Saturday, August 31, 2013

Polly the Painted Grasshopper

This morning I hiked the Hogback Trail and then crossed the highway to the Red Rocks Trail.  I was walking along patches of dry grass when a strange grasshopper caught my eye.

This tiger-striped beauty is formally called Dactylotum Bicolor by the bug scientists (or Polly the Painted Grasshopper by her friends).  The bug scientists claim that this is the typical range of the DB. 

I have no wish to be disputatious with the bug scientists; however, I lived in Austin, Texas for several years and never saw a single DB.

Here are some additional DB photos from the Internet, taken by more competent grasshopper photographers.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Coors Brewing Tour

Yesterday I took a brief hike in the foothills until dense clouds rolled in.  Not willing to risk becoming Sparky the Human Lightning Rod, I aborted the hike. Now having unexpected time on my hands, I decided to take in the brewing tour at the nearby Coors brewery.

I drove into Golden and followed a series of street signs showing the way to the brewing tour.  A water tower in the shape of a giant Coors can and an antique copper kettle marked the tour entrance.  The exteriors of the Coors plant buildings were purely functional -- drab concrete walls reminiscent of old Soviet-style apartment buildings in Eastern Europe.

I went inside.  The lady at the counter gave me a phone-like apparatus for the self-paced audio tour.  The audio descriptions were well crafted, but I missed having a human tour guide available to answer oddball questions, such as:  If a batch of beer goes bad, where do you dump it?

Here is a photo of the farm of huge copper kettles in the brewing area.  Some are used for heating the mash; some for boiling the wort; and some for fermenting the beer.  Steps in the brewing process are described on the Coors web site:

A big filter press takes the cooked mash and separates the mash solids from the sweet liquid wort.

At the three-quarter point in the tour, one is invited to try two ounces of either regular Coors or Coors Lite.  The beer is served at nearly freezing temperature, which made it refreshing but did little to accentuate its flavor. 

At the end of the tour, one may partake of up to three glasses of any of the Coors beers on draft in the hospitality area.  In the interest of experiencing beverage history from the time of the Great War, I drank about half a glass of their Batch 19 beer, which is based on a pre-Prohibition formula.  To my untrained palate, Batch 19 seemed a lot like regular Coors, except with a little hoppy jolt at the end of the swallow.

All in all, this is a tour worth considering.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Iowa Garden Pictures

I have been visiting relatives in Iowa for the past five days. 

As a respite from nursing home visits, I would frequently take a few minutes to enjoy my mother's flowers and my father's vegetable garden, which persist as a reminder of better times.

Tall violet flowers and short red flowers adorn the side of the garage.  (Sadly, my knowledge of botany does not extend past vague descriptions of tall versus short and simplistic guesses at colors.)  Also, it appears that a brazen, yellow-blossomed zucchini plant has crashed the party.

Green beans, beloved by the local rabbit population, are protected by wire fencing.  My father also planted most of the tomatoes inside the fencing, perhaps as a defense against larcenous neighbors.

Zucchini, white squash, and cucumbers are planted outside the fence and apparently are viewed with disdain by herbaceous predators, cotton-tailed or otherwise.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

On the Morrison Slide Trail

I executed a short hike today along the Morrison Slide Trail.  As far as I could tell nothing on the trail appeared to be sliding, although one creature formerly slid (more details below).

The trail took me past a boulder covered with lichens of light green and yellow.  If Mother Nature decorates a boulder with lichens, it's called natural beauty.  If I had decorated the boulder with green and yellow spray paint, it would be called vandalism.

An excellent red sandstone outcropping resembled a castle wall.

As I finished my hike, I noticed a defunct rattlesnake beside the trail.  Fortunately, it was in no condition to slide, slither, or strike.

I believe the deceased is a Midget Faded Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus concolor).

Wikipedia indicates that this subspecies of snake "possesses the most toxic venom of the C. oreganus / C. viridis group, although there is apparently considerable variability among local populations (Glenn and Straight, 1977, 1978). It is even one of the most potent venoms found in North America (Glenn and Straight, 1977), and according to LD50 studies the venom is many times more potent than that of an Asiatic Cobra."

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Kitchen Workbench

I came down for breakfast and found that the kitchen table had been transformed into a workbench covered with tools from different eras.  This kind of thing no longer surprises me.  My younger son employs many and diverse tools in his instrument making.  The black box, when assembled, will be a digital controller for maintaining the temperature of a varnish pot.

The wooden gadgets (shown in the detail below) are two antique planes originally used for making coffins, but also serviceable for the making of cellos.  (As the world consumes many more coffins than cellos, my son should perhaps consider a sideline venture of the funerary sort.)  In front of the planes is a Machinery's Handbook published in 1946.  Its pages are opened to tables of  tap drill sizes for machine screws, presumably related to the assemblage of the black box.