Homer's Travels: December 2015

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Homer's Travels Look Back At 2015

Like 2014, 2015 was a fuzzy year. Neither here nor there. It was divided into two parts: one full of vim and vigor and the other full of sloth, laziness, and escapism.

The first half of the year was mostly dedicated to training for RAGBRAI.  I rode my bike, first in the basement, then on the trails around Omaha.  I was biking at least three times a week if weather and my bike would allow it.  Shortly after RAGBRAI I did my Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) camping trip.

The second half of the year, after RMNP, consisted of me running away from the world.  I fully immersed myself in a social based Star Trek game.  I played hours and hours each day.  Any exercising I'd been doing in preparation for RAGBRAI and RMNP ceased.  I drastically reduced my monitoring of Facebook and Twitter.  I only marginally followed the news.  I withdrew from the world around me.  I both enjoyed the game and worried about my own behavior.  There is a lot more to say about this but I will save it for another post.

Let's look back at 2015, shall we:
Last year I said I had a good feeling about 2015 and I think I was half right. Our New England trip, RAGBRAI, and my RMNP camping trip were wonderful (almost said tremendous ... Too much Trump).  The second half, like the second half of 2014 were lacking somewhat.

There are some good things coming in the new year.  Scuba certification lessons, a trip to Cuba, a trip to the Galapagos Islands, an Amazon cruise, Easter Island, and Rio.  In between I will have to really get serious about planning my Appalachian Trail hike.

Here's to a Happy and Prosperous New Year for all.
May all your dreams come true in 2016.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Book: M. R. Carey's "The Girl With All The Gifts"

My last book of the year, book twenty-five (just shy of my goal of twenty-six). was M.R. Carey's "The Girl With All the Gifts".  This book is another post-apocalyptic story with some interesting and original ideas.

The story is set in England twenty year after the breakdown of civilization.  The breakdown was caused by a mutant strain of a fungus that usually attacks ants.   Ophiocordyceps is a real fungus and what it does is fascinating.  I won't go into it here but I would strongly recommend you follow the link.

The book follows a group of survivors struggling to get to a safe place.  One of the party is an infected girl (the infected are known as hungries)..  Throughout the book the attitude of healthy survivors toward the hungry changes from antagonism to trust and eventually hope.

Parts of the book, especially near the end, are both heartwarming and heart breaking.  I really enjoyed this book.

I gave the book four stars on Goodreads.  It was close to a five I think but post-apocalyptic stories have been a little over done.  Nevertheless the originality of the premise and the ending made it worth the read.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Book: Daniel H. Wilson's "Robogenesis"

Last year I read "Robopocalypse",the first book of a series (a trilogy I believe).  That book was about a sentient Artificial Intelligence (AI) battling with humanity.  This book, Danial H. Wilson's "Robogenesis", starts with the apparent defeat of the AI.  Apparently, we were wrong.

We discover in this book that there are several sentient AI in the wild and they are competing against each other.  The human characters in the book are the pawns and soldiers for the AIs.

I liked the first book and this one was good as well.  Like the first book, it ended with one AI defeated but with enough loose ends that a third book is a must.

I gave this book four stars on Goodreads.  It was fluff and I wouldn't call it a deep book, but it was entertaining enough and kept my interest throughout the read.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Thank You All

It's the day after Christmas and I have to say I am very happy with what I got for Christmas.  It wasn't a specific gift.  It is the most versatile gift imaginable.  I got a lot of cash.

The parent-in-laws, continuing their tradition, passed out Christmas, Anniversary, and Birthday gifts during our Christmas celebration,  This year it was the day after the Wife's niece's wedding.  This money will pay for nearly all of my Scuba Certification classes that I hope to take early next year.

The Wife reluctantly agreed to give me cash as well.  This money will also be applied towards Scuba Certification as well as buying stuff for my Appalachian Trail hike.  I gave the Wife gift cards to her favorite stores and spa.

Mom came through with some more spending cash as well as the traditional bag of pull-n-peal candy which lasted twenty-four hours.  The two tins of goodies she sent home with us after Christmas Eve dinner are also rapidly shrinking.

All in all I had a very nice Christmas this year.  It was low key but full of people I enjoy being with.  You can't ask for anything more.

Thank you all!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas Everyone!

The Santas in our home.
Wishing everyone a very
Merry Christmas
Feliz Navidad
Feliz Natal
Fröhliche Weihnachten
Joyeux Noël
Vrolijk Kerstfeest
καλά Χριστούγεννα
Nollaig Shona
Buon Natale

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Missing: One Matching Foot

Found this while cleaning the house today:
Lonely Sock.
I think I know who it belongs too but there were seven possible choices so I thought I would put it on the blog just to be sure.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Visiting Superheros, A Joining, And Holiday Get Togethers

This past weekend was a whirlwind of activity from start to finish.  I think it will take me a few days to recover.

It started on Friday when the Wife's family congregated in Omaha in preparation for a family wedding.  Friday night we hosted people who had traveled from out of town a day before the wedding.  This meant that our house was full of the laughter (and roars) of seven children, all under the age of five.   Beside the running around the house, and away from Iago, this also included me, lying on the basement floor, acting like the bad guy, while four girls superheros jumped on me.  It was awesome fun.

Saturday was the wedding.  A lazy morning transitioned into the Wife's Niece's beautiful wedding ceremony.   It went without any apparent flaws and was enjoyed by all.

