Homer's Travels: February 2009

Friday, February 27, 2009

Spring Break With Family And Friends

The Wife is ecstatic that spring break is finally here.  We will celebrate her week of freedom with family.  The Best Man and Matron of Honor are visiting this weekend.  TE and JA will be joining us Saturday night for a good steak dinner at a restaurant we've been thinking about trying - Piccolo Petes.

Later on in the week we will be visiting the Loon Whisperer family to see their new digs.

I foresee good times ahead.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Photograph: Empty Cribs

I received an email from the GodSon yesterday.  He said he was entering a photo contest and he want opinions on which of his photos he should submit.  After giving my opinion, I decided to steal his idea and submitted a photo of my own.

The contest is monthly and each month has a theme.  This month's theme is Black and White.  Here is my entry:

"Empty Cribs"
by Bruce H.
P.S. I think the GodSon's submission is better than mine.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Book: Bill Bryson's "The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir"

I've read two Bill Bryson books before this one: "A Short History of Nearly Everything" and "A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail".  Both left me disappointed.  Both had their good points but failed to deliver in the end.  I was most disappointed with "A Walk in the Woods" - it had so much promise.  Against my better judgment I decided to give Bryson one more chance.  His last chance was "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir".  

Wow, what a difference.  I loved this book.  This is a little odd.  The Wife, who read it before me, didn't like it as much as I did.  She, on the other hand, enjoyed "A Walk in the Woods" a lot better that I did.  Thinking about this and listening to the Wife's opinion, I've decided that you have to have been, at some time of your life, a little boy to enjoy this memoir.

The book is chock full of little boy stories.  Actually it's one 267 page long little boy story and, being a former little boy myself, I found a lot to appreciate.  As I read the book, my mind constantly wandered back to my early childhood, the better parts of that childhood to boot, leaving me with a fond, nostalgic feeling.  It made me want to go back.  It made me enjoy the book.

I can't say where this connection came from.  Bryson grew up in the small city of Des Moines, IA and I grew up in a small town in Missouri and later in Guatemala City.  He grew up in the 50s and 60s.  I grew up in the 60s and 70s.  Despite these differences and the lack of common experiences, there was an underlying connection that I can only attribute to the little boy-ness of it all.

I highly recommend this book ... to all the former little boys out there. 

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Our First Roller Derby

Last night we went to Skate Daze to watch our first Roller Derby Match (not sure what a race is called - race? match?).  We frankly didn't know what to expect and I think we were pleasantly surprised.  The match was between the Omaha Rollergirls (O.R.G.) and the North Star Supernovas from Minnesota.

The Wife and I found it easier to follow than we expected.  I was expecting to be totally lost but I think I caught on pretty quickly.  I'm not sure what I liked most, the derby action or the names of the skaters.  Olive U. Dye - Scarlet O'Scara - Fun!  The only disappointment - no fights.  Come on!  We wanted some blood!

The Omaha Roller Girls (in red and black) were trounced by the North Stars (in green and black).  I can't remember the score but it was something like 100+ to 60+.  

I took over 90 pictures but very few came out - Too dark and too fast.  I got a lot of great pictures of blur but that was about it.

I scored a cool O.R.G. t-shirt for my collection.

Going into this I fully expected that the Wife would recognize one of her students, something that seems to happen often.  I was close.  Turns out one of the North Star Supernovas is a friend  of the GodSon and Altar Boy.  The Wife had met her before when she was something like 14 years old. 

We wouldn't have known this at the time but I posted a Facebook status update saying we were going to the roller derby which apparently initiated a flurry of phone calls in the Minneapolis-St Paul metro area.  Next thing you know the Matron of Honor is calling us to tell us that a friend was on the North Star Team.  Turns out that Stalker Channing, (#V) was an alternate and didn't take the rink but we did manage to say our hellos after the match.  Actually, she saw us as we approached and asked "Are you [the GodSon's] cousins?"  The miracle of Facebook.

I foresee more derby in the future for us.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Photograph: Sunrise 2009-02-20

I've been a little lacking in the posting department lately so I think I'll start posting pictures.

"Sunrise 2009-02-20"
by Bruce H.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Oscar's Shorts

Every year I watch the Oscars and every year I hear the nominees for best short film (animated and live action ).  As I've watched this, I always wondered where you had to go to see these short films.  This year I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Ruth Sokolof theater was showing compilations of all the Oscar nominated short films.

Each compilation was between 95 and 100 minutes long.  The longest short (... heh ...) was thirty minutes long with the average one being around thirteen minutes long.  The animated shorts were generally funny though a couple were of the serious, but preachy, subject of environmentalism (one actually had the main character hug a tree - not very subtle).  I liked "This Way Up", a British short about two undertakers attempting to get to a cemetery.  The Wife liked a Russian short name "Lavatory-Lovestory" which was pretty good.

