Sunday, November 30, 2008

What A Great Past Few Days

And a quiet calm settled over the Homer-Dog household.  The Thanksgiving weekend is coming to a close and the visiting family - The Best Man, Matron of Honor (MoH), Godson, Altar Boy, The Altar Boy's Wife, DA, (MoH's brother), DE (MoH's other brother) and DE's Wife - Have all hit the road.  The place is still and quiet.

The last three days have been filled with fun, family, "Frosty Balls" (spoken in a matronly British accent naturally), and a strange melodic harmony of whistling and humming coming from the back of the rented SUV (Is that the Bohemian Rhapsody ?).  We walked the pedestrian bridge and did our best to make is sway (We met an employee of the firm that built the bridge. Se was visiting the bridge for the first time).  Thanks to the drizzly wet Saturday we didn't manage to walk around the old market very much but we did have some ice cream and I think we single-handedly kept the beer and ale economies afloat (This made Mass later that evening particularly entertaining as the Wife and the MoH fought off the giggles).

At the homestead our time was spent drinking more beer, making and eating pasta and pork (lots and lots of pork products), playing scrabble (I lost - twice), and talking about stuff.  The talking seemed a little limited when compared to our past discussions.  I think it was because the election was over and was no longer a interesting topic.  Since this was a gathering of the geek side of the family (I'm included in that category), there were at least three laptops open at any one time during our down time.  I fought the urge and kept it from being four laptops. This came in handy when we had a question to answer (Q: Did Hernando DeSoto actually reach DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge? A: No).

The night was livened up a bit as the Wife insisted in having our guests open their Christmas presents.  I can't say I agreed with that since it was way to soon for presents but I was voted down and they had a good point in that the Wife and I wouldn't be able to see them open the presents if they took them home unopened.  The best presents were the three Mexican wrestling masks we gave the Altar Boy, Best Man, and GodSon.

The gathering slowly wound down and we went to bed anticipating an early morning.  Sometime overnight we had our first snow.  Homer had never seen snow before but he took it in stride and went out and did number 1, number 2, and a brief search for crabapples under the tree.  The snow was on the ground and not falling so I'm still curious how he will react to snowflakes.


As usual, this was a fun filled gathering.  Christmas will be at our house this year so we get to do it all over again in a few weeks.

P.S. After the GodSon and Altar Boy left, the Wife laid on the couch to take a well deserved nap.  She promptly jumped up and ran to get the Febreze to spritz the cushions down.  Your sphincters rock!  I am in awe ... and grateful your a$$es are back in Minnesota.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Friday Of History, Birding, and Beer

Yesterday was fun.  We had a lazy morning before heading out to DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge .  Before we left, the Wife made everyone a big breakfast that was yummy in the tummy.

We met the Wife's brother (TE) at the DeSoto visitor's center and we walked through the excellent display of items recovered from the Bertrand Steamboat.  The Bertrand had been loaded full of supplies for the mining communities along the Missouri River in Montana when it got stuck.  Here are a few pictures (most of my pictures didn't come out due to the low lighting and the lack of a tri-pod).

After walking through the displays and watching a very brief video about the excavation of the Bertrand and rancid lard and butter, we went to the observation areas and looked at the geese.  There were nowhere near the numbers that we'd hoped (500,000 have stopped there in past migratory seasons), but we did see quite a few.  We watched as a flock or two came in for a landing, landing on the ice covered lake.  The refuge is also known for migratory predators and we managed to see five bald eagles.  Most were perched in distant trees too far for a picture.  We left the visitor's center and drove to another bird observation blind but literally, the geese flew away just as we pulled up.  I guess they heard we were coming. Pictures of the geese can be found here along with a couple other DeSoto pictures I'd taken earlier.

At that point we'd had enough history and birding so we went back to Omaha where, since our party included the Best Man, Matron of Honor, the GodSon, and the Altar Boy, we found a bar and enjoyed some imported beer.  The Best man chose Crescent Moon Ale House.   The place was dominated by husker fans and it was a close game so the place was pretty loud.  We ordered some beer and appetizers and talked loudly over the cheers.

For Dinner we went to Spaghetti Works where just about everyone over ate - especially me.  I was more stuffed there than I was on Thanksgiving.  Being stuffed, we decided to walk some of the food off and we strolled through the old market.  The downtown area was all lit up with Christmas lights.


