Friday, September 22, 2017

Happy Autumn???

I was going to write a post wishing everyone a happy first day of Autumn but it's


96℉
36℃

outside and that's just wrong.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Book: N. K. Jemisin's "The Fifth Season"

After seeing the Hugo awards winners this year, I decided to check out last year's best novel.  N.K. Jemisin's "The Fifth Season" is the first book of a series. Not only did it win the 2016 Hugo award for best novel but the second book of the series won the 2017 Hugo award.

The book is a fantasy book set in a world where seismic activities periodically wreaks havoc on the world.  The turmoil caused by supervolcano eruptions and earthquakes is referred to as fifth seasons.

The book follows three characters who have the power to control the seismic activity.  They remind me of earth benders from "Avatar: The Last Airbender".  In this world they are second class citizens feared by the 'normal' population and controlled by the leadership.

In the end the three storylines come together and we find out that the three characters were one and the same and each storyline is a different time of their lives.

The book was interesting.  I'm not sure about the world being built by this series but, by mid book, I was sucked in and looked forward to read more.  There are enough loose ends at the end to pull me along to the second book of the series.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads and I will be reading the rest of the series in the near future.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Hey Look At That ...5,000 Miles!

I just noticed that my walk yesterday pushed my total hiking distance over five thousand miles.  It just took me ten and a half years.

Those five thousand miles took me along some awesome trails and beautiful sights.  Kind of bummed I wasn't able to add the two thousand plus miles of the Appalachian Trail onto that total.

I wonder where the next five thousand miles will take me.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The Dodge Street Subway And Other Things

Today's weather just screamed "GO FOR A WALK" so I did.  I went on an urban hike starting in the Old Market area of Omaha and heading west along Farnum and Dodge streets before looping north through the Dundee area and back east.

The Dodge Street Subway.
Along the way I searched for something I'd heard about: a pedestrian tunnel under Dodge Street.  Dodge is the main drag of the city.  The tunnel allows children to get to their school without crossing the busy street.  They have recently decorated the tunnel - known as the Dodge Street Subway - with murals.  It's kind of cool.  A few photos of the subway and murals can be found in my 2017-09-06 Dodge Street Subway Google Photos album.

One of the murals in the subway.  The 'famous' Dundee clock tower.

A butterfly on a flower beside a white picket fence.
The rest of my walk took me by flowers and butterflies and other signs of late summer.  In Dundee, where a late June hail storm did damage, the sound of roofers hammering came from all directions.

Pink with a dash of yellow.
I felt good during this walk.  It was not as strenuous as my hike at Hitchcock but it was nearly three times longer.  The cooler than average temperatures made it that much more enjoyable.  Not sure the spark was there yet but I might have spied a glow out of the corner of my eye.

Total Distance: 9.18 Miles (14.77 km)
Total Time: 3 hours 2 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 556.0 ft (169.46 m)
Total Elevation Down: 548.9 ft (167.30 m)

My walking path for the day.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Get Out Of My Way Please

The past few nights a pesky spider has decided that a great place to spin its' web would be in front of the basement sliding glass door (the opening part, naturally).  Now if this was a tiny web it wouldn't be much of an issue but the web is huge!

The web stretches from the top of the slider down to about mid way down my chest.  This places the actual spider at about nose level to me and, I tell you, I nearly wet myself the first night when I just missed walking through it.  The actual spider is over an inch tip toe to tip toe which I categorize as scary huge.

I've destroyed the web three times so far, even swatting at the actual spider with a stick a couple times, but it keeps coming back.

*Shiver*

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

In Search Of Monarchs ... And A Spark

It's been one hundred and forty days since I walked off the Appalachian Trail (AT).  It has been one hundred and forty days since I last hiked.  This is the longest period without hiking since I started in earnest in 2007.  Today I went for a short hike in search for monarch butterflies and the spark I feel when I hit the trail.

Late summer wildflowers.
I headed to Hitchcock Nature Reserve thinking my re-entry into hiking should not be an urban one but one in nature.  I was out of shape, as I expected I would be, but it was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  The hike was a short one with a few steep, but short, hill climbs including the Angel Dead End trail which I'd seen but never climbed until today.