The live action shorts were often more serious with subjects like mistakes made, racism, and antisemitism though some were humorous.  I liked "New Boy", an Irish film about a student's first day at school.  The Wife like this one as well as one called "The Pig".  The Pig was interesting but I didn't like it as much.

In general, I have to say that I was a little unsure about the shorts.  I was the one whose suggested to the Wife that we go see them but I had my doubts.  I've never been fond of short story anthologies (print short stories).  Either the stories don't make sense or they end right when they are getting interesting.  I speculated to myself that television has shortened my attention span so much that these visual shorts would work for me but that was not true.  Visual shorts are as unsatisfying to me as print short stories.  I enjoyed the shorts and I don't regret going but I was left a little wanting.

One last thing about our trip to the theater.  After buying our tickets we went up to the snack counter and bought our movie treats.  Upon seeing my bottle of Root Beer and Box of Dots, the Wife commented that my selection sounded like that of a 5 year old little boy.  I looked at her Bag of Pop Corn and Diet Coke and said "at least my selection doesn't look like the selection of a generic white woman."  We all got a chuckle out of that.  My selection was a 5 year old little boy's and I'm proud of it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Snowy Thirteenth

Friday the thirteenth wasn't so bad.  We got about six to seven inches of snow - it was lovely.  This prompted the Wife's school to close down early (other schools canceled the entire day but not the Wife's - noooo - dorks).  The Wife got home at noon.  I ended up shoveling the driveway twice.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Driving, Walking, And Biking Before The Snow Arrives

I had a good day today.  The weather was wonderful so I did a short walk around downtown Council Bluffs (1.42 miles - it's a small downtown), I visited the Lewis And Clark Monument (There are some trails in the area that I will have to check out later in the spring), and, since there was very little wind today,  I went on a  bike ride (21.09 mile - my personal best distance so far).  I'm glad I got it all in as tomorrow the weather is not so good.  4" to 6" of snow is in the forecast.  I guess that's what I get when I complain about the warm and dry weather.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Book: Chris Moriarty's "Spin State"

My first book of 2009 was Chris Moriarty's "Spin State".  This is an interesting book involving interesting science that doesn't quite make it as a good book.

The novel starts out in the right direction.  We follow the main character, Major Catherine Li, a UN Peacekeeper sent to investigate the accidental death of a renown quantum scientist.

The science involved is plausible and is backed up with an extensive seven page bibliography.  Quantum entanglement, teleportation, Bose-Einstein condensates, artificial intelligence, virtual worlds, brain enhancing technologies, post-human genetic engineering - it's all there in a well balanced and almost believable way.  I say almost because all the tech talk can be a little overwhelming at times.

The book trips up about a third the way through when the story telling slows to a crawl.  At 597 pages, it was to long.  You probably could have removed 200 pages without loosing too much of the story.  Unfortunately the last 200 pages are rather predictable.  The result is a book with a promising start that gets bogged down and disappoints.

I'm not sure I can recommend it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Food: Louie M's Burger Lust (Preface)

The wife and I are accumulating a nice collection of breakfast joints.  We have Lisa's Radial Cafe, Dixie Quick's Magnolia Room, the 11-Worth Cafe, and the Bunkhouse Cafe in Logan, IA.  We now have a fifth.

I saw Louie M's Burger Lust last week when I was walking the city.  We went back on Sunday to check out the place.  The cafe is located on Vinton Street.  If you're not familiar with the area, you'll probably be in for a surprise.  This section of Vinton St, between 15th and 19th streets, looks like someone picked up a small town main street and plopped it down in south Omaha.  I really liked the look of this street.

I have yet to find a bad review for this cafe.  Our review is that it's awesome.  The Wife had a Crab Omelet that she loved and I had a very good Chicken Fired Steak and Eggs.   The ambiance was down home comfort.  The waitresses call you honey and dear.  Perfect.  I expect many more visits in the future.

Now, to be honest, we only had breakfast and did not have a burger at the Burger Lust.  That's why this post is just the preface. We will have to return sometime (hopefully soon) to check out their famous burgers and I will finish the review.

The only complaint I've seen about this place is it's hard to get there when it's open.  I think this is because people are trying to eat supper and the cafe is only open from 6:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

Good food, good ambiance, good service, in an interesting neighborhood.  Highly recommended ... so far.

Louie M's Burger Lust

1718 Vinton St, Omaha, Nebraska

Monday, February 09, 2009


It's the 9th of February in Omaha, Nebraska.  39 Days before the official start of Spring.  The middle of Winter.  Why then is there absolutely no snow on the ground?  And to top it off, it's raining.  Not sleet.  Not freezing rain.  The wet, non-freezing, mud making type of rain ... in February.  The average temp in February here is 26°F.  We had two days last week with high in the 60s.  Today it's in the 40s.  