We walked around ogling the lights and some of us went down the long slides near the Gene Leahy Mall.  I added a few pictures I took to my Omaha Flicker set.

Today, after another lazy morning we're probably going back to the Old market area to browse the stores, ride the slide again, walk the pedestrian bridge, and visit the Durham museum.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Homer And His Little Friends

Just a short post as we've got guests to entertain and feed.

Thanksgiving turned out to be awesome. We had a great time. The youngins did the wii thing while the adults chatted and played games.

The food was abundant and delicious. Kudos to TE for an great spread and wonderful hospitality.

Homer greeted everyone multiple times and was joined by much bigger Sophie and the newest member of the clan, a 12 week old chocolate lab named Charlie. Homer is definitely showing his age. He couldn't quite keep up with the Young pups. Everyone was cute. Even the old Fart Homer.

Today on our schedule: Eating, Birding, Steamboat Detritus Observing, and Drinking.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Throng

Today is Thanksgiving here in the U. S. of A.   Homer, The Wife, and I are spending it at my brother-in-law's (TE) and an estimated 29 members of the Wife's family (there will be 31 of us total).  Fortunately, I really like the Wife's Family or I think I'd go a little crazy.  After the usual feast, eight of them will follow us home where the festivities will be celebrated for a few more days.

I hope everyone has a memorable and Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dack The Halls With LED Lights

I finally got the lights up this afternoon.  I was tired of trying to figure out which bulb was dead every year (there were always dead sections of lights) so this year we bought LED lights which are more robust, longer lasting, and more energy efficient.  They are very white and have a slight bluish tinge which, frankly, make them look more like ice.


The lights went up fairly easy.  A previous owner had put in screws along the eves which made it simple to hang the strings of lights.  The only hitch was that I'd never been on the roof of this house.  To be safe, the Wife was outside and watched me as I put them up.  Fortunately 911 was not needed.

We are now as ready as we can be for the company that's coming.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Book: Glenn Reynolds' " An Army Of Davids"

I'm doing better finding time to read.  My latest read was Glenn Reynolds' "An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths".

The theme of this book was that technology has empowered individuals (the "Davids") to take on the large corporations and governments (the "Goliaths").  This happens to be a premise that I agree with but I don't think Reynolds did a very good job explaining the concept.  
He starts off well enough but before you know it he veers off on a tangent and the book becomes a smorgasbord of geek nirvana inducing technologies.  Chapters covering gaming, nanotechnology, life extension and biotech immortality, commercial space exploration, and the arrival of the singularity take up the last half of the book.  While I understand that some of these technologies help empower the little guy, the way Reynolds presents them seems disjointed and disconnected from the main argument.

Glenn Reynolds is a blogger (instapundit.com).  As soon as I started reading this book I could tell.  There was a very bloggy feel to the writing.  Not bad but it felt slightly less ... polished.  There is even a chapter on good blogging which felt out of place.

If you want an overview of some cool technologies, you may like this book.  If you're looking for an in depth discussion of the power of the individual over the giant corporations and governments, you probably should look somewhere else.  I'd give this book a B-.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bonehenge

Homer, like all good dogs, likes to chew bones. In his case, a large Nylabone. Unlike many dogs, Homer has a hidden talent. When Homer's done chewing, he often leaves his bone like this:


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Our Tree Has Big Balls

After I built the tree on Friday, the Wife and I spent Saturday night decorating it.  I came out pretty nice.  Today, the Wife began decorating the rest of the inside of the house.  I'll probably post new Christmas pictures as the date approaches.

This is the earliest we've ever decorated.  Part of the reason is that we have guests staying after Thanksgiving.  The other part is the weather.  We need to get stuff up outside before the snow comes.  We've seen a few flurries oer the past few days.

In the past, outside decorations were limited to icicle lights and a large wreath over the garage.  For our new house we added decorations for the small oak tree in front of our house.  I bought some big decorations (Big Balls - okay, get the laughs out of your system) and we hung them in the bare tree limbs.  I think it looks like the sad Charlie Brown tree.  I had some trouble hanging the top most blue ball.  I truly expect to watch it get blown off the tree in a high wind and I'll end up running down the street chasing the bouncing ball.

Tomorrow I buy lights for the outside.  I think I'll go with the LED icicle lights.  Help the planet while we decorate.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Choice Was Made For Us

Some choices are yours to make.  Others are made for you.

