the boots, and body and quite possibly made arrangements for a photo-op.  To the contrary, Garrett made serious attempts to minimize the number of people who saw the dead Kid (really Billy Barlow). 

Take, for example, this photo of the McClaury brothers and Ike Clanton after the OK Corral shootout in Tombstone, Arizona in October of 1881.  This gunfight, while popular now, did not really become a part of the American lexicon until the 1930's.  Yet here we have a photo of some dead guys...

Garrett, who just "offed" the single most-wanted individual of the American West, did not want to brag about it. Really?

And finally, what has to be the most intriguing piece of information of them all....

*  Photographic analysis (the same analysis used by the FBI, CIA, Scotland Yard and Interpol) of the only accepted image of Bill the Kid with a photo of the 90-year old Roberts demonstrated with 93% accuracy that Roberts and the Kid were the same individual.  The 7% loss can be easily attributed (so say the experts) to the seventy year difference between the photos and the removal of Roberts'  buckteeth in 1931. Apparently, the Kid had quite a set of chompers.  

Again, I could go on, but I don't have to as WC Jameson, the books author, already did it.  Really folks - this is any amazing read.  History re-written. 

Perhaps we can use more adjectives that might describe Pat Garrett...



Monday, April 8, 2013

Solitaires and EagleMonks

A thrush not unlike the American Robin, Townsend's Solitaire is found in the mountains of western North America.  During the breeding season, they eat bugs and other creepy crawlies.  As winter sets in, they move down the mountains and switch their diet to berries.

Perhaps you saw some key words in that paragraph- western and mountains.  Just look at that range map - you'll see what I mean!


So, when one shows up in Lansing, Michigan (hardly west and hardly mountainous!), birders can get excited. 

I've already seen it.  Utah, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and Michigan (in '06), believe it or not. But, knowing Natalie has not yet seen one, Saturday seemed like a great day to make a short road trip.  Birds and beer.  That's how everybody should spend a day off.

By 10am, we had arrived at the Fenner Nature Center.  A brief conversation with some other birders did not set the morning off on the right foot. They did not see the bird.  Natalie and I, using our noggins, had reason to believe the bird was still there.....

This bird was originally reported back in January.   As expected, swarms of birders ran to go see it.  We did not. The chance to do it just did not materialize. After a few days, online reports started to fade.  Before long, there were no bird reports. Birders assumed the bird moved along.  I certainly did.

On Friday, a Townsend's Solitaire was seen on the property again. It certainly made sense that this was the same bird.  It probably never left the property.  Birders simply stopped looking for it and reports dried up. Sure enough, photographic evidence proved it was the same individual - the January bird and the April bird were both missing a foot.  A tough bird, that Solitiare!

Knowing that the others, prior to our arrival, had missed the newly reported bird in the expected prairie region, we covered that area only briefly.  From there, we opted to widen our search to other prairie locations on the property. Sure enough, there it was. White eye ring.  Stunning rusty stripe on the wing when in flight. Gray.  Slender  It's a total stunner no matter what state you see it!

With the target bird in the bag by 11am, the day was totally ours.  After a bit of doodling around on the property, we found ourselves seeking a new target. By 1:00pm, we had a found it - the EagleMonk.

I don't know alot about this place.  From what I gathered, it brand-spankin' new - July of 2012 I beleive.  Things were already looking good for them as the greater Lansing area was desperate for local craft beers.  Being unique in your region can be a good thing, right?  Buying the shuttered party store (which used to be a gas station), the owner turned it into the EagleMonk Pub and Brewery.

The place has an identity crisis.  Some months ago, I went out with friends to a regional brewery and it was decided that location was caught between a brewery, sports bar, and dance hall. 

EagleMonk might be worse.

The stark white walls suggested....I dunno what.  Nature photography hangs on the walls suggesting an art gallery or coffee house.  The hand-crafted ceramic mugs hanging  from the ceiling provided a feel straight out of Dark Horse Brewing Company.  The music? Jazz fusion.  Seriously. I think it was Spyro Gyra.  The TV?  A fancy car auction on FOX.

