Homer's Travels: February 2016

Sunday, February 28, 2016

We Came For Two But Left With One

Last night was the annual trivia contest at the Wife's School.  We won it a couple years ago and came in second last year.  This year we went in hungry for not only a first place win but also with a best table theme/costume trophy as well.

Our team was the Martyrs and we all dressed up as a different catholic martyr who had given their lives in often gruesome ways.  I went as Pope Clement I who was tossed overboard attached to an anchor.  (It's amazing what you can find on Amazon.com - pope outfits, anchors, ...).  If you are my friend on Facebook then you can see some of the pictures including me in my full pope regalia (being a non-catholic I expected to burst into flame but I managed to just get hot and sweaty instead).

There were eight rounds of eight questions and we did ... terribly.  They also changed a few of the rules which ended up resulting in a lot more ties each round.  Half way through we knew we weren't doing too hot.   In the end we were not even in the top five.  We were all a bit disappointed.

Most of the conversation around our table, and in the next twenty-four hours I suspect, was how the rules changed the scoring, how bad we did answering the questions, and how the winning team had cheated.  We have no solid evidence they were cheating but they were getting too many answers right, there were a few phones out on the table (a no-no), and a few wandering eyes as their team members walked past other tables.

We did get a consolation prize.  The other tables picked us as the best theme/costumes so we did come home with a trophy in the end.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Oh ... So Close ... But Better Than Expected.

Today was the 10th annual Trek up the Tower stair climbing race.  This was the fourth time I've participated and the first time I did it with someone else (The Wife's Niece).

My expectations this year were pretty low.  I wasn't as well prepared this year as I was last primarily due to the RAGBRAI training I was doing before last years stair climb.  I estimated that I would take at least thirty seconds longer this year.

I started this year's race with a half liter of caffeinated grape drink.  The stuff is the equivalent of two and a quarter cans of Mountain Dew.  We checked our stuff, picked up our racing number and wrist band/chip holder, and got in line.  I was buzzing a bit by the time we reached the starting line.

They said go, I scanned my chip and headed up the stairs taking two steps at a time.  I zoomed up the first seven floors before I started taking one step at a time.  I'd told myself that I was not going to look at the floor numbers but that didn't last very long.  Most of the climb I was staring at the stairs in front of me but I did glance up every now and then to see where I was.  Each time I peeked I was surprised how far along I was.

Physically I didn't feel as good as I did last year.  My mouth felt like a desert and my lungs were burning around half way up.  I definitely felt better last year.  Having said that, it felt a lot faster this year.

So ... How did I do?  I didn't do as well as last year as expected.  Unfortunately I was only slower by two seconds.  I would have felt better if I'd been thirty seconds slower.  Two seconds ... that means a tiny additional amount of effort would have had me bettering my time.  So close ... close enough that it will eat at me for a while.  Here are my stats this year:
Time:   8:41    -    2 seconds slower than last time!
Overall Place:   403 of 1730    -    Slightly better than last time.
Place in Gender:   307 of 798    -    Also slightly better than last time!
Place in Age Division (50-54):   24 of 73    -    Not quite as good as last time.
I didn't really do as good as last time but it was close.  The number of participants was smaller than last year which may explain my better rankings.  Next year, if I get serious about training for the Appalachian Trail, I should do much better.

On the way home I was coughing and wheezing like I usually do.  I always wondered if I had some issue with my lungs but today the Wife's niece was coughing and wheezing as much as I was. I guess all that stair climbing knocks all the phlegm loose in your chest.

I did so much better than I expected that I will more than likely do it again next year.  Hopefully, her schedule willing, I will be joined by the Wife's niece again.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Well Is Dry ... But Not For Long

It's been eleven days since my last post.  I haven't had much to write about lately - the creative well has been dry - so I will fill the vacuum with a short status report.

It's been a month since I quit playing the game.  I still think about it.  Strange how the smallest thing like the time of day or the turning on of a computer reminds me of the game.  I guess these habits are hard to squash.  I am trying to get back to my old routines and reconnect with the world around me ... though I'm not sure how connected I want to be to all the politics swirling around right now.

I have restarted my daily stretches and exercises. I'm still having problems with the consistency of my exercise routines.  I have to keep reminding myself that the exercises are necessary for my Appalachian Trail (AT) preparations.  The thing is when I'm exercising I often think of what I would have been doing if I were still playing the game.  *Sigh*

Speaking of the AT, I am slowly putting a  list of things I need to get in preparation for the hike of my lifetime.  I'm thinking about clothes, food, and tents.   My next major hiking purchase will probably be a new tent.  While I like the tent I currently have, it can not be put up free standing (i.e without stakes in the ground) which may be a disadvantage along parts of the AT.  I'm currently looking at a Tarptent Rainbow which has the option of using your trekking poles to make the tent freestanding.  It weighs just over a kilogram (about 30% more than my current tent).  I still feel I'm behind in my AT planning but I am making some progress.  I will start to seriously make equipment purchases in the second half of next month.

While I haven't been doing as much as I've wanted to do, I do have a few things coming up.  It begins with my fourth Trek up the Tower tomorrow morning.  While I'm not sure I will best last year's time I will be giving it my best try.  This year the Wife's Niece will be joining me up the eight hundred and seventy steps.

A week from tomorrow we have our third annual Trivia Contest at the Wife's school.  We won the first and were cheated out of a win the second year.  This year we will be fighting to regain our rightful place at the top.  This year we will also try to be competitive in the table theme contest.  Pictures will surely be posted to Facebook and Twitter next weekend.

