Monday, January 20, 2014

Khonso Em Heb

Catching up on my non-school readings, I stumbled into this article a few minutes ago.

It appears that a Japanese team of archaeologists stumbled on to the tomb of an ancient beer-maker  while cleaning the courtyard of another tomb at the Thebes necropolis in the Egyptian city of Luxor.

While I am not a Egyptologist,  I know enough to say this discovery is pretty significant. The tomb, sealed for centuries, has not succumbed to the elements or, perhaps more importantly, looters.  Such conditions now give archaeologists a chance to study, in a sense, "unaltered Egypt."

The tomb, decorated in elaborate frescoes, apparently belongs to Khonso Em Heb. As head brewer, it appears his job was to brew beer for the gods of the dead.  

It is probably important to add that the beer 'ole Heb was brewin' in 1,000BC was likely quite a bit different than the stuff we enjoy today.  Hops, a significant ingredient in today's brews, was not actually a part of beer until the Middle Ages or so.  History shows that the Europeans were the first to brew with hops.

Heb's stuff was basically fermented barley with a head so thick that the drinker had to use a straw which apparently acted like a filter as well.  (Ancient Sumerian tablets actually show this! Check out the image below.)  Impurities were rampant as the science of brewing was not known at the time.  

The Egyptian stuff is also thought to have been syrupy and low in alcohol.  In fact, it was used as wages for the pyramid builders.  

So it will be interesting to see what happens with this discovery.  I wonder if one can secure, somewhere in Egypt, a modern version of this ancient drink. I suspect so.  To be honest with you, it sounds a bit like Budweiser..... other words, not very appealing......

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Tale Of Two Critters

As I sit here and type, the temperature, as measured at the Grosse Ile Airport, is -13 F. Winds are gusting almost 30mph making wind chills -1.9 million F (or thereabouts...)

Needless to say, that is dangerously cold.   

So, while I sit here in our house with a hot furnace and a cold beer (as opposed to the other way around (which would be really bad)), I can't help but to think about some animals on a brutal night like tonight.

Take Quill, for example.  He's our cat.  (Actually, he is our cat when he is being cool; when he's being an ass, he belongs to Natalie.)  While his heritage is somewhat of a mystery, strong evidence shows that his 18-pound bloated frame is consistent with that of a Siberian Forest Cat.  (I still argue that he might be a new species of cat.  If so, I will describe him scientifically in an as yet unnamed journal and grant him the latin name Felis catus quillus fattus odiferous fecei.)

A few weeks back, when we got that last round of snow, Nat took Quill outside on his leash (you read that right).  His poor wittle paws got a wittle cold and he wanted to come back inside. So much for being a stock of polar feline.  

Now take this Snowy Owl, for example.

In case you haven't heard, the winter of 2013-14 is turning out to be one of the most impressive Snowy Owl invasions in a very long time.  It has even surpassed the impressive invasion of 2011-12. 

In any case, these owls are having a tough time with things. They're "here" because they have no food "there" (the arctic).  Fleeing the tundra in droves, they move south hoping to bag rodents and what not.  Food means energy, energy means heat, and heat means they can live long enough (hopefully) to find more food.  

Nevertheless, as owls, they are quite capable of nabbing morsels.  Their huge eyes, impressive hearing, and nasty claws are bad news for mice and their kin.

I can't help but to think about two opposing critters: one can handle the chill of the frozen tundra and snag rodents with east while the other shuns the chill and patrols the kitchen floor for cheese scraps.......

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Awww Poopy......

Well, they did it, dammit.

The banner popped up on the Eastern Michigan University website stating that classes for tomorrow (Monday, January 6th) have been cancelled due to weather.  

Radar Michigan Region

As I look out the window here, snow is piling up in an impressive way.  Inches already. Dozens of feet more expected. Okay, not that much, but we're getting hammered pretty good.  (It worth mentioning that the storm in the radar image above is NOT moving west to east.  It is basically moving from the southwest to the northeast. All of that dark blue in Indiana is heading our way!)

Speaking of getting hammered, one might ask what I could do during tomorrow's snow-day. I was scheduled off from work so I'm already not working.  Nat is off, as well. I suspect I might try and get up a tad early and brew some more beer.  We have been really enjoying our Brooklyn Brew operations for this past year. I bottled our Winter Wheats lat night and I just whipped up the Coffee and Donut Stout a few days ago. I have ingredients for another stout and an IPA, as well.  

With all the snow on the trees, I suspect I could gear up with my snowshoes and camera before wandering the woods across the street. That could be quite fun.  Lots of snow on trees using black-and-white exposures can be quite powerful.

Of course, it all depends on what Nat might want to do. After all, we're engaged now and I have forfeited all decision making abilities.  Her butt is not sore after our day of cross-country skiing at Willow Metropark.  For her very first time on skis, she did pretty damned good.  I was impressed. Seriously.  I suspect she might be game to wander the woods while I take pictures? We'll see. 

I hope this doesn't foreshadow my successes in grad school. I was really looking forward to getting the semester started!  I was all ready with my lunch box, #2 pencils, and permission slips.  I hope nobody tries to take my lunch money. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

12:06 AM

In the world of birding, lists can be very important to some people.  Maybe it is a checklist of birds seen in a lifetime, a state, or a park. Some get their rally caps on and bird for 24 straight hours as a fundraiser.  

Some pursue this same idea over a calendar year. How many birds can you find in 365 days? 

Some even combine the ideas - how many birds can you find in a year on a given piece of property?

With the books closed on 2013, Natalie and I were prepared the start our '14 list at some point in the coming days. We had no idea our list would start literally minutes into the New Year. 

The ball had dropped, the barley wines were sipped, kisses and well wishes were had, and the fireworks started. (No, real fireworks. Not domestic fireworks). 

Standing outside the Fort Street Brewery, with bottle rockets flying and fountains, uh....fountaining, Nat and I noticed a bird zip past us.  Given the suburban location in the dead of winter, European Starling made good sense. 

But it wasn't. 

The wings were too long and not triangular enough. The tail was too long, as well.  With in moments, we realized it was, without a doubt, an American Robin.  After all, we see them throughout the year and can identify them with subtle little clues in shape,color and wingbeat at a glance.  Even in the dim glow of streetlights, there was no doubt.

The time?  12:06 AM. Yes, I checked the clock.  

American Robin - our first bird of 2014. Perhaps I could start a "birds seen while lighting fireworks in the wee hours of the night" list.......