Ever since we went to Peru in 2006, we've had the travel bug.  Back then, two years ago, we chose our next destination: Thailand.  We picked a tour offered by the same company that did our Peru tour: Hill Tribes of Thailand.  We planned to add a side trip to Angkor Wat. It was going to be grand.

I've been looking forward to this trip.  Originally we were planning to do it Summer 2008 but we postponed it to 2009 when we decided to move back to the mid-west.  Postponing it made me ache.   I was ready to go somewhere exotic and new.  Native and historic.  I'm not sure I could have been more excited.

Then the economy soured.  Was it right to take an expensive trip when our savings were shrinking and the economy was circling the toilet bowl?  I was feeling uncertain and I discovered that the Wife was right there with me.  We both decided that it wouldn't be right but we both really wanted to go and we kept putting off the final decision.  We were torn.  Then the world stepped in and made the decision for us.

I checked the tour schedule and found that it was not given during the summer.  That pretty much killed our trip to Thailand.  The summer is the only time the Wife and I have time to travel together.  I'm still bummed.

Our backup plan is to vacation locally.  We're looking at a trip to Yellowstone and Arches National Park.  Not exactly exotic but we will have to make do with what we have and make the best of it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Today I Built A Tree ...

Today I built a tree in my living room.
A symbol of the approaching season of peace, joy, and first and foremost, hope.
A time for peaceful change that brings us all joy ... I hope.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Photo-Less Photo Safari

I've been planning to do photo safari in the area.  Essentially I would drive around looking for something to photograph.  I've seen things while on drives, old buildings, old and interesting signs, landscapes that take your breath away, and, not having my camera, I've missed them all.  I figured this would be a chance to just wander around seeing what caught my eye and taking some good pictures.  Turns out nothing caught my eye.
I drove around south of Omaha through small towns and rural areas.  The landscape of farm fields were very bleak with most crops having already been harvested.
My original plan had me going through seven or eight small (tiny) towns.  After passing through the first two without seeing anything that I found interesting, I took to the rural, gravel road and ended up skipping three of the towns on my list.  Taking the rural roads took me back when I worked on my Uncle's farm.  Despite the nostalgia, I saw nothing picture-worthy.
West of the Omaha I briefly got lost on the rough dirt and gravel roads. I always had my bearings but I wasn't sure where I was going to come out.  I ended up going in a circle.
Another part of my plan was to find a small diner or cafe in one of these small towns to have lunch.  That didn't happen either.  I ended up getting home three hours sooner than I'd planned.  I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich washed down with a diet cherry-vanilla Dr. Pepper while I had a mild pity-party.  It was mild as I really didn't have any concrete goals to miss but I was still disappointed about the lack of pictures.
I'm not sure if it was the lack of picture taking opportunities or my frame of mind that resulted in no pictures.  What I find intersting often changes with my mood. I'm going to do this again sometime soon and this time I will plan my route better.  Maybe next time I will have something to show for the hours driven and gasoline burned.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Crunch

I went on a bike ride this morning.  The wind was a little more cooperative and, since it was a north wind, I headed north-west on the Big Papio trail.  It was nice to be on a different trail.  I usually head south on the Keystone trail because of the wind direction.  This trail, after passing through a park with soccer fields, baseball diamonds, Frisbee golf disc pole holes, and, something I haven't seen before, a soap box derby track, goes through a rather industrial area of Omaha.  I did about 10 miles and would have done more but the trail was closed where it went under 84th street due to road construction.  

One thing I passed along the way was a lot full of smashed up cars.  This one caught my eye:


So, what would it take to fold a car in half? I guess the owner of this car may have a good idea. Almost begs for a caption contest doesn't it?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Holes In My Memory

I've been a little forgetful today.  It started with a rather minor oversight.  I was making noodles for my attempt at lasagna tonight.  My plan was to mix all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour.  I for the whole wheat flour completely.  Not a major thing but irritating.

Next it was my afternoon bike ride.  It was a short bike ride.  Just under seven miles.  I forgot how wind can turn a bike ride into a life threatening ordeal.  Winds were around 15 mph gusting into the 20s and I cursed myself as I struggled in second gear against the chilly wind.


When I managed to get back home, I saw that I'd forgotten to close the garage door.  Fortunately everything was in it's place.