But here is the truth - none of that matters. Get there for the beer.  

Splitting the eight-glass sampler (and a chicken pesto pizza), Natalie and I enjoyed a dynamite round of beers. 

Apparently, the head brewer/owner was homebrewing for thirty years!  It appears he was well ahead of the "home brew craze" that is sweeping the country.  It shows.  Red Eye Rye, EagleMonk IPA, Irish Red, Easy Blonde Ale, Winter Warmer, Delta Porter, Instigator Doppelbock, and Raven IPA were all were well done. 

Standouts would have to include the EagleMonk IPA and Winter Warmer.  The IPA was thick, hoppy and beautiful just like an IPA should be. The Winter Warmer? With the three malts and two hops varieties, Natalie and I struggled to find words to describe. Really.  We did. A very complicated beer.  In the end, we gave up and just enjoyed it. 

(It should be noted that I have not assigned my list rankings to these beers.  I have become lazy in the last few months and simply record my notes into the voice memo function of my iPhone.  At a later date, I sit at home and transfer the notes to the spreadsheet.  I am at least 20 beers behind, I gather.  I suspect my beer list is about 1,425 or so....)

An afternoon walk on the grounds of Woldumar Nature Center (Lansing's other nature center) rounded out the day.  While not a particularly birdy piece of property during our visit, any walk in the woods is worthwhile, right?

With the day a bit off from the pleasant temps of the previous days, Saturday was certainly one for the books. A super state bird for me (again) with a fair photo to boot, a new bird for Natalie, great beers during a great lunch and time outside.  All splendid.

Monday, April 1, 2013

I Have A Long Way To Go....

Every time I think my drumming is actually improving, people like this come along....

I find the high-hat crunches that begin at 1:40 to be particularly impressive.  With his hat open (the left foot is "up"), he hits the hat on the beat as quarter notes. After each strike, he lowers the left foot slightly after the beat, thereby closing the hat.  

It took me 10 years to do that.....

In case you can't tell, he's six years old......

Spring? I'm Not So Sure.....

After temperatures yesterday pushed well past 50 degrees, today was certainly a set-back.  Did it make it past 40? I'm not sure.  Even with the bright sunshine, the winds made the day intolerable (in my opinion).  Too damned chilly for this guy who wants spring desperately....

That said, the past week has seen an influx of spring migrants.  Generally speaking, you can set your clock to some of these birds.  They are amazingly consistent with their arrivals in the region. When they get here, you know warmer temps (and grills and spring beers) are coming.    Eastern Meadowlark, Great Egret, and American Woodcock have all returned.   Spring is say the birds! 

So a few days ago, during a snow squall (grrrr...),  I saw a bird who is hardly  a sign of the spring to come.....

Northern Harriers are kinda peculiar in the bird world as far as southeast Michigan is concerned.  Nesting is few and far between so you basically see them in fall migration, spring migration, or see birds that have over-wintered.

The migration thing is the funny part.  Hawkwatchers joke that the species never seems to stop migrating!  While many bird species have defined (even tight) windows of migration, harriers seem to be the opposite.  You can see them the opening day of your count, the final day of your count or any day in between! For that matter, they are not unusual days or weeks after a count has ended.  Or even before.  Really, they are always migrating....

Catching a glimpse of this bird a few days back didn't really brighten my spirits as far as spring goes.  

Was he hunting the field along the park entrance for the ump-teenth time as a winter resident?


Was he an honest-to-goodness migrant heading north? 


With those questions, know that I could easily have seen this bird hunting the same field in April....or May......or December.....or August.....  

You get the picture.

So, the happy, hunting Harrier is hardly a harbinger of spring in this neck of the woods.   The forecasters are calling for spring, but this fellow is not helping any...

50 degrees by the end of the week. I'm ready...