Homer's Travels: August 2008

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Thank Heaven For Little Girls ...

The Loon Whisperer and her three girls (4, 2, and 2) visited today. She is a good friend and they are sweet little girls. I don't know how the Loon Whisperer does it.

Thank heaven we never had children.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

A warm day
a cool breeze
a deck
a view
a comfortable chair
a cold drink
a good book

A wonderful afternoon for this football widower

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How's The Weather?

Anyone who lives outside of southern California knows the importance of knowing the weather. Here in the Mid-West changes in the weather can be unpreditable. You have to keep up on the weather to avoid being unpleasantly surprised.

When I bought my weather station, I'd decided not to put it online because the cost to add the interface seemed excessive. The Wife, Best Man, and Matron of Honor all encouraged me and the Wife even offer to pay half. So I changed my mind and purchased the interface and installed it a few weeks ago. The interface allows me to upload data from my weather station to the free weatherlink site. The past week I was trying to find out a way to post it on Homer's Travels. The free site doesn't provide any widget or RSS feeds. There were ways to generate HTML but frankly, my skill is lacking. Then I discovered you could upload your data to the Weather Underground and they provided a gadget. It's a round-about way to do it but it seems to work.

So now, if you are ever curious about the weather in my backyard, just check the widget in the side bar.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hiking Nebraska: Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge

Yesterday I finally got back on the trail. It had been a while - three months - since my last hike and it felt good to get out. My first Nebraska hike would be a couple of trails in the Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge. I chose this hiking areas as it had longer trails than most parks in the area. I chose Tuesday because it was going to be in the low 80s and not too humid. It turned out to be a perfect hiking day with a cool breeze from the south.

The refuge is mostly meadow with wooded areas along the Missouri River and Boyer Chute. The trail leaves the main parking area of the refuge on a paved path, crosses a bridge over the chute, and continues as a gravel and then mowed grass, path east across the meadow.

I followed the Grasses Loop, a four mile loop, through the prairie land. As I walked on the trail, grasshoppers jumped out of the way. Many of the grasshoppers didn't quite grasp the concept of fleeing as they jumped straight at me. I was pelted by insects as I walked along. It felt kind of weird.

The air was filled with the sound of insects and birds. I spooked some pheasant (or maybe quayle) and wild turkey as I walked through the tall grass. The trail eventually reaches a tree line that runs along the Missouri River and turned north. I came across a mulberry tree and picked some berries. It was a little late in the season and the berries were small and not as juicy as I've had in the past. My grandparents had some mulberry trees on their farm. I remember going out and eating them until my hands were stained purpley-black from the juice.

Along part of the trail there were trees on both sides of the trail. A deer jumped over the trail and headed into the trees before I could get my camera out. A rabbit was not to far behind. With the pheasant, wild turkey, meadowlarks, rabbits, deer, and grasshoppers, I saw more wildlife on this trail than on any of the my California hikes. I hope this wasn't a fluke. I like to see animals on the trail.

At around the half way point of the grasses loop, I headed for a nearby virtual geocache. I reached down to check my GPS and it was gone. I backtracked and found it on the ground under the mulberry tree. Gave me a little scare, though I have been looking for an excuse to buy a new one. Not this time. I arrived at the cache site and claimed "Boyer Chute NWR #2" located not far from the western shore of the river.

The loop briefly follows the Missouri River before heading back west. There were a couple spurs that were not shown on the trailhead maps. Not sure where they go - a reason to come back some day. A visit in the fall when the leaves change may be required.

I arrived back near the trailhead and walked the Oriole Loop, a short half mile loop through a forested area, before heading back to the car. Part of this loop passed so close to the chute that the trail was totally washed out forcing me to detour a little.

The Grasses-Oriole loop combination was 4.84 miles with roughly 112 feet of vertical. That's not much vertical and frankly the trail is as flat as they come.

I was not satisfied with this length so I drove down to the southern edge of the refuge and did another hike along the chute to the point where the chute merges with the Missouri River. This trail seemed a little less traveled and felt more rustic even though it was well maintained. There were more flowers along this trail where splashes of yellow and purple liven it up the scenery. The only bad thing about this trail was some garbage on the trail - namely a slightly used feminine hygiene product (X-Þ GROSS).

The south chute trail, along with a short spur to the edge of the chute, added about 1.52 miles and another virtual cache "Boyer Chute NWR #1". So, combined, my hike at Boyer Chute totaled 6.36 miles. Some pictures can be found here.