Tonight as I was sticking my lasagna in the oven,  I realized I'd forgotten the mozzarella cheese.  I managed to fix it somewhat but this was the first time I missed something from a recipe.  The lasagna turned out okay and I really shouldn't complain.  I thought it was a little bland but the Wife said it was delicious.  Next time I'll have to experiment and spice it up a little bit.

All these incidents are relatively minor and no damage was done but I always worry about forgetfulness.  Every now and then I completely blow off things.  The worse was completely forgetting that I'd gone to a James Taylor concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl.  I have ZERO recollection of that event.  Did I have a good time?  DId it suck?  I have no idea.

Makes me wonder what else I've lost.  

Monday, November 17, 2008

What Is It #2?

OK boys and girls, time, once again, for a pop quiz.  We have a tree in our backyard that has some type of fruit/nut on it.  The tree drops its leaves but most of the fruit is still hanging.  The fruit is an orangish-brown, a little over an inch in diameter, and is hard.  Here is a picture of the fruit:


So, what kind of tree is it?  If you know what it is, please let me know in the comments.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Jell-O Experiments


On Saturday, with the Mother-In-Law watching and using her ingredients, I made orange Jell-O with mandarin oranges.  As you can see in this picture, unlike my other attempts, the oranges floated.

I think I've solved the riddle.  I always use sugar-free Jell-O.  The Mother-In-Law brought sugared Jell-O.  This will be confirmed when the  Mother-In-Law tries it with sugar-free Jell-O.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Saturday Activities And Coffee Maker Trevails

Saturday is turning out to be a quiet day here in Homer's. The father in-law is watching football (Notre Dame, naturally) with the Wife. The Mother-In-Law is playing Freecell on a hand held game we gave her for Christmas a while ago.  I went down in the basement to read a little.   Homer joined me as he usually does.

I started the day with a trip to Wal-Mart to replace the carafe of our coffee maker.  The Wife and I don't drink coffee but we got one as a wedding gift and it has been used to make coffee for guests over the years.  The carafe cracked - probably a result of the move.  A bought a replacement ($10.57)  and ... it didn't fit.  With a sigh and a "take two" I went back to the store to return the carafe and redo my search.

I was lucky as there wasn't any line at the customer service desk and I got my refund after a 30 second wait.  I went back to the coffee maker area - bigger and better laid out than all the other small appliances in the store - testament to the popularity of coffee - and realized they didn't have any carafes that fit our eleven year old machine.  Sometime during the last ten years they changed the capacities of the carafe from 10 cups to 12 cups and they didn't tell me. I looked at the machines and realized that the machines only cost a few bucks more than the carafe alone. I picked out the cheapest one ($9.60).

So that's the exciting day I'm having so far. Tonight, after a great home cooked meal, we see the Niece dance.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Visitors Coming

The parents-in-law are visiting this weekend.  They're coming out to see the Wife's niece, who is attending a local college, in a play/dance thing.  This will be their first visit to our new digs.  As a result this morning, I've been a whirlwind of cleaning fury.
The Mother-in-law has told the Wife that we will be doing some Jell-O experimentation while she's here.  As you may remember, when I make Jell-O with mandarin oranges, the oranges sink instead of float.  If her oranges float, I don't know what I'll do.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I've Got That Ringing Feeling

I have a ringing in my left ear.  I've had it since March.  It's high pitched and wavers a little bit.  It's not that loud and is easily ignored but it never goes away.  It doesn't get stronger either.  It just rings.
I went to an ear specialist yesterday.  He did what ear specialists do: he looked in my ears (they look healthy) and did the ol' press the button when you hear the beep test (My hearing is normal though I have some high frequency hearing loss in my left ear).  Then they did a test I'd never heard of before.  The sat me in a comfy easy chair, plugged some ear phones in my ear and attached an electrode to my forehead.  They darkened the room, asked me to relax, and then blasted load buzzing clicks in my ears.  This tests the circuitry between my ear and my brain.  Apparently some ear ringing can be caused by a tumor on this connection.  There was no evidence of a tumor.
The doctor looked at the results, looked at me, then told me to get used to it.  Apparently everyone has background noise in their auditory system.  It's called Tinnitus.  I happen to have a lower sound-to-noise ratio.  Since everything looked okay, there was not much I could do about it except turn the TV or radio up to drown it out.  Poop.
The doctor did say that stress can sometimes cause or exacerbate tinnitus.  All the stress we had earlier this year, with the Wife's medical issue, the passing of the Wife's Aunt, the selling of the house, and the moving to a new state, probably has contributed to the ringing.  The stock market and the economic news hasn't helped much either.
I'd take up meditation if this ringing in my ear wasn't so distracting.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chef Homér-Dog