What the F....

UPDATE: The high today was 60°F and the 30 MPH wind blew everything dry. Crazy. Crazy I tells ya.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Music Seeping Into My Brain

It's been over a month since I used my Christmas money to buy new music.  I think it's about time to share my purchases and perceptions.
  1. Jason Mraz - We Sing, We Dance. We Steal Things  : I like his stuff.  The music is upbeat and easy to listen to.  I want "Lucky " to be our life's theme song, the Wife and I.  Then again, it already is 
  3. Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue  :  Sounds like Jenny Lewis which means it's great with a dash of quirky.
  5. She & Him - Volume One  : I think my music tastes are shifting towards the more upbeat.  She & Him is upbeat and fun.  It took a couple listenings but it has moved up the list.
  7. The Watson Twins - Fire Songs  : A mellow, country sound with great harmonies.
  9. School Of Seven Bells - Alpinisms  : I first heard them on a Morning Becomes Eclectic podcast.  I really liked them.  They had an interesting sound.  The album is pretty good.
  11. Kevin Rudolf - In The City  : Rudolf's style reminds me of the music I listened to in college when my taste were less quiet, calm, and upbeat.  This album has three or four really good songs that hook into you.  The rest is okay.  If it had more good tracks It would have been higher on the list.
  13. Santogold - Santogold  : This was the one selection I made based on reviews and best of 2008 lists.  The first time I listened to it I didn't like it ... at all.  The second time felt completely different.  It's not bad and there's some good tracks in there.  Strange how our perceptions can change so radically with time and situation.
  15. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes  : Recommend by the Godson and several best of 2008 lists.  It's OK.  Not sure I like it.  Not sure that I dislike it either.  It's a little too mellow.  It may take a few more listenings before it soaks in.
There you have it.  I can't say I like everything I bought but I do like most of it.  This year all the music was an MP3 download - no CDs.  I finally reached the 21st century.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Face{book} The Facts

I opened a Facebook account yesterday.  I was prompted to do this when the Matron Of Honor asked the Wife to join and the "J" invited us both to join.  I wasn't sure about joining at first.  I didn't really see the need for it.  I'm thinking about deactivating the account.

I signed up and added a few friends so I could see what it was all about.  I'm fairly late in joining this social networking site.  I'm usually an early adopter.  Facebook provides a quick way to give your status to all your friends.  You type in what you are doing or thinking and it appears on your 'wall' which you can share with anyone you want.  When something is posted to your wall, you receive an e-mail.  I suppose it's a quick way to pass the word but, frankly, my life isn't that interesting and I'm not that important.

Facebook reminds me of cell phones.  The Wife and I have a cell phone we share.  It's for emergencies only. It's pay as you go.  It's rarely turned on.  I don't know the number.  If you need to get a hold of me, you'll have to wait for me to get home or to check my e-mail.

I have the same feelings about Twitter by the way.

Do you really need to know everything I'm doing?  Do I need to know everything you are doing?  For me, I don't think so.  When something important or interesting happens, I have e-mail and Homer's Travels to get the word out.  For others who, unlike me, have a social life, it might be useful ... I guess.

So, why is it that I feel guilty that I want to deactivate my Facebook account?  The Godson, upon accepting my friend invitation, welcomed me to "the biggest time suck ever invented."  I agree so why am I so reluctant to quit?  The Wife, who is quite adamant about not opening her own account, nailed it when she said it was like you know there's this party going on, all your friends and family are there, and you don't want to go.  You feel like you may be missing out on something.

Am I?  Really?

Monday, February 02, 2009

Blooming Old Lady

The Mom-in-Law gave us a Christmas cactus last month.  The cactus is a cutting from one owned by the Wife's great-grandmother.  We suspect the original plant is close to 100 years old.  This particular clipping is 10 years old.  Since clippings are essentially a clone of the original plant, you could say that our cactus is almost 100 years old as well.  

It started to bloom this weekend and is full of buds.  According to the Mom-in-Law this is the first time in its 10 year sub-life that it has ever bloomed.  It must be happy.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Save The Words

One of my jobs as husband to an English teacher is to point out interesting English/language/literature web stuff.  My latest discovery is a site called Save The Words.

The sites an attempt to save words that, due to lack of use, are in danger from being dropped from the dictionary.  You adopt a word and use it as often as possible to increase it's usage statistics.  The interface is interesting looking a a lot like a postered wall but the sound can become annoying.

Since most of you who read Homer's Travels are interested in the written word, maybe we can keep some words alive.