It was almost noon and I was getting hungry so I headed to the nearest town, Fort Calhoun (population 850+) where I ended up at the Rustic Inn. At one time the place had a western theme with stuffed Cowboy and Indian figures greeting you at the door, long horns over the entrance, and various rusty western stuff adorning the walls. The glittery, UFO shaped, mirror ball hanging from the ceiling ditracted from the western theme. The place was a typical small mid-western town restaurant. The service and food was fast. My cheeseburger and fries were basic and no frills, which is fine since I'm a no-frills type of guy. The soda was served in the can with a glass of ice. Nothing froo-froo here. I felt right at home here.

After my satisfying lunch I found three other geocaches in the area: "Eye Ain't Got No View" (located next to a cemetery), "L&C The Rock" (A memorial to Lewis & Clark), and "A Wetland Drive" (Muggles saw me and aked me if I was checking water quality. I mumbled a little white lie of agreement and waited for them to leave before I re-hid the cache).

After three caches, I'd had enough and headed home. This was a good first hike. The landscape is quite different here than in California. It's different but interesting never the less. I can't wait to see where I go next.

Monday, August 25, 2008

No Sympathy Expected

The Wife has started her new teaching position.  Today was an in-service day and she was overloaded with information.  Actual teaching won't start until after Labor Day.  I helped her fill out all the insurance forms tonight - never ending.

Now that the Wife has started work, it is time for me to really start thinking about what I want to do.  Her new job will provide a good income but it is not where she wants to be.  Her true vocation is to teach less fortunate students at a Catholic school.  Her new job isn't Catholic and the students are of means.  She really wants to teach in the all girls school she worked at before we were married. If there is an opening there for the next school year, she will very likely jump for it and this would very likely result in a pay cut.  A pay cut will probably mean I go looking for a job.  This is not a certainty as we really haven't been able to nail down exactly what we need to live comfortably here in Nebraska and it will probably be another year before we can make an educated guess.

I can be selfish at times but I really want the Wife to be happy.  If she wants to take a pay cut to insure that she is pursuing her vocation, then I will support her the best I can.  If it means me getting a job ...  so be it.

I  wish I wouldn't draw a blank every time I thought about my vocation.  I am proud that the Wife has found her vocation.  Few people ever do.  I have not.  I have spent some 25+ years feeling there was something out there for me and I haven't a clue what it is.  Now I have about a year to figure it out.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Inexplicable Sporting Events And Olympic Inactivity

My week has been spent in an Olympic stupor. During the last two weeks I've watched sports that I would never acknowledge existed for the other 206 weeks.  Given the choice of posting and watching the 4x400m whatever, the race won every time.  How can you resist a racer named Bolt or  a skimpily clad rain soaked volleyballer named Misty.  Hey NBC, how about giving us another closeup of those signals?  I can never get enough of that.

It took over my life, filled in all the dead periods, and sucked all motivation out of me.  I witnessed swimming, gymnastics, fencing (it ain't no three musketeers), table tennis (Oh phooey, just call it what it is: ping pong), badminton (Huh?!?), canoeing (what's next: competitive tent erecting?), and synchronized everything (and I mean everything).  What a strange mix of activities.  Here's a list of the sports contested.  Slalom Canoe/Kayak?!?  How did I miss that broadcast?!? Bows, guns, sculls, horses, ropes, hoops, clubs, discs, shots, javelins, balls, batons, foils, poles - innumeral types of sporting equipment.  How do you ship a pole vault pole?  That's what I want to know.  Must be impossible to get it past the TSA not to mention getting it in the overhead bin.

The only time I left the house this week was for the concert and to walk the Homer - I managed to walk Homer every day - something I haven't done for months - poor guy.    Sadly, the more sporting activities I watched, the less real activity I actually participated in.

I ended up watching more of the games this time than any other Olympics in my adult lifetime.  Not sure why.  It might have been the fact I got to go to the Olympic Swim Trials.  They did spark my interest a little more.  I'm not sure.