One of my goals that I'd set for myself before we moved back was to learn how to cook.  As with many of the goals I had, getting myself started has been more difficult than I anticipated.  
I've really never had formal cooking training.  Growing up I really didn't pay attention or participate in making dinner.  In college I lived in the dorm and ate in the cafeteria.  When I was single my cooking consisted  in burgers, Mac & Cheese, and stuff that came in cans or boxes.  In other words, very limited bachelor cooking.  I think my main problem was I had little confidence in my cooking skills.
Since I got married I've been exposed more and more to cooking.  The main culprit here was the Food Network.  The more I watched, the more interested I was but the confidence still wasn't there.  Then, a month ago, the great motivator of my life, the Wife, suggested that I help her out by making one meal a week.  It was the push I needed.
I started out with a suggestion from the Wife: Pizza.  Homemade dough made in our bread maker, pepperoni, cheese, and Newman's Own Sockerooni sauce.  I didn't really make it but I did help the Wife so that I could learn.  It came out pretty good and I know how to do it now.
The second meal was one I'd made on occasion when I was single: chicken, rice, and peas. A simple meal.  It wasn't anything fancy but it was good and I did it by myself.
At this point my tiny repertoire of meals ran out.  I decided to try something I liked but didn't have very often: Scalloped Potatoes.  I'd only had them once since I got married and that was at a restaurant.  Thanks to the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook they turned out very good.  They went well with the chicken and whole green beans I served them with.
Last night I went for broke and made Beef Stroganoff over homemade noodles.  I used the Wife's new pasta machine that I got her for her birthday.  The noodles turned out great and the Beef Stroganoff was down right yummy.  I just finished the leftovers and, like most prepared foods, tasted even better reheated.
For next week the Wife has requested Lasagna.  Sounds like a challenge and more time on the pasta machine.
Now that my confidence is building, it's time to look for inspiration.  Top Chef Season 5 starts tonight and the Wife and I will be watching.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day Thanks

On this day, the 90th anniversary of the armistice ending the War to End All Wars, I would like to offer my thanks to all who risked or gave their lives in that and all the wars that have been waged since.  While the morality of some of the wars fought in our names have been questionable, the soldiers, whose loyalty to their families, communities, and government is unwavering, will always be known as brave and honorable and we will always be in their debt.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Too Late, Too Early, Good Food

On Sunday the Wife and I went out to do some Leaf Peeping, Hawk Watching, Goose Gazing, and museum perusing.  It didn't quite turn out as I expected.
We drove to nearby Hitchcock Nature Center where I'd hiked earlier this year.  The center has a tower that I thought would give us a great view of the fall colors.  I looked over the forest and saw:


The windy weather we've had lately had laid bare all the trees - not a pretty leaf in sight.  You could tell that if the trees were leafed out it would have been spectacular.  Instead, we got bleak.  I'd been looking forward to seeing the fall colors ever since we moved and I missed them (well, most of them).  I guess there is always next year.
Having missed the leaves, I shifted my sights toward birds of prey.  The center holds a Hawk Watch this time of year and is located on the fifth largest hawk and eagle migration route in the world.  When we arrived at the top of the tower we were greeted by a couple and their dog doing a bird census.  A red-tailed hawk flew overhead soon after we arrived but it was flying high and looked like a tiny red dot.  I'm not sure what I expected but I was hoping for more than a little red dot.  We decided that bird watching is a hobby that takes time, patience, and persistence, qualities that we really didn't have in abundance on that cold morning.

We climbed down the tower and walked along the trail a ways looking for acorns for the Wife's Acorn Award.  All we found were small acorns that were of no use to her.  We went back to the car and headed for our next destination.
We made our way to Logan, Iowa, home of the Museum of Religious Arts.  It opened at noon and we were a little early so we looked for a place to eat in town.  Logan is a nice little town (population 1,500+) with a nice courthouse, a couple of bars, several shops (closed on Sunday), and a nice restaurant - The Bunk House Cafe.  The Bunk House was a tiny place.  It would be hard to get a couple dozen people in there at the same time.  The place has a horse-centric western theme.  We both ordered breakfast (all they served on Sunday) that was delicious.  We finished it off with a hot steaming cinnamon roll for the Wife and a hot steaming chocolate muffin for me.  This place was the one bright spot of the day.