Congratulations Carissa and Gabe!

After the wedding some congregated again at our place once for snacks and conversation ... and playing ... lots of playing.

Saturday evening was the reception where good food was had, even better cake, and a lot of teary eyed speeches.  People were in good spirits ... and a few were full of good spirits ... and fun was had by all.

Sunday was another late start followed by the Wife's family Christmas.  Gifts were exchanged and and Christmas, Birthday, and Anniversary money was handed out to all.  My share of the generous gift will be used to pay for Scuba certification classes next year.

Thank you to the Mother and Father in Law

Now it's Monday night and I feel a bit crappy - one part exhaustion and three parts cookies, candy, and cake.  It didn't help that I went Christmas shopping this afternoon ... though the Wife makes it easy for me.  It still may take a day or two, including going to see the new Star Wars movie,  to recover fully before we go to my Mom's place on Christmas Eve.  I'm a bit in awe as the Wife has been ten times busier than I have been - I don't know how she does it.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Tale Of The Pale Blue Ball

The Pale Blue Ball.
For several years now, a few weeks before Christmas and a few days after Thanksgiving, several dozen fairly large Christmas ornaments go up in the bare oak tree in the front yard of our house.  Once in the tree most of the balls stay put, swinging in the wind but rarely falling down.  This year it appears to be a bit windier than normal ... or I've been more careless in their hanging.

Every few day I have picked up 2, 3, and even 4, 5, or 6 balls off the yard.  A neighbor even left one at our doorstep.  The ornaments don't go far ... landing a few feet from the bare oak tree.  But on my way to do errands this past Monday, I spotted a pale blue ball at the end of the block, nestled up against a mound of leaves and roadkill piled in the gutter.

It was one of the older of the ornaments.  It's bright pastel blue finish had faded.  The pale blue finish was chipping off in places.  It was a little worse for wear.

I collected the pale blue ball and hung it back in the bare oak tree but the next day, while collected a few more downfallen ornaments, I spotted the pale blue ball hiding in the ornamental grass at the base of the bare oak tree.  It had lost it's hanger so I placed it on the trunk of the car in the garage while I rehung the other ornaments.  While I did, not once but twice I heard the sound of bouncing plastic and, not once but twice, I had to chase after the pale blue ball as it made its way to the neighbor's yard.

I reconnected the hanger to the pale blue ball and, for good measure, added a dollop of glue to secure it in place.  The next day I rehung the pale blue ball ... along with 3 or 4 more balls that had fallen in the night.

The wind died down and I didn't expect to see many ornaments in the yard this morning.  I looked out the window and saw that I was right.  There was only one ... the pale blue ball.  It not only had fallen down but its hanger was broken.

I refashioned a new hanger and I'm waiting for the glue to dry once more.  Tomorrow it will be rehung in the bare oak tree with the other overly large christmas ornaments.

Will it stay put this time spreading Christmas cheer or will it again make a break for it?  We will just have to wait and see.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Book: P.W. Singer's "Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know"

I'm a little behind in my reading and posting about said reading.  I finished my last book, P.W. Singer's "Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know", over two weeks ago and I'm just now getting around to posting about it.  So, here goes.

"Cybersecurity and Cyberwar" provides an interesting overview of the state of computer security and computer threats our world is experiencing today.  It lays everything out in fairly clear language.  It does so in non-hyperbolic language, calling out hysteria and exaggeration, and providing a level headed assessment of the subject.

The first two thirds of the book are interesting.  Sections one and two cover what all the cyber stuff is and why all the cyber stuff matters.  These sections read well and held my interests. The third section, covering what can and is being done about cybersecurity, gets bogged down in acronyms and regulation-speak.  It is an important section that made my eyes glaze over a tiny bit.

The Author is a consultant that works with the American government on Cyber issues.  The most interesting parts are when he gives example of governmental shortcomings when dealing with computer stuff.  One example that stuck with me was a story about a US delegate at negotiations with Chinese officials.  The negotiations were about cybersecurity.  The delegate came up to the author and asked him what an ISP was?  This is truly shocking in my opinion.  The sad thing is that our Representatives and Senators know even less about computers and modern technology.

I heard about this book on Fareed Zakaria's show on CNN.  It was a book recommendation and I have to say that I enjoyed this book.  It made me think a bit ... and worry a bit .... about how prepared we are for cyberwar and cyberterror.  I may have to look at Zakaria's other recommended book choices.  I gave the book four stars on Goodreads.

Note:  For the non-computer savvy, ISP means Internet Service Provider.

Monday, December 07, 2015

The Holiday Season Has Officially Started

First bloom of the 2015 holiday season.
With the blooming of the Christmas cactus the Holiday season has officially begun.  This bloom is from a cutting of the original cactus.  The original is not doing well and looks pretty sad.  She's an old lady so she has the right to look sad I think.  I have planted cutting from the younger cactus in with the original hoping some young blood will revive the ol' lady.  We'll probably know if it has worked next year.  Keeping my fingers Crossed.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Photograph: "Chalk Art"

A picture of chalk art outside a storefront in the Benson neighborhood of Omaha, NE.

"Chalk Art"
by Bruce H.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Photograph: "Visiting Hawk"

The raptor visits keep on coming.  First the bald eagles now what appears to be a hawk.

"Visiting Hawk"
by Bruce H.