And now that the Olympic games are almost over, just as I caught a glimpse of freedom, along comes the Democratic and Republican Conventions.  Not sure whats worse, sports coma or political catatonia.  I'm a news junky and, unfortunately, so is the Wife.  She can't save me from my obsession.   But, like a junky who hates his life but can't resist getting that next fix, I will be planted in front of the 46" flat screen soaking up the political lies oratory in splendiferous High-Def.  Resistance is futile.  *sigh*

P.S.  Do you think that the London games will live up to their name:  The Games of the XXX Olympiad?  Just wondering.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Music: Tempo Of Twilight Series: Orenda Fink, Adrianne Verhoeven & Brad Hoshaw

Tuesday evening I decided it was time to leave the house and try, once again, to experience some new music.  This time I went to Lauritzen Gardens to listen to some local Omaha performers.

I set up my chair on the grass thinking that the concrete patio area, where the stage was set up, was off limits.  Turns out I was wrong and before you know it my view, not good to begin with, was obscured.  Can't say this was the best venue.  Being a botanical garden, there were several stands of tall plants that blocked the view for a large chunk of listeners.

The concert started early at 6:00 PM with Brad Hoshaw, lead singer for Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies.  Hoshaw was alone on the stage with an acoustic guitar and gave us a very mellow set.  He has a great, soft voice with lots of potential.  I may check out his band's CD when it comes out in November.  The music was a little too soporific for my tastes though.  A little more umph would have helped.

It may be that he chose the type of music for the crowd.  The age range in the crowd was to the older side - 50s, 60s, 70s - with a smattering of middle aged and younger.  I kind of felt out of place. 

After Hoshaw finished his set, I moved my chair onto the concrete to a place with an unobstructed view.  It also got me away from most of the talkative and annoying crowds back on the grass.  I think the crowd, with had a very red state feel to them, were more interested in smoosing then listening to music.  During Hoshaw's set there was this constant murmuring of people talking including two ladies who were talking loudly and cackling.  I finally caught the eye of one of the annoying ladies and said "Thank you for being rude."  I know what I said was rude and two rudes do not make a polite but other people had asked them to be quiet more politely and they didn't stop talking until after my blurt.

Away from the murmur, I was able to enjoy the main act, Orenda Fink accompanied by Adrianne Verhoeven.  Both have solo albums out and they are both members of Art in Manila and several other local bands.  Fink played an electric guitar and Verhoeven was on keyboard.  I liked Fink.  Nice singing voice.  Interesting music - though once again a little too mellow.  Definitely not toe tapping dance music.  A little girl, 2 or 3 years old, walked up to Fink and twirled a little but but I'm not sure she was twirling to the Fink's music or the music in her cute little head.  Fink apologized to the little girl saying that her music isn't the best to dance to.  I would be tempted by her music if she had something a little more upbeat.

The concert ended rather early before 8:00 PM.  I would have chopped a couple songs off Hoshaw's set and added three or four more songs from Fink and Verhoeven.  But that's just me.  Still, after the unsuccessful attempts to attend concerts in the area, I had a nice time finally getting to hear some music.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Best Man And Matron Of Honor Cometh ... And Visit-eth

Just as soon as the GodSon left, his parents the Best Man (BM) and Matron of Honor (MoH) arrived. Thursday night was filled with chatting and Olympics.
On Friday we had a relatively late start and went downtown and had lunch at King Fongs. We enjoyed the food and talked about the decor of the place and many other things.

Next stop was the nearby Simmons-Boardman Transportation Bookstore. The BM is interested in trains and this bookstore specializes in trains. I'd seen it a few weeks ago when I walked around downtown and thought it might be interesting. It turned out to be underwhelming. We walked around briefly before heading off to our next stop without having bought anything.

The next stop was the Joslyn Art Museum. The BM and MoH are interested in European art. The Wife and I had seem most of the pieces last April but it was still interesting to wander around. My interest in art is still a little ... weak.

We left the museum and drove by a mural that is being painted nearby. The mural will be the largest art piece in the city and one of the largest in the country. The cool thing is that one of the dancers in the mural is the Wife's niece. The artist saw her in a dance class at Creighton and asked if she could model for the mural. Very cool.

Our day ended with a stop at the Upstream Brewing Company for some drinks and appetizers. The toasted garlic break with mozzarella and marinara was particularly tasty. I downed a few locally brewed root beers while the Wife, BM, and MoH sampled the beers. The MoH was impressed that there sampler had 11 different beers almost twice as many as your average brewpub. A lot of beer was consumed. A lot. The BM and MoH were nice and bought us two Upstream glasses for our collection and a loaf of chocolate banana bread freshly baked at the Upstream.