The Museum of Religious Arts was a lot bigger than we expected.  Since Logan is kind of out in the middle of nowhere, we expected to find a small room in some old farm house.  What we found was a large modern building with a well laid out collection of donated religious art and items.  The place was set up for Christmas and the main displays were of nativity scenes (hundreds of them) and dozens of Christmas Trees, all decorated differently.  There was a decorating contest underway and all the trees were impressive.
Along with these seasonal displays, there was a chapel modeled after the spanish style that reminded me of the missions we visited in California.  The main attraction was a wax exhibit called the King of Kings depicting, with life-size figures, the life of Jesus from birth to ascending.  As we exited this exhibit the Wife looked at me and said it was kind of weird.  I agreed completely.  The statues just looked too freaky and I didn't realize that Mary was a blond.
This museum would have been better if it had been smaller and less professionally done.  The Wife and I like odd places and this was ore ordinary than we liked.  I was irritated that only judeo-christian art was displayed.  I was hoping for a more worldly display.

After a visit to the gift shop we headed west to DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge.  The refuge is known for it's migrating geese and eagles.  We stopped at the visitor's center and bought a magnet.  We asked the ranger if there were a lot of geese.  She told us that we were a few weeks early and that the geese population in the park had been declining over the last five years.  In the past over a half million geese would be on the lake and chutes at any one time during migration season.  This is what we saw:


Not very impressive.  These are Canadian Geese.  We saw several wild turkeys and smaller water birds but not in the numbers I'd hoped for.

We had a backup plan.  DeSoto is known for the excavation of the Steamboat Bertrand.  We drove over to the excavation site, parked the car and walked a short trail to a sign describing the excavation - i.e. a large pond.  Yep, that was it, a large pond.  I was underwhelmed.  I was hoping to see something sticking out of the water or something.  There are exhibits at the visitors center of articles removed from the Bertrand but we decided to save it for later when we come back to see more geese.

Now, I was a little disappointed since we didn't get to see much of what we wanted but we still had a good day.  We got out of the house and we did find a nice place to eat.  That makes it a success in my book.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Food: Dixie Quicks Magnolia Room

Back in California we usually had a favorite breakfast place. First it was Uncle Herbs. When that closed we switched to Mrs. Olsen's Coffee Hut. Since we tended to be very loyal we almost always only had one favorite at a time. Now that we've moved to Omaha, we've found three favorites. I've written about the first, Lisa's Radial Cafe . The second is the 11-Worth Cafe (I'll write about it someday). The third, which we tried Saturday, was Dixie Quicks Magnolia Room (DQMR).

DQMR has been open some sixteen years but the building it's in appears to be much older. When we first drove by we almost missed it and when we saw it, we thought it was closed. A second pass proved it was open so we parked our car and briefly braved the blustery cold day before entering a unique dining place.

The decor is cool eclectic. At first I thought I'd gone in the wrong door as I was staring into the kitchen. Along the wall to the right was a baby crib with a hand scrawled sign over it saying "Don't Touch The Baby."  The walls are decorated with black and white photos, dia de los muertos flags, and political stickers (Democrat mostly).

We were greeted at the door and asked if we had a reservation. This was the first we'd heard that reservations were needed - a lack of research on our part. Reservations are recommended as the place is pretty small and tables are limited. We were lucky as there was a free table right under the menu and we got in after a very short wait. By "right under the menu" I mean right under the large chalk board that serves as the places sole menu - there are no printed menus.

The cuisine is southern, southwest, and creole. The menu is varied with lots of interesting choices. The Wife ordered a Red Beans and Rice Omelet and I ordered the Dixie Scramble. My dixie scramble was a biscuit with a layer of meat (I chose ham. They also have bacon, sausage, and, for the vegetarians, tomato) topped off with scrambled eggs smothered in hollandaise sauce. It was very good. I washed it down with some fresh squeezed, pulp heavy orange juice. The Wife's omelet set her mouth on fire in a good way. She said it was hot but not too bad. She enjoyed it a lot.