A week after the trivia contest I start my first Scuba class.  This two hour class is just an introduction to Scuba to make sure I don't unexpectedly freak out when I'm underwater.  If all goes well ... and I expect it to do so ...I will officially sign up for the scuba certification classes soon afterwards.

A few days after the scuba class the Wife and I leave on a short trip to Havana, Cuba.  I guess we will checking things out before the President shows up.  It is a farely short trip - only about three days in Havana - but it should be interesting nevertheless.  I hope the area around our hotel is walkable.  Walking is the best way to see a city.

After Cuba I will hopefully be taking my scuba certification classes and doing my certification dives later in May/June.

That's all the plans I have until our big South American trip in June.   I'm sure I/we will fit a few more things in before our trip.  I will be sure to post about them when I do.

Monday, February 08, 2016

The Changing Face Of Entertainment Media

Way back when Homer's Travels had just started, I flail around a bit trying to figure out what to write about.  One early post talked about what we watched on television.  Since I am kind of flailing around again wondering what I should post about, I decided to revisit the topic.  Turns out a lot has changed since that September 2006 post.

I started by looking at what I've been watching for the past few months.  I realized soon enough that the topic of this post really isn't what I'm watching but how I am watching.  While most of the shows I watched in 2006 were network shows with a smattering of cable channel shows, what I tend to get excited about today are either purely cable channels or are not on traditional sources at all.  The biggest change in the last ten years for me has been the arrival of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other streaming sources ... all connected together on our Roku box or tablet apps.  Here are a few examples of what I'm watching and how I'm watching:
  • "Marvel's Daredevil" and "Marvel's Jessica Jones" (Netflix):  These Netflix Marvel series are darker and grittier than the comics.  Netflix, like other streaming services, release the entire season (ten episodes) on the same day so no more watching one episode per week like it was done in 2006.  Now you binge watch - watching several episodes back to back to back.  I usually limit it to two to four episodes per day.  These original series are only available if you have a Netflix subscription.
  • "The Man in the High Tower" (Amazon Prime):  An alternate history drama set in 1960's America where the Nazis and the Japanese won World War II and have divided up the country.  The show is based on Philip K. Dick's book of the same name ("The Man in the High Castle").  This show is also only available to Amazon Prime subscribers.
  • "The Expanse" (Syfy):  One of the few of the shows I've watched lately that are not by subscription only.  Based on a series of books (James S. A. Corey's The Expanse Series) the show is an an interesting space opera.  I'd heard of this show but, being distracted by the game, I didn't watch it when it started on Syfy.  I ended up catching up by watching the first seven episodes on our cable system's On-Demand feature and recording the last three hours on our DVR.
  • "Mr. Robot" (USA):  This series, another cable channel offering, aired at the end of last summer - early fall.  I'd heard of it but, again, I was distracted by life and the game so I never pursued it. After catching up with "The Expanse" I decided to try to catch up on this show as well.
              I first looked at the On-Demand feature.  Only two episodes (nine and ten) were available.  When I checked a week later there was only one episode (three).  I next checked to see if there was a USA channel Roku app.  There was (USA Now) but when I loaded it up only episodes three, four, seven, eight, nine, and ten were available.  I then checked online where I found that the USA Now site listed all ten of the episode.  This would be good news but sitting in front of the computer to watch shows really isn't that comfortable (I kind of wore out my desk chair seat playing the game ... seriously I did).  I then loaded up the USA Now app on my tablet.  On the tablet all episodes were listed as well.  Huzzah!
              I ended up watching the first two episodes (and a couple more while riding my trainer) on my tablet and the others on Roku.  Why are the three different versions of the same thing, offered by the same network, all different?  Mystifying.
  • "The Walking Dead" (AMC):  I record this cable show on my DVR and usually wait until the mid-season finale before I binge watch the episodes over a few days.  I don't think I've ever watched an episode live.
  • "Marvel's Agents of Shield" and "Marvel's Agent Carter" (ABC):  The only dramas I watch regularly on the four major networks.  I rarely watch them live, instead I record them on the DVR and watch them the next day at my convenience.
  • All the so called reality shows.  The only other shows I watch on the four major networks (and a few cable channels) and shows like "Survivor", "The Amazing Race", "American Idol", and "Top Chef".  These shows are, more often than not, watched live and, amazing enough, were on my viewing list ten years ago too.  These are also the shows the Wife and I watch together.
You can see my watching habits have changed.  The idea of sitting down at a specific time in a specific room to watch a specific show feels odd to me now.  I like controlling when I watch things.  I don't want to wait a week to find out what happens.  Heck, having to fast forward through commercials using the DVR irritates me ... a side affect of not having to watch commercials at all on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

While I have a lot more control over what I watch and when, just look at all the methods/sources I had to use to watch the shows listed above.  It needs to be easier to integrate all these streams into one easy to use interface.  Wouldn't it be nice to just type in a series or movie name and have all the episodes pop up no matter the source?  The Roku box comes the closest by searching across multiple services but, strangely, does not include Netflix in their search.  Wouldn't it be nice if you were charged a single subscription giving you access to all shows and movies across all services.  Today, to do this, you need Netflix, Amazon Prime, Google Play, and Hulu at the very least.  It's still a bit of a hodge podge.

It will be interesting to see how all this changes in the next ten years. 

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Photograph: "Tentacles Of The Snow Beast"

"Tentacles of the Snow Beast"
by Bruce H.
The wet snow and the crazy winds created some interesting snow sculptures around the railing of our deck this morning.