Angel Dead End Trail.
Every year the monarch butterflies migrate through the area.  I have seen dozens of monarchs along the trails in Hitchcock Nature Reserve during this time of year.  I posted about them in 2011.  I've seen the largest numbers along Westridge trail.  I hiked to the spot and found nothing.  Not one Monarch.  I only saw three non-monarch butterflies along the entire hike.  Not sure where they are.  The weird weather and heat we have had this summer may have shifted the migration path/timing.  Very disappointing.

Hmmm ... This reminds me of something.
As for the spark ... there was no spark.  The weather was beautiful, the late summer flowers were blooming, the birds were singing, and the sun was sparkling off the dew but the feeling I used to get when I was out on the trail just wasn't there.  I guess my failed AT attempt did more damage than I thought.  I'm not going to give up.  I want to regain that spark but it may take a few more hikes to relight the fire.

Total Distance: 3.09 Miles (4.97 km)
Total Time: 1 hours 24 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 504.5 ft (153.7 m)
Total Elevation Down: 507.0 ft (154.5 m)

Map of my Hitchcock Nature Reserve hike.
Pictures of Hitchcock Nature Reserve I've taken over the years, including a few from this hike, can be found in my 2008-2017 Hitchcock Nature Reserve Google Photos album.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Curling Night In America

The Olympic Curling Trials are going to be held in Omaha this November.  We purchased tickets for them as soon as we could.  I've been interested in curling since, I think, the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010.  The Wife and I even participated in an amateur curling tournament in Sioux City, IA for four years in a row.  We never really were any good at it and I lost interest in participating after 2014.  I am still interested in curling though and I am looking forward to watching the trials.

USA Men's team throwing a stone.
Included in the trials tickets were tickets for Curling Night in America which will air on NBCSN. Taping of the event took place last week.

USA Women's team throwing a stone.
I decided to attend a few of the sessions (there were nine sessions total over three days) and decided on Thursday afternoon, Friday afternoon, and, with the Wife, Saturday night.  Each session showcased four matches involving Men's, Women's, and mix double teams from four countries (USA, Japan, China, and Scotland).

USA Men's team sweeping.
It was interesting to watch in person.  The rules are easy to understand and it's a sport that looks like anyone could do (though it is harder than it looks).  The audience was full of both newbies and people in the know and a lot of good information was shared in the stands as we watched the action on the sheets.

The flags of the four participating teams.
In the end Team USA won on overall points.  USA Women's team and mixed doubles also won their individual categories.  Men's team was won by Japan.  They also announced that this iteration of Curling Night in America had record attendance.  This caught me by surprise since I thought the stands were a bit sparse.  Anyway, I'm proud of Omaha for representing.  I'm guessing the trials in November will have more record crowds.

Team USA - overall winner.
Curling Night in America will air on NBCSN on the 10th of October.  Watch for me and the Wife!

Photographs can be seen in my 2017-08 Curling Night In America Google Photos album.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Book: J.D. Vance's "Hillbilly Elegy"

I heard about J.D. Vance and his book "Hillbilly Elegy" on CNN.  He was invited to discuss how the 'President' had won the election and the disaffection of the working class and working poor of appalachia.  It heard rave reviews so I decided to give it a read.

I had to wait a while to read it because there were so many people with a hold on the book at the library.  I finally got it and dove in and was promptly disappointed.  The line under the title is "A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis." This is a bit misleading.  95% or more of the book is a memoir of the author's family with only a tiny fraction of the book about the 'Culture in Crisis' that I was more interested in.

As a memoir the book is fine.  I wish the author had dove deeper into how the working class had become disaffected and how this changed how they saw their country and government.  To be fair this book was written before the last election so he had no way of knowing what was coming.  I expect he would have written a different book entirely after the election results.

I gave this book three stars on Goodreads mainly because my expectations hadn't matched the book.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Dark Skies Over Homestead

Safety First - Glasses for
observing solar eclipses
Yesterday I drove down to Beatrice, NE home of Homestead National Monument.  This was also one of the many official NASA observation points for the total Solar Eclipse of 2017.

I left home at 4:00am and drove to the Gage County fairgrounds where I parked my car and took a shuttle bus to Homestead.

I arrived before most of the concessions were open.  I sat down in one  the chairs that we set up around a main stage.  While I waited food and shopping concessions opened and I had the luck to watch Bill Nye (the Science Guy) answering questions on live TV.  I was sitting maybe ten feet from where he was standing.  I'm not a huge Bill Nye fan but I do respect what he is trying to do (educate the public in science) and I might have been a bit star struck.