The first full day of their visit ended with more beer at our place, delicious Chocolate Banana Bread, and Olympics.

On Saturday we went to the Strategic Air & Space Museum. The Wife and I had just been there a few days earlier with the GodSon. The GodSon and BM have many interests in common and the MoH has the patience to let him indulge those interests. I decided to take a few more pictures this time and you can see them here. This is Air Force Week and our house is under the flight path of nearby offutt Air Force Base. We saw a U-2 spy plane and a B-2 Stealth Bomber fly overhead. The bomber was particularly cool.

On the way back to Omaha we decided to investigate what looked like a glass barn on a hill overlooking I-80. We'd seen the wood and glass structure when we were out with the GodSon but hadn't stopped. This time we found the proper exit and it turned out that the glass barn was actually a chapel of the Holy Family Shrine. The place was pretty neat. The visitors center was underground and the whole place was heated and cooled using geothermal wells. There were channels in the walkways for water to flow from the chapel to the visitors center (no water was flowing when we were there). The surrounding land was landscaped with native flowers and prairie grasses that attracted all sorts of butterflies, grasshoppers, and cicadas. At times all the insect sounds were kinda spooky load. I took a few pictures here as well.

We got back home relatively early and we all scattered around the house to take naps - you know you're getting old when a mid afternoon nap is required. I layed down and listed to a This American Life episode to help me relax. After we all were rested and refreshed we headed to the Cheesecake Factory for an early birthday celebration for the MoH. We ate entirely too much food with appetizers and main courses. We ended up ordering our desserts to go. For those that are curious I have included a picture of the desserts. Clockwise from the lower right: Chocolate Tower Truffle Cake, Warm Apple Crisp, Snickers® Bar Chunks and Cheesecake, and Caramel Pecan Turtle Cheesecake.

We got home, watched some Olympics, then ate our desserts as we watched Obama and McCain on a CNN Political Forum (we'd recorded it on our DVR). After watching the candidates we discussed politics. There were times when, if a stranger had walked in, he would have thought we hated each other but the fact is we enjoy a good political argument every now and then and we always seem to have one when we get together. We all agreed that McCain had done better during the forum discussions but that the forum didn't change any of our minds. I've added a little electoral vote prediction gadget to the sidebar for those who are interested in following the polls.

Our discussion and desserts finally pooped out around 3:00 AM. Yes ... three in the freaking morning. (Actually I'll be pooping out the desserts for a little while longer I imagine.) We all felt like bloated balloons and I know that I felt like I was going to explode. The sad part is, after getting up sometime after 9:00 AM this morning, I still felt all bloaty and disgusting. Usually that feeling goes away after sleeping. The Wife is feeling the same. We are both slowly recovering.
The BM and MoH headed home this morning and we've been just laying around groaning, complaining, and sleeping off all the crap that we've stuffed in our mouths for the last week. I think I'll have to watch what I eat for a while. I'm sure my triglycerides are through the roof.

The BM and MoH are the last visitors for a while. We're planning to visit them in early October to celebrate the Wife's birthday. I hear the celebration may involve paintball. Can't wait!

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Godson Cometh ... And Visit-eth.

As I mentioned in my last post, the GodSon would be visiting us in Omaha.  This gave us an excuse to get out and see new thing around the Omaha area.  I originally planned to do the ol' post a day but our time was so full, and my umph so low, that I decided to do a summary post instead.  Sorry for being lazy.  I promise to try to do better.

The Godson, with the Wife riding with him from the mini-reunion, arrive Monday afternoon.  After showing off our home and ogling our great view out our back window, we decided it was time for beer and food.  We piled into the GodSon's car and headed into Omaha.

  • Monday

We headed downtown to the Upstream Brewing Company. The GodSon gave his approval to the Upstream's beer selection which bodes well for the visit of the Best Man and Matron Of Honor this weekend (readers may remember that they are beer nuts).

After beer we moved next door to Spaghetti Works for some grub.  Food and more beer was consumed.  Conversation was enjoyed.  During our conversation we realized that our driver had had a little too much to drink so we decided that we need to walk off some of the beer.  I don't drink so I was fine but I drive a stick shift like a drunk guy - Me and sticks ... not pretty.

We walked around the downtown area taking pictures until we arrive to our the next obvious destination - Ted & Wally's Ice Cream Shop.  YUM.  YUM.  Even more YUM.