As we were eating, a family sat down next to us. The mother and daughter ordered the french toast smothered in "Sexy chocolate." When it arrived I couldn't help staring at it. The french toast were sliced french baguette stack over six inches tall. The toast was liberally cover in sliced banana, walnuts, and drizzled in chocolate. It was served with a caramel syrup. The mother described it as breakfast and dessert at the same time.

I really liked the food. The atmosphere of the place was interesting. The service, talkative with a sense of humor and very attentive to our needs. I see more visits in the future.

Highly recommended but don't forget the reservation.

Dixie Quicks Magnolia Room
 
1915 Leavenworth St, Omaha, Nebraska

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Book: Iain M. Banks' "Consider Phlebas"


When it comes to fiction, I prefer trilogies and series. Multiple book arcs allow for more detailed character development and more intricate plots. Because of this, I chose a series for my next read.

Iain M. Banks' "Consider Phlebas" is the first book of the Culture Series. Unlike other series that I've gotten into, each of the eight books stands on it's own - the common thread being the Culture, a post-singularity civilization. This book follows Bora Horza Gobuchul, a member of the Changer species, allied with the Idirans in a war against the Culture. The Changers are what I would call limited shapeshifters. They can change their appearance to look like other humanoids but it takes time (days) to change and can only change so much. Horza uses his ability to infiltrate the Culture.

The book starts when one of the Culture's sentient Artificial Intelligences (a Mind) is stranded on a planet deep within the war zone. Horza is sent to retrieve the Mind for the Idirans. The book then becomes a rather convoluted path through side story lines and seemingly unrelated detours filled with Culture agents and totally unrelated but interesting characters that eventually returns Horza to his main mission.

I liked this book ... sorta. The book is long - 496 pages long - and a lot of the story, while interesting, felt unrelated, gratuitously tacked on, and sometimes distracting. The book felt like a quest-type fantasy book where the intrepid hero picks up his rag-tag team of misfits to rescue the princess except that the purpose that usually guides the quest was not very coherent in Banks' book. The ending is abrupt and a little jarring.

It took a while for me to realize that the main character isn't Horza but is the Culture. This shifted how I appraised the story. The Culture, the grouping of machines and humanoids, is the real main character and the twists and turns of the book are ways to introduce the reader to the it. Once I got past that, I found the book entertaining and worth reading. The 20 page appendices explaining the Culture-Idiran war, it's history, and how it ends was brief but interesting as well summing up where the characters and events fit in the grand history of the Culture. My one complaint would be a slight lack of depth. There is so much crammed into this book that almost everything is glossed over a little too much.

Other of the Culture books have received better reviews than this one and I expect to read some more of this potentially fascinating series in the near future.

P.S.: A little pet peeve of mine. The name of the author is bigger than the title of the book on the front cover. I have always considered this a little egotistical. It's like the author saying: "You should read this book not because it's a good read but because it's written by me." Of course it may not be the author's choice. It may be a publisher thing. It still irritates me though.

Friday, November 07, 2008

One Last Political Pondering

I never intended Homer's Travels to be a political blog but, having nothing else to post and despite the fact that this post doesn't make me feel very good, I  will exit the political realm with one last thing to ponder.

Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, convicted felon, appears to be winning his close reelection bid.  If he is declared winner, it is very likely that the Senate will expel him because of his felony convictions.  In the event that a senator cannot serve out their complete term, it is up to the governor to appoint a replacement.
So, what are the odds that Govenor Sarah Palin, former republican vice-presidential candidate (and alleged geography wiz),  would appoint herself to the United States Senate?  The idea makes me shudder.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Competition For The Election

There was competition for the election Tuesday.  They harvested the cornfield behind our house that night and it was hard to decide what to watch.  We were both excited about the harvest but I think the Wife was a little more excited than me.

The election, being a little more important and a lot more historical, won out in the end.

P.S. Now that they've harvested, I saw a couple deer running across the field between tree lines.  Mom said she's seen deer and wild turkeys.  Cool

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Right Decision ... At Last

Finally, the country has made the right decision, chosing the educated leader instead of a drinking partner.  I have renewed hope.

I spent a lot of yesterday staring at the television switching from one news channel to another. I watched until I felt like my head was going to explode. After lunch I had to take a break from all the talking heads, predictions, and electoral vote scenarios so I went for a bike ride.