Bill Nye, the Science Guy.
It was around 7:00am and nothing would really start astronomically speaking until 11:30am.  In the meantime, on the main stage, a folk singer performed (including playing "Moon River" on a handsaw), a NASA scientist gave an explanation of what to expect and what exactly was a solar eclipse, and a PBS band played songs from "Ready, Jet Go".  As you may have guessed, most of the events and entertainment were kid-centric.  Fortunately a guy from Texas struck up an adult conversation with me and we killed the hours talking.

The day's weather had started out relatively clear with only wispy clouds but as the events proceeded heavy clouds moved in and we experienced on and off showers.  While I was a bit disappointed I really felt sorry for all the people who drove many hours to get here.  There were even people from Britain and France.

As the eclipse started the clouds thinned a bit and we got our first view on the sun missing a chunk.  This peek didn't last long before the clouds thickened again.

When the sun disappeared behind the clouds everyone headed for the food trucks.  The lines were so long I decided just to eat the snacks I'd packed just in case.  I did have a Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcake at 9:00am before the lines formed and it felt wrong eating it so early in the morning but it was very tasty.  I bought a magnet for our collection and, from the US Post Office van, a cool sheet of color changing eclipse stamps.

As we approached totality, when the moon would completely cover the sun, I checked the National Weather Service kiosk where they had a live radar feed.  Weatherwise it wasn't looking good so I slowly made my way to the shuttle bus stop.  Right when totality occurred the clouds thinned again and gave us an awesome view of the ring of fire.  The sky darkened like a sunset on all horizons.  The crowds cheered and we all stared in awe of a total solar eclipse.

Totality.
(A slightly zoomed version can be seen here)
When totality ended I jumped on the shuttle bus and headed for the car.  Despite being on that first bus it still took over four hours (normally an hour and a half drive) to get back home via the clogged back roads of Nebraska.  There had been 8,000 - 12,000 people at Homestead and they said there were over 400,000 people along the area of totality in Nebraska.  They all seemed to return home at the same time.

All it all it was a pretty cool day.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Finally! We Have Our Counter Back!

For the past week a contractor has been remodeling our kitchen.  This consisted of ripping out the Formica countertop and replacing it with granite, sanding down and refinishing all the cabinets, replace the sink and faucet, and adding pulls to all the cabinet doors and drawers.

It took me a couple days (off and on) to empty out all the stuff in our cabinets and drawers in preparation for the work.  It's amazing how much 'stuff' you can have in a relatively small space.

During this last week I have learned how much I use the kitchen countertop.  Making lunch in the bathroom can not be sanitary.  It definitely was not fun.

Now comes the chore of wiping out the cabinets and drawers, dusting off and moving all the 'stuff' back into said cabinets and drawers, and cleaning all the dust that has seemed to have settled everywhere in the house.  That is my Friday ... and some of the weekend I would imagine.

Oh ... and the kitchen looks awesome!

P.S.  Sadly I did not take pictures.  I'm slipping in my old age.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Photo Moving Update

As I mentioned back in July I was planning to move all my blog pictures from Flickr to Google Photos.  I'm making progress having completed two of the three phases of the move.

Phase One was downloading the pictures from Flickr.  This didn't take too long.  I had to download each album separately but it took only six days after I started to finish downloading the three hundred and twenty-one albums.  Actually it was only four days since I did not download while we entertained the Best Man and Matron Of Honor.

Phase Two consisted of the unzipping of the files, renaming of the pictures, and the uploading of pictures to Google Photos.  This took a bit longer.  Unzipping the files was a couple clicks for each album.  Some of the renaming was easy since I could rename a files in bulk but some of the albums required each picture to have a unique name.  One such album had over three hundred pictures ... each with an unique name that had to be entered one at a time.  Uploading was easy with only a few tweaks to picture dates to insure the photos were in the correct order.  In all, this phase took fifteen days with only a day or two in there when I took breaks.

Now I start Phase Three.  I now go through my thousand plus posts and relink all the pictures.  This could take awhile.

One thing I've notice as I was uploading the pictures was how fun it was to look at all the pictures I've taken and posted over the past eleven years.  As a matter of fact my eleven year blogging anniversary is next week.   It will be interesting to reread all my posts and, probably, correct some of the thousands of spelling errors.  A nice long walk down memory lane.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Book: Kate McCahill's "Patagonia Road"

My latest read is a return to the travelogue.  Kate McCahill's "Patagonia Road" chronicles a journey following another traveller's journey - kind of meta really.  The author loosely follows Paul Theroux's "The Old Patagonian Express" which documents his travels through Central and South America by train.  McCahill forgoes the train travelling mostly by bus instead.