We walked around some more, probably a little too much based on the Wife's grumblings, before going home to watch the Olympics.

  • Tuesday

After a good night's sleep we headed to Lisa's Radial Cafe for a very late (11:00 AM) breakfast.  We all enjoyed the great food though the GodSon's breakfast sandwich was missing its bacon.  I can attest to the act that their pancakes are almost as big as your head and are magnificent.

We walked through the nearby cathedral before heading on to our history related destinations of the day.  The first of these was the Mormon Trail Center.  The center documents the Mormons flight from Nauvoo, Illinois to the Salt Lake area during the late 1840s.  The displays were interesting.  Especially the odometer used to measure the trails so that they could leave detailed directions for future Mormon travelers.  Now I try to be a very open minded guy and I've taken advantage of the genealogical libraries run by the Mormons, but frankly, they creep me out.  The docents at the museum were just a little too helpful and shadowed us a little too closely as we walked through the displays.

The next historic stop was the birthplace of Malcolm X.  I'm not sure people now that Malcolm X was born in Omaha.  He and his family were run out of the city when he was young.  The only thing marking his birthplace is a plaque.  At least there was supposed to be a plaque.  We had some trouble finding the actual address and after driving around through some rather poor neighborhoods we discovered that the plaque was gone but the location was being transformed into what we assumed would be a memorial to Malcolm X.  We all felt this was a good thing as a plaque seemed inadequate and we will be back once the memorial is completed.

We returned home to rest up in preparation for the Omaha Royals game that night.  We arrived at Rosenblatt stadium (home of the College World Series) and bought some food before finding a good spot to watch the game from.  The GodSon is a big baseball fan.  The Omaha Royals, a AAA ball team, went up against the Albuquerque Isotopes.  Aren't the Isotopes the Springfield team from the Simpsons?!?  The game started with the Royals ahead.  The Wife and the GodSon had fun making bad nuclear physics jokes ("the isotopes are decaying" and similar groan inducing jokes) about the Isotopes.  I may have contributed a little bit but the Wife contributed the most.  The Jokes ended the top of the fifth when the isotopes scored 8 runs.  That's when we decided to leave.  The final score was 11-5.

  • Wednesday

This week is Air Force week at Offutt Air Force Base and the Strategic Air & Space Museum was free because of the festivities.  The museum is huge consisting in a main building connecting two large hangers.  Planes of all shapes and sizes were intricately parked in these two large spaces.  The place was so big that we lost the GodSon.  When we finally found each other we had some lunch at the Plane Food snack bar.  I didn't take too many pictures for some reason.  The few pictures I took are here.

After food we went to ride the flight simulator.  For some reason I wasn't really that thrilled to do this.  Just not in the mood I guess but, since the simulator held two people, I ended up riding with the GodSon.  We climbed in and the Godson took the stick.  The simulator is really cool allowing complete 360° turns - loops and barrel rolls.  After flying a bit the Godson switched the controls over to me and that's when it got fun.  After shooting a few planes and stuff I decided to see if I could get the GodSon to hurl.  I did some loops, barrel rolls, and corkscrews.  I didn't make him hurl but I did make him scream like a little girl.  He would scream.  I would cackle.  The Wife could heard the screaming and laughing as she waited outside.  I ended up having more fun than I expected.

Next on our list was the Squirrel Cage Jail in nearby Council Bluffs, Iowa.  I had no idea what this was before we went.  Jails didn't really interest me very much.  We got there and payed our entry fee to a very disinterested teenager who also turned out to be our guide.  The guide, whose every utterance started with uuummm, showed us around the facilities, answered our questions, and mildly irritated us with her mannerisms.  I have to admit that the place was fascinating.  The jail cells were arranged in a cylinder three stories high.  The cells were pie shaped wedges with two bunks along one side and a toilet at the point of the wedge.  The entire cylinder, all three stories, rotated.  If you wanted to release a prisoner, the cylinder would be rotated until his wedge lined up with the cell door.  The whole thing was fascinating in a spooky, eerie, engineering sort of way.  The solitary confinement cell was the creepiest being as wide as a man's shoulders.   Pictures of the jail can be found here.

Next door to the jail is the Union Pacific Railroad Museum.  The GodSon likes trains so it was an obvious next destination.  We walked through the well made museum in the interestingly restored old building and were quite impressed.  The Union Pacific Railroad is headquartered in Omaha and they have the resources to put together a good museum.  The docents, old ladies primarily, were a little disappointing as many of the Wife's questions went unanswered but besides that, it was an interesting historical museum.