The ride was a short one. There was a 10 mph wind from the south with gusts in the 20 to 25 mph range. On my way south I was stuck in second or third gear as I struggled against the wind. At the 3.5 mile point I'd had enough and turned around. I always find it amazing that when you ride into the wind, it feels like a hurricane, but when you ride with the wind, it's like there's no wind at all - not even the noise of moving air. My return trip was in seventh gear.

There's a metaphor in there somewhere. The last eight years have been into the wind. Hopefully the election of Sen. Obama will be our turn around point. If he runs the country like he ran his campaign, we will have an efficient, effective, hopeful, and succesful four years with the wind at our backs.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Get Out ...

I hope everyone who hasn't already voted gets out and votes today.  The Wife and I will be glued to the TV tonight watching the results.  We are such news junkies.
Some early results.  From Dixville Notch, NH: McCain 6, Obama 15.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Falls A Poppin' In Our Front Yard

We have a small oak tree in our front yard.  It is a nice little tree that supplies acorns to the Wife to use as awards for her class ("the Acorn award").  Sometime this weekend it went from deep green to golden without anyone noticing.  It probably happened in that extra hour we got Sunday morning.


We're planning to do some leaf peeping, hawk spotting, and goose gazing this weekend. Hopefully photos will follow.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Spring Back ... Fall Forward ... That's Not Right


I hope you all remembered to change your clocks today.  I always have to think, is it fall back or fall forward.  They both make sense in my head. 

I'm not sure I like daylight savings time.  I've really been enjoying watching the sun rise over our backyard corn field and now, with the time shift, I'll miss it.  I know, I know, I could get up early to see the sunrise but that's not the point.

This post's picture is one I took a week or so back and it's a great example of what I'll miss until the sunrise shifts earlier.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Music: Steve Miller Band At The Omaha Civic Arena


It was bound to happen eventually.  After six great to awesome concerts over the last 13 months (Go-Gos, Rilo KileyEaglesB-52s, Foxboro Hot Tubs, and Joan Osborne), the Steve Miller Band (SMB) was mediocre.


The thing with live music is, it rarely sounds like the album.  This is often a good thing since why would you pay good money just to hear the album.  During live performances, the musicians tend to embellish their music either by extending or adding guitar/drum riffs, changing the vocals (changing pitch or key of the music), or both.  Done in the right way, the performance will be unique and better than the recorded version.  SMB did both and were not quite successful.
SMB's performance was divided into three sets.  The first set were lesser known SMB hits including "Swingtown", "Serenade", and "Dance, Dance, Dance".  I started to worry.  I knew the lyrics for these songs and Steve Miller was singing them at a different tempo than I remembered.  He was good but it felt off for me.  The performance was guitar heavy and vocally weak.

The second set were new Rhythm and Blues songs.  The vocals were sung predominately by the newest member of SMB, Sonny Charles.  These new songs, being recorded for a forthcoming new album, are heavy in the guitar and are very bluesy.  This style is taking SMB in a whole new direction.  In my opinion, they do not sound like Steve Miller Band.  The songs were good but you could see that the crowd didn't appreciate the new music.  After standing for the entirety of the first set, most of the audience had sat down mid-way through the second set.

The third set, which included the long encore, were the songs everyone had come to hear: "Fly Like An Eagle", "Rock'N Me", "Jet Airliner", and "Take The Money And Run".  Once again, the audience stood up.  Once again they embellished the songs extending out the guitar riffs.  The Wife thought they rushed through these songs and I have to agree.  The songs were sung too fast.  I guess they're just tired of playing these oldies after over 30 years of doing so and rushed through them.  This is too bad as it took away from our enjoyment.
Since it was Halloween, there were people in costume in the audience.  There was a small costume contest before the music started.  It came down to Jesus vs. Sgt Sexy.  Omaha, being a God fearing place, picked Jesus as the winner.  Some of my favorites was the guy, painted green, dressed as a teenage mutant ninja turtle, the polar bear, Dorothy and the cowardly lion, Elvis, and Sonny and Cher.

Speaking of Halloween, I doubt this was the best day for a concert.  Only half of the arena was being used and that half was not full.  I imagine that a lot of people were going to parties or escorting their little ghouls and goblins around the block.  It must be really disappointing for the performers to see the small audience.

So, to sum it up, a mediocre concert that entertained but did not meet expectations.  Steve Miller Band gets a B- for good songs but mediocre performance and a second set that felt out of place.