Her year long travels start in Guatemala where I lived for nine years.  It was fun to recognize some of the names and places she visited.

She continues on through El Salvador, Nicaragua, (after a jump by airplane) Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina.  While she does visit the capital cities she spends most of her time in smaller cities, towns, and villages where it is easier to meet the real people and experience real culture of the region. She also spends time learning Spanish and teaching English along the way.  She gives herself time to steep in the local culture, something that I admire but I rarely get a chance to do.

Intertwined with the travel stories is the author's personal stories. I found these parts to be distracting.  I was more interested in what she was experiencing and learning.  Fortunately the personal stuff is a smaller portion of the book.

I enjoyed this book.  I enjoyed recognizing places in Guatemala, Ecuador, and Peru that I've visited.  The book hooked into my sense of nostalgia and my interest in travel.  I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  It definitely was an interesting read.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

The Last Batch (???)

Back in May I posted a picture of a Dove on a nest in our backyard.  Since that picture was posted there have been three clutches of eggs on that nest.  The second and third round had two eggs each.  I suspect the first also had two but I'm not sure since I never saw the newborns out of the nest.

Yesterday the last two newborn doves left the nest and, to the consternation of Iago, decided to take a long rest on our deck. I eventually had to shoo the little devils so that Iago wouldn't blow a vein.

The last of the doves ... I think.
There was at least one other nest in our area located in our neighbor's gutter which, I think, had a couple clutches as well.

Yesterday I counted six or seven doves flying around our backyard.  I'm pretty sure there are more hidden in the trees near our house.  This is new.  We've always had a pair of doves that visit our yard but never this many.  It has been a very productive summer this year.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

I Found A Strange Head ...

On Monday, after sleeping in after the awesome Paul McCartney concert and eating our fill at Lisa's Radial Cafe, the Matron of Honor, Best Man, the Wife, and I headed to Walnut, Iowa.  Walnut's claim to fame is a large number of antique stores running up and down the short main street.

While a few places were closed on Monday there was enough open for everyone to find something to buy.  I bought a man head shaped rattle/noise maker that is probably haunted.  I passed it by a couple time before I grew tired of it calling to me and I went back and bought the strange little head to shut it up.

After returning from Walnut we went out to eat at the awesome Benson Brewery for a very tasty dinner.

I haven't had such a nice day for quite awhile and it was ... refreshing.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Music: Sir Paul McCartney

On Sunday the Wife and I, along with the Matron of Honor and Best Man visiting from Minnesota, went to our last concert of the summer: Sir Paul McCartney.

This was an amazing concert.  The warm up was a DJ playing covers of Beatles' and Wings' songs which is a new one for me.  This definitely put me in the mood for what was to come.

McCartney and his band (only four members - guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums) came out shortly after 8:00pm and proceeded to play for three solid hours with only a short two to three minute break before the encore.  The band did have a few breaks when McCartney did solo renditions but he didn't take any breaks himself - remarkable for a seventy-five year old performer.  Near the end of the concert his voice was getting a little raspy but he still sounded great.

His sets were a nice mix of Beatles, Wings, and solo material.  In between songs he told stories to the crowd about the old days, Jimi Hendrix, and the Rolling Stones.  He sang tributes to John Lennon and George Harrison.  He played my favorite Beatles' song ("Let It Be") but he left off my second favorite ("Long and Winding Road").  A wonderful set.

Back in the USSR with Paul McCartney.
This was one of the best concerts I've had the pleasure of attending.  It was right up there with the Eagles which was my favorite.  When it comes to length and number of songs performed, McCartney is at the top of the heap.  An awesome experience.

Photos can be found in my 2017-07-23 Paul McCartney Concert Google Photos album.  (This is the first post using Google Photos for all photos.  Let me know if there are any issues.)

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Moving Day Has Begun

Since I started Homer's Travels I have hosted my pictures on Flickr.  Flickr has changed hands a couple times since then.  First they were bought by Yahoo.  This year Yahoo was bought but Verizon.  In the twelve years I've used the service it has gone from one of the most popular photo sites to becoming a has been forgotten corner of the intertubes.  The culprit of this decline is social media.  People post pictures on Facebook and Instagram theses days.  This loss of popularity, along with the changing of corporate hands, has me a little nervous.  After some thought I have decided to copy all my photos from Flickr to Google Photos.