On the way back home we stopped at Kenefick Park, location of two of the largest locomotives in the world: Big Boy and Challenger.  The engines can be seen from I-80 as you enter Nebraska from Iowa.

This day of planes and trains in our automobile ended with some good food at the Dundee Dell and dessert at the Village Inn.

As usual we had a good time with the GodSon.  I ended up not taking very many pictures for some reason but trust me, we saw a lot in the last three days.  Each day ended with us watching another world record fall in the Olympics.  We all enjoyed ourselves.

Yesterday the GodSon left and his parents, the Best Man and Matron Of Honor, arrived.  I can't wait to see what we do with them.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Haverhill Social Club

Like salmon swimming upstream to their spawning ground, the Wife's family periodically converges on the small town of Haverhill, IA (pop: 170) to eat good food, drink good beer, and enjoy good company and on Sunday Homer and I had the privilege to witness this joyous reunion.

This impromptu get together, planned over the last couple of weeks, converged on the Haverhill Social Club, formerly Blum Grocery, now a bar and soon to be a restaurant. The old building is full of character. It's been gutted and reconfigured for entertainment with only the original worn floor remaining. It had that old, comfortable atmosphere and turned out to be the perfect place for the gathering. What grabbed the attention of us was the one-way mirror in the men's room that allow you to watch the bar and big screen TV while standing at the trough and the ice that fills said trough. Several of the women had to go into the men's room to check out the view. We're plain folk who are easily entertained. :-)

Homer behaved himself at the bar. To our surprise he didn't jump on anyone like he usually does. He mostly just stood in the middle of the room and panted - what he does in strange new situations. He became the official greeter, meeting everyone at the door. Unfortunately he's blowing his coat and by the time we left there was dog hair everywhere.

We all visited the cemetery to visit the graves of the Arnold and Marcella, the grandparents. We went down to the historic Edel Blacksmith Shop. I took some pictures which you can find here.

The restaurant was not complete yet but this didn't slow the party down because one of the Wife's cousins runs a catering business on the side and they parked their trailer out front and everyone enjoyed some shredded pork, barbecue ribs, and potato salad washing it down with beer and soda ("Pop"). We ate and drank our fill and a group made a circle and started playing games. I'm not much of a game player so I sat back and observed. I don't think anyone there was not enjoying themselves.

After four or five hours (I didn't pay too much attention to the time) the party broke up with people heading to hotels in Marshalltown. The get together continued at the hotel with the Wife, Homer, and I joining the Best Man, Matron Of Honor, Godson, Altar Boy, and two of the Wife's Aunts squeezed into the one of the hotel rooms. Beer and memories continued to flow for a few hours more.

The only cloud over the festivities was the health of the Mother-In-Law. She had surgery recently and she hasn't been feeling well since. This cut her stay at the reunion short. We all hope and pray for a complete recovery soon.

The next day everyone went their separate ways. I drove home with Homer. The Wife and the Godson went off to the police station to investigate a family story that only she seems to remember. I may post about it if there are developments - it's an interesting story. The Godson and the Wife followed later.

The reunion continues with the Godson visiting our new digs in Omaha. We'll be joined later this week by the Best Man and Matron Of Honor.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Itsy Bitsy ... And Tidy

Our deck seems to be very popular to squatters. I've already talked about the Robin that built a nest and whose progeny have all flown the coop. Now we have a couple of spiders.

These are interesting spiders who have interesting habits. Behaviors that I didn't know existed. I first saw them when I was taking Homer out at 10:00 pm. One of the webs extended from the deck to the hostas six to seven feet below. It was about three to four feet across. In other words, huge. I figured I would have to get rid of it but I decided to wait til the next morning.

Next morning, at 7:00 am, I went out and ... the web was gone. Not a trace. I thought this was strange but I didn't think much of it until that night. At 10:00 pm the web was back in roughly the same position. The spider, which eventually grew to be about an inch or so across, had a june bug in it's web. The next morning the web was once again gone.

I'd always thought that spiders built webs and then left them up. I never knew that some spiders actually removed their webs everyday. I learn something new every day. One of the spiders has stopped building its web. She's staying close to the bottom of the deck. My guess is that she's getting ready to lay eggs.

