Monday, November 19, 2018

Photograph: "Curved Fence"

"Curved Fence"
by Bruce H.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Great Weekend In Sioux Falls

The Wife and I had a great time celebrating the wedding of her niece in Sioux Falls, SD. Nothing better than bunch of family, a bevy of babies, and a beautiful wedding.

Congratulations Caity and John!

Now I just have to come down from this sugar high ...

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Book: John Scalzi's "The End Of All Things"

This year I seem not to be able to get enough of John Scalzi's Old Man's War series.  My latest read, "The End of All Things" is the last in the series.  I will miss it.

The book takes off where "The Human Division" ends.  In this last installment we discover who was trying to divide the fragile peace in our part of the galaxy.

The book, like "The Human Division" is divided into independent sections, following different characters, which come together in the end to tell the story of transformation.  Not sure I like this disjointed style but it wasn't a show stopper for me.

I like these books and this series, a true space opera.  I do have to admit that I prefer the earlier books of the series better than the latter works including this one.  Having said this, I still enjoyed reading this book.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  I will miss this series but, fortunately, there are other books to wet my Scalzi appetite.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Water Freezes ... Who'da Thunk It

I went for a hike at Indian Cave today.  Thinking back, I realized that this was the first time since I moved here that I hiked in the winter.  I've done city walks in the winter but, until today, I never went to a trail.

A snow frosted trail in Indian Cave S.P.
When I started it was around 15℉ (-9.4℃)*.  I'd hiked a couple miles when I got thirsty.  When I hike with a backpack, like I did today, I use a 2 liter water bladder.  I grabbed the drinking tube, gave it a suck, and got ... nothing.  Examining the tube closely I realized the water in the tube was completely frozen.

A view of the Missouri River from the top of a ridge.
Farther down the trail I stopped to have a snack and rest my legs.  I pulled the water bladder out of the pack and found it not frozen so I got my fill of water.  The tube thawed out a little while later as the day warmed up.

I'll have to keep this in mind as I do more cold weather hikes.  If I want water to drink I'll have to forgo the bladder for bottles I can stick in my coat to keep thawed.

I ended up doing just over 9 miles (14.5 km) with about 2,000 ft (609.6 m) elevation change.  I have to admit, with the 35 lb (15.9 kg) pack, I was a bit pooped at the end of the hike.

This isn't the coldest I've been out hiking.  I once snowshoed in -5℉ (-20.5℃).  I got some awesome pictures on that snowshoe.  It was magical.

Monday, November 05, 2018

One Chance To Get It Right

Tomorrow America has one chance to get it right.  The midterm elections may be a critical point in the history of our democracy.

Before the 2016 elections, I expected the Democrats to win the presidency but there was a feeling in the pit of my stomach that would not go away.  That gut feeling was right.  Now people are predicting a "Blue Wave" or even a blue tsunami.  Once again I have that feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I really hope that it's wrong this time around.  I don't want to see a blue ripple or worse, a red wave.

If you haven't voted yet, get out there and vote.  Don't let this be our last chance to get it right.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Cutting The Cord

This was year we started experimenting with cutting the cable provider cord.  At the beginning of the year our cable company provided TV, telephone, and internet services.  In addition to this we had a no-contract dumb cell phone, Amazon Prime, and Netflix.  At the peak we were paying $285 a month for communication, information, and entertainment.

We started cutting in March when we replaced our landline and our dumb cell phone with smart phones (t-mobile unlimited everything).  Doing this actually increased our monthly costs by $30 (some because the cost of the phones is included in the cell bill).  In my opinion the extra services provided by the smart phones - instant access to the internet wherever you are, access to travel apps when on the road, being reachable when you want to be - is worth some of the increase.

The next step was at the end of July.  We subscribed to Hulu with Live TV.  We decided to try this service out for a month or two to see if it could replace the cable TV.  Hulu has a mediocre library of TV and movies but it did cover things that were not included in Netflix and Amazon Prime, services we already had.  What Hulu has that the other services didn't was around fifty channels of live TV.  It has most of the channels the Wife and I watch the most and it had more sports channels than we had with our cable provider.  Most of the shows I can't watch on Hulu are available not-live on Netflix  (or even Hulu).  Our main concern was video quality.  We'd tested Hulu once before but it was a bit jittery and buffered often.  This time the experience was completely different.  Buffering was infrequent and the experience was much improved from January.

The final test was in September when college Football started.  After a month of watching without any major issues, including not reaching the terabyte data limit of our cable provider, we cancelled the cable TV. Our cable provider is now only our internet service provider.

When we cancelled our cable TV the cost of the internet went up by about $9 but this was balanced by a dramatic drop overall.  The final number, which includes cable internet, cell phone service, Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu with Live TV, is $220 a month.  This is a savings of $65 a month or $780 of savings a year.  Not too bad.

I am happy with our setup (The Wife appears to be happy too).  My viewing habits are changing as I am binging more than watching stuff live.  I'm especially reliving my childhood by catching up on old cult classics I didn't have a chance to watch when I was a kid.

Now excuse me, I have a few more seasons of Monty Python to catch up on.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Feliz Día De Los Muertos

It is the Day of the Dead.  Take some time today to remember those who we cared about and have passed on.

A pile of the Wife's skull bracelets.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy All Hallows' Eve

A hay bale skeleton on display at Indian Cave SP.
Happy Halloween everyone!

This year the Wife and I will skip the giving of candy.  Not enough kids came by last year and we couldn't, and shouldn't, eat it all the candy ourselves.

Flamingos disguised as buzzards at Indian Cave SP.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Book: Charlie Jane Anders' "All The Birds In The Sky"

I received this book as a free ebook.  It won the 2017 Nebula Award for Best Novel.   I'm not sure who is choosing these winners.  The book is OK but not great in my opinion.

Charlie Jane Anders' "All the Birds in the Sky" follows two children as they grow up to be leaders in their two factions: Technology vs Witchcraft.  Civilization and the environment are breaking down and the world is moving towards armageddon.  The two factions are working to save the world though they are mostly opposing each other.  In the end the two protagonists bring their considerable skills together to halt the decay.

The book was OK.  It was well written.  The issue I had was the shallow feeling of the story.  It misses some depth.  The opposition between the two factions should have been more pronounced.

I also have issues with the rather stereotypical portrayal of the protagonists.  The tech-centric geek is a guy.  The nature loving witch is a woman.  The witch was a little goth when she was young.  The geek hated to go outside in nature and was awkward.

The ending was abrupt and wrapping up in too quickly.  There was no discussion of the aftermath of it all.

In the end I gave the book three stars out of five on Goodreads.  It could have been better.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Swish - Crunch

I returned to Indian Cave SP yesterday and saw that the colors had faded to shades of brown.  This is the time of year when the visual delight of fall colors gives way to the auditory one of the swish - crunch, the sound made as my feet move through the carpet of fallen leaves covering the hiking trail.

A ladybug on my hairy arm.
I exited the trail on the way back to my car when I was surprised to see a thin cloud of swarming insect.  I sat on a bench to rest and was immediately joined by four or five ladybugs landing on me and my cell phone screen as I was taking pictures.  I don't think I have ever seen so many ladybugs at once - the closest was in 1996 on the ladybug trail in Sequoia NP though those were huddled on the ground warming themselves in the sun.  These were buzzing around me as I sat on the bench and as I walked the miles or so back to my car.  A few even joined me on the drive back to Omaha.

A ladybug on my pants leg.
The ladybugs were a nice ending to a rather tough 8+ mile (12.8+ km) hike.