It's going to be a long process.  First I have to download all the Flickr photos.  This consists of downloading each album as a zip file - the format Flickr uses when downloading multiple files.  I happen to have three hundred and twenty one albums.  I spent most of the afternoon downloading and I'm not finished yet.

Next I will have to unzip and rename each file since Flickr adds a number string onto the filename of each photo.  This isn't that difficult since I have several programs for renaming files in bulk.

After that I have to upload the photos to Google Photos albums.  All eight thousand eight hundred and thirty of them.

Finally, after all the pictures have been uploaded and filed away into their proper albums, comes the hard part.  I have to go through all one thousand seven hundred and eighty six blog posts and change every link that connects to a picture, changing it from Flickr to Google Photos.  I think this will take the longest since I will have a large number of links to check.

I'm guessing it will take at least six months to finish the move.  It all depends on how gungho I am at tackling the job.  I'll let you know when I finish.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Music: Blondie With Garbage And X The Band

On Wednesday the Wife and I braved the 99℉ (37.2℃) temperatures and headed to Stir Cove for an evening of music.

We arrived a bit early to stake out a nice place on the grass in the open air venue.  It was HOT.  Fortunately water was available and it wasn't too bad if you didn't move too much.  When the first act came on stage the sun began to dip behind some horizon hugging clouds and the heat was moderated a bit.

The first act was half of X the Band.  The pair (Exene Cervenka and John Doe) did a short bluegrass set that was entertaining.

2017-07-19_Blondie & Garbage_015-WM
Shirley Manson, lead singer of Garbage.

Next on the stage was Garbage.  I was only familiar with a couple of their songs but I enjoyed their set.

2017-07-19_Blondie & Garbage_043-WM
Debbie Harry, lead singer of Blondie.

Last up was Blondie.  The band sounded great.  Lead singer Debbie Harry ... let's just say that her pipes haven't aged well. She came close at times but she just didn't have the range she had in her youth.  Having said this, for a person of seventy-two years she sounds pretty good.

So, in the end, this concert was entertaining but a bit below our expectations.

A few pictures can be found in my Blondie & Garbage 2017 Flickr album.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Another Year

Today is my birthday.  Another year has passed.  What an odd year it has been.  It has been an ongoing, low level, funk filled year of loss and disappointment that culminated in my walking off the Appalachian Trail (AT) after only a week.  Since then I've been a little lost.

Since I left the AT I have been a sedentary pile of lumpitude.  I haven't hiked since I left Blue Mountain Shelter and the idea of walking is unappealing to me now.  I've spent a lot of the past three months trying to figure out what was stopping me.  I thought it was the general crappiness of the past year that was bringing me down but this didn't ring true.  Then I figured it out.

I have been walking in earnest for the past ten years.  I started hiking in 2007 with the goal of hitting the best trails in the Ventura county area (The link in the original post probably doesn't work ... the fluidity of the internet).  2007 also happens to be the year when I first heard about the Camino de Santiago.  Since then I have hiked towards goals of one fashion or other.

First I hiked to complete the list of Ventura county hikes.  Then I hiked to prepare for my first Camino.  This transitioned to training for my second Camino, completing RAGBRAI, and hiking Rocky Mountain National Park.  All of this hiking combined together to prepare me for the AT (prepare me physically but not mentally).  For ten years I'd been working towards distant goals and now, with me walking off the AT, all my goals were finished - not meeting my last goal ended it all with a sour note.  When I got home I no longer had any hiking goals and without goals the motivation to hike withered.

So it's time to set new goals.  The first will be a simple one.  Trek Up the Tower.  I've done it before and it will give me a reasoned to get off my butt.  After that ... who knows.  I have a couple ideas of long hikes that are easier than the AT and closer to home.

I have already started training for Trek Up the Tower.  I'm riding my trainer nearly everyday.  I will start walking again some day.  Unfortunately it's been just too hot and humid to walk lately.

I am now fifty-four years old.  Let's see if I can make this a new start.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Anniversary Dinner Theater

For our twentieth anniversary, the Wife and I went out to eat in an ... interesting ... restaurant.