I haven't decided if the egg laying is good or not. Spiders creep me out. At least they will be tidy little web spiners.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

"Even If It Kills Me"

Yesterday afternoon, after I posted, I got in the car and headed for Gene Leahy Mall to listen to a Jazz In The Park concert.  The concert was supposed to start at 6:30 and, after fighting rush hour traffic, I got there at about 5:45.  I arrived at the mall (think Washington Mall, not Mall of the Americas) and looked around.  The mall is about a block wide and six blocks long and is dominated by a large body of water running down it's length.  I looked but couldn't see any stage or gathering crowd.  I walked to the closest end - nothing.  I walked the entire six block length - nothing.  I walked back to the other end - nothing.  14 blocks of nothing.  At this point I was a little sweaty and I'd convinced myself that I must have the wrong day for the concert.  Muttering under my breath I headed back to the car and back home.
When I got home I checked on-line - I had the right location, the right time, and the right day.  What The ...?!?  If there was a concert being held anywhere in that park, they effectively hid it from me.
Of the four concerts I was interested in hearing, I managed to attend only one (Feist).  Not a very impressive success rate.  The other concerts fell victim to the Heat Index, Network Configuration, and now, Unknown Location.  There are other concerts coming up including more of the Jazz In The Park series.  Maybe next time I'll actually hear some music.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Frustrating Tunnel Vision Of Doom

Geek Alert: The following post contains some geek techno-babble and T.L.A.s (Three Letter Acronyms). Reading this post may result in blurred vision and possible auditory canal hemorrhaging.

Yesterday I received a new wireless router/gigabyte switch. I decided to install it before going to the Jazz On The Green concert later that night. How difficult could it be? Take out the old 10/100 router and Wireless Access Point (WAP) and replace it with the new wireless router. Piece o' cake. I've got a Computer Engineering degree. I've built my last three computers. I know how to do this stuff.

I followed the instructions by the book. Install the software, plug in the router, and successfully access everything that is currently on my home network (A network printer, a Network Attached Storage (NAS), a desktop computer, and a laptop). Installation went smoothly and I was happy. That lasted about 15 minutes. It lasted until I turned on my laptop.

The laptop booted and I was on the internet lickety-split. Then I tried to access the NAS. NAS not found. Huh?? I tried to print. No go. Huh?!? I started to investigate. Rebooting the laptop. Rebooting the router. rebooting the NAS. Each time I rebooted, what network assets my Laptop could see changed. In all cases when I tried to access the asset, it would not be available. I could see it but couldn't do anything with it. I started becoming very frustrated.

I have a big character flaw. Actually I have many but for this post only one matters. When things don't work as they should, I become frustrated and when I become frustrated, I am not pleasant to be around. Fortunately the Wife in in New York and she wasn't there to witness my pacing back and forth and my under-my-breath ranting. I'm surprised There's any rug left between our den and the kitchen, I paced so much. I develop tunnel vision and the world around me fades away. I'm sure my heart was racing and my hands were shaking. I get that way when I have a computer problem that's in my way. Homer must have thought I was crazy. He was smart and stayed out of my way.

I worked on the problem from about 3:00 PM until I went to bed at 10:15 PM. I wasn't in front of the computer all that time but my head was running a mile a minute and Last Comic Standing and Fear Itself didn't register much on my consciousness.

At 10:15 I went to bed and tried desperately to clear my mind, slow my heart and breathing rates, and to fall asleep. It took me a while but I finally managed to get to sleep. Homer had no problem at all and was snoring way before I was able to join him in a duet.

I woke up at 6:00 AM and, as I lay there contemplating the day ahead, the compact florescent lit over my head. Of course. That must be it. Since the Wife is coming home tonight I told myself no computer until the house was clean. Four hours and a clean house later I turn on the laptop, opened up Zone Alarm, and made the necessary changes. Eureka!! I'd forgotten that my firewall treated the internet and the local LAN differently and I had set up the software using the old router IP address. The new router has a different IP address (DUH!). I change the setting and everything started working again. My mood went from dire desperation to walking on a cloud happy.

I am such a geeky dork! Jazz On The Green was a victim of my single minded problem solving-ness. My only consolation for missing this concert was that the heat index was in the 100s. Still, I should have gone instead of obsessing on my network configuration. I do have a second chance. Tonight is Jazz In The Park (no relation to Jazz On The Green) down in Gene Leahy Park. I'm going to try to get to this one, even if it kills me.