Raccoon
A raccoon soaking its front paws in a cool wading pool.
The Alpine Inn is a bar with food located north of the Florence area of Omaha.  It sits along a road that climbs through the woods in the rather beautiful Ponca Hills.  The Alpine Inn's claim to fame is not it's food but rather its unusual entertainment.  The restaurant feeds its scraps to raccoons.  As you eat you can watch the raccoons lounge around and take dips in the wading pool right outside the dining area.

We were concerned that the high temperatures we've been experiencing (95℉ - 35℃) would keep the raccoons away like it did with the Carlsbad's bats but the pool was just an irresistible draw for them.

The ambiance of the restaurant is shabby dive bar which is perfectly fine for us.  It had a quirky, biker bar, run down, yet comfortable feel to it with a friendly staff.

The menu is limited but is predominantly fried chicken-centric.  The Wife and I had the chicken dinner which consisted in a more than generous portion of fried chicken and potato wedges.  No silverware was provided which fits the place perfectly.  If you can't eat with your hands then why are you here?

Overall it was an experience full of good food and good nature filled entertainment.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Twenty Years ... Like A Blink Of The Eye

2013-09-23_Camino_003Happy twentieth wedding anniversary to the Wife.  You filled the last twenty years with love, happiness, and laughter and it went by, like all good things, in a blink of the eye.


Who knows what the next twenty will bring but I know it will be full of joy, wonder, and sunshine.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Music: Queen And Adam Lambert

Over the next couple weeks we will be going to three concerts.  The first, which was on Saturday, was Queen and Adam Lambert.

2017-07-08_Queen & Adam Lambert_001-WM
The stage was shaped like a guitar.
I have always been a big Queen fan and it kind of bums me out that I never saw the band when Freddie Mercury was still alive.  We saw one of the potential childhood homes of Freddie when we were in Zanzibar.  Adam Lambert, of American Idol fame, tried to fill his shoes and, in most part, he was successful.  I also like the Lambert announced early on that he knew he was not Freddie and this humility was refreshing.

2017-07-08_Queen & Adam Lambert_010-WM
The robot is the same from the "News of the World" album
which turns forty this year.
The music set was a mix of songs I knew well and a few I'd never heard before.  I have to admit I preferred the songs I knew.  The music was accompanied with a spectacular laser light show.  Parts were sung, via recording, by Freddie - a nice tribute to the rock legend.  I enjoyed the concert a little bit more than the Wife and I left very satisfied.

2017-07-08_Queen & Adam Lambert_061-WM
An homage to Freddie Mercury ... By Freddie Mercury.

I discovered a small coincidence about Queen and my brother.  They said the last time they performed in Omaha was in 1978.  I think this was when my brother saw them.  Kind of a nice set of bookends there.

As you can see I remembered to bring my camera this time. Pictures can be found in my Queen & Adam Lambert 2017 Flickr album.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Happy Fourth Of July!!!

We spent the weekend with the Mother-in-Law and family at Lake Cornelia followed by a trip up to Minneapolis to visit the Wife's cousins.

I hope everyone has a great Independence Day with family and friends.

Lake Cornelia Fireworks Composite
A thirty second composite photograph of fireworks
launched from the shore of Lake Cornelia.

Happy 4th Everyone!!!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Book: E. M. Forster's "The Machine Stops"

While I waited for my next book to become available at my library I downloaded a novella (or is it novelette?) that I'd heard about.

E. M. Forster's "The Machine Stops" is a short (48 pages) but prescient work of fiction.  The book describes a world where everyone is isolated in their own room where the Machine provides them with all their needs.  People cannot go to the surface without respirators due to the poisonous air but why would they want to when their every need is provided by the Machine.  Travel between rooms is possible but is not desirable.  Why visit someone when you can instantly communication with them?

People spend their days communicating with other people via tablets, exchanging ideas and lectures. There is no work.  The only thing of value are ideas.

Over time the Machine is practically worshipped and the instruction manual ('the book') is treated like a holy text.  Everything is great until things start to break down.

What makes this short novella so interesting is how prescient Forster was.  This book was published in 1909.  I almost forgot this fact since most of the concepts on the story fit so well with our modern society.  The isolation created by our technology. People preferring texting over face to face talking.  The only thing that pulled me out of the story was the archaic language Forster uses at times.  Nothing surprising for something written over a hundred years ago.

I gave this book four stars on Goodreads.  I actually downloaded it for free from goodreads.  It's a short read full of many thought provoking ideas.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Photograph: "Hanging Coleus"

During my first visit to the Omaha Summer Arts Festival back in 2008 I purchased an upside down pot.  The pot has openings in the top and bottom.  Plants are planted in the bottom and, after a week or so of rooting, the planter it turned side up and hung.

I have always planted Coleuses since the leaves look awesome as they grow up the side of the pot.  I haven't always been successful with a few plants dying but this year's seems happy.

Hanging Coleus
"Hanging Coleus"
by Bruce H.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

My First College World Series Game

Last night I joined the Wife, Brother-in-Law, and Niece (Happy Birthday!) at TD Ameritrade park for my first college baseball world series game.  Omaha has hosted the college world series since 1950 and is a great way to showcase our small but awesome city.

The game was between the LSU Tigers and Florida Gators.  We naturally rooted for the Tigers (Geaux Tigers!!!  Boo Gators!!!).

CWS Game
Geaux Tigers!!!
I can't say I'm a baseball fan but I did enjoy the excitement of the mostly LSU supporting crowd.  Too bad the Tigers came up short this game.

The pulled pork sandwich and dippin' dots were pretty good too.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Photograph: "Beetle On Hibiscus Leaf"

A beetle on our hibiscus bush. It rained this morning so he's a little wet.

Beetle on Hibiscus Leaf
"Beetle on hibiscus leaf"
by Bruce H.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Book: Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale"

After reading the depressing "Dark Money" I decided to switch to fiction for my next book and maybe lighten up the mood a bit.  That's why my next book was Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale".

I jest of course.  "The Handmaid's Tale" is a dystopian novel set in a world when a patriarchal theocratic authoritarian regime is in control of the United States after a coup.  The world they live in is devastated by environmental pollution.  Chemical and radiological contamination along with new diseases have resulted in large scale infertility and birth defects.

Women who have been married more than once (against the law in the theocracy) and have had children are forced into becoming surrogates (handmaids) for the powerful patriarchs who pulled off the original coup.

The misogynistic world created by Atwood is dark and empty of hope.  It also has elements of the society we live in today.  It is scary how prescient the author was when she wrote this book in the 1980s.

The story is written in a rather low key style letting the dystopia speak for itself.  This just makes the story even more poignant.

I gave this book four stars on Goodreads.  It is a cautionary tale we all should heed as we go about our lives in the ... odd ... times we live in.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Photograph: "Hens & Chicks"

This is a close up photograph of one of the Hens & Chicks planted in my old Camino boots.

Hens & Chicks
"Hens & Chicks"
by Bruce H.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hello Summer

Another season gone.  Another summer has arrived.  Fugit inreparabile tempus*.

2017-06-15_Hybiscus
Iago's favorite snack.


* It escapes, irretrievable time

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Funky Post-Storm Clouds

Some big storms went through the Omaha area last night.  I took the following pictures of some of the funky clouds that blew through after the storm.

2017-06-16_Storm Clouds_001-WM
Post-Storm Clouds.

2017-06-16_Storm Clouds_010-WM
Clouds over our roof line.

2017-06-16_Storm Clouds_005-WM
Post-Storm cloud panorama.
The real things looked cooler than these pictures but I bet you get the idea.  The plains: where weather never disappoints.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Book: Jane Mayer's "Dark Money"

After reading a light, hopeful book ("Exoplanets") I decided to descend to the depths of despair by reading Jane Mayer's "Dark Money"

"Dark Money" chronicles the rise of dark money raised by billionaire power players and the rise of the alt-right.  The book follows the evolution of billionaire corporate leaders over the decades as they try to alter politics to help maximize their profits.  Over decades their efforts exacerbate, if not actually create, the political polarization that exists today.

I think I knew about most of what was in the book but I have to admit that I never realized just how interconnected the different efforts were and how this interconnectedness mostly stems from the Koch brother's donor network.  From getting taxes cut to deregulation, from gerrymandering districts to voter suppression, from climate denialism to disseminating alternative facts, the Koch network - a bunch of oligarchs - meddles in it.

The book is a depressing read.  The length of time that this has been going on - decades - to the shear amount of political power that has been accumulated, you have to realize that this will take generations to fix ... If it is ever fixed.  Also maddening is the number of people in high government positions, including administration secretaries, that have been bought and payed for by the American oligarchs.  After finishing this book I truly doubt we actually live in a democracy today ... It is all just an illusion.

Everyone should read this book.  The tRump supporters should have it read to them.  I gave this book four stars on Goodreads.  I would have given it five stars but some of the writing was repetitive at times.