Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Book: Omar Saif Ghobash's "Letter To A Young Muslim"

After reading about the end of Democracy I needed to find more positive reading material so, as my ninth book of 2018, I read Omar Saif Ghobash's "Letters to a Young Muslim".

Ghobash, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Russia (and currently France), compiles letters he's written to his two sons explaining how to be a good Muslim in the twenty first century.  The letters touch many subjects but they are all written from a place of experience and wisdom - a gift to a new generation.

I learned a bit about Islam by reading this book.  I knew some of it but hearing it from a Worldly Muslim point of view gave a freshness to the material.  It is written in an easy to read, familiar style that makes the material feel accessible.

Every young Muslim should take the time to read this but I doubt many will and if they do I am afraid that will not accept the gift.  Ghobash is what I would call a moderate (if not liberal) Muslim and many of his ideas concerning Islam clash with the more traditional teachings of Islam.  He comes from a place of moderation, mutual respect, and diversity.  He encourages Islam to reject extremism and to embrace modernization and communication between the faiths.  Ideas that, sadly, will fall on many a deaf ear.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads because this book needs to be read and learned from.  Its style is easy to read, easy to understand, and, if followed, will make the world a better place.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

April F-ing Snow!

To all that white stuff I see outside I say:  'F' You!  It's supposed to be Spring!

Snow on April 15th!!!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Photograph: "Chillin' Heron"

Saw this guy (or gal) watching the rippled waters of Walnut Creek Lake.

"Chillin' Heron"
by Bruce H.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Book: Steven Levitsky And Daniel Ziblatt's "How Democracies Die"

I saw Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt's "How Democracies Die" on one of my regular Sunday morning news shows and I thought I'd take a look.

The book analyzes several examples of Democracies who have transitioned to authoritarian governments and compares these example with what is currently happening in the United States.

As I read this book and considered the examples of pre-WWII Italy and Germany, Venezuela, Peru, Chile, and Argentina (among others) it was obvious America is on there path to authoritarianism.  The similarities were striking and a bit disconcerting if not frightening.

The authors alternated between historical examples and current events.  I wish the authors had provided more in depth analysis of the dying democracies and limited the comparisons to one or two chapters.  There was not enough historical analysis and too much scaremongering.

Despite this, I still gave it four out of five stars on Goodreads.  There is a strong suggestion, based on history, that American democracy is in danger of joining the list of failed democracies.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Some Vermin Caught My Eye The Other Day

On my walk earlier this week I walked past the Modern Arts Midtown gallery.  While I've never gone in, and I didn't go in this time either, something in the window caught my eye.  In the window were a bunch of four inch tall figures of humans in all sorts of situations.  Engraved on their backs was "Vermin.Me".  In front of the gallery are several sculptures including a large metal sphere with a few of the little figures apparently working on the structure.

The work is by Jaime Burmeister.  Many of his pieces of sculpture include the little vermin, as he calls them, in different situations.  I'm not sure what it is but his work really peaked my interest.

Vermin.Me working hard.
(part of a work called "Eggs" by Jamie Burmeister)
I'll have to go in some day to see his other work up close.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Book: John Scalzi's "Zoë's Tale"

Six years ago I read the first three books of John Scalzi's Old Man's War series.  At the time there were four books.  The fourth book, "Zoë's Tale", retold the third book's story from a different perspective.  I decided, based on other people's reviews and a similar story retelling in another series I once read, that reading it would be redundant.

In the six years since, two more Old Man's War books have been published and I have decided to try to catch up.  To do this I needed a little reminder of what was happening in the series the last time I visited it and "Zoë's Tale" was a good way to get back in.

The story follows a young girl introduced in earlier books retelling the story of the founding of a colony and the politics around it (seen originally in "The Last Colony").  It reminded me of the interesting world Salzi created in his earlier books.  It also reminded me that Scalzi is not a teenage girl.  Zoë is written way too mature for her age.

Never the less, I liked the book and I gave it four stars on Goodreads and I am now ready to move on to book five of Old Man's War.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Easter ... Lion?

Wishing everyone a happy and safe Easter.  Watch out for the Easter Lion!

A stone cold Easter lion.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Kicking And Screaming Into The Twenty-First Century

Well ... we finally did it.  Today we got our first real cell phones.  After the dead landline fiasco last weekend we decided it was time to ditch the landline.

We've had at least one cell phone for nearly twenty years but they have always been pay as you go, not so smart phones.  We decided we wanted an unlimited talk/text/data plan smartphone to replace our dumb phones.

We chose middle of the road phones (LG K20) on the T-Mobile (their network works in many countries without the need to change the SIM card) 55+ plan (two lines for $70) with the unlimited everything we were looking for.

No more printing out map directions.  No more being incommunicado (though nobody ever calls me anyway).  No more wondering about anything when Google is at your fingertips.

Our landline will go away once our old number is transfered to the Wife's phone.  Her phone will be our old number.  I will have a new number.  If you need it, let me know by email and I'll pass it along.

Let the twenty-first century ... begin!



Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Photograph: "Vase Flower (Close-Up [HDR])"

The Wife received a vase of flowers from school.  The vase is a cool with a flower detail on the front.  I took a close-up of the flower using an HDR (High Dynamic Range) camera settings and the result is pretty cool.  It looks almost metallic.

"Vase Flower (Close-Up [HDR])"
by Bruce H.
Here is a standard photo of the vase for comparison:

The flower vase with no special processing.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Disconnected

Forty-eight hours. That’s how long our internet was out ... and our cable television ... and our land line. Forty-eight hours of “what am I supposed to do now?”

I always thought that being unplugged was a good thing. When I went on my Caminos I avoided the internet completely for nearly six weeks only logging on to send email updates to the Wife. These periods of disconnection were relaxing and calming to the soul. No news. No gossip. Quiet. I suppose the fourteen miles of walking and the logistics of the Camino albergue were good distractions too.

Apparently things have changed in the four and a half years since I completed my second camino. The past forty-eight hours have been hell! I had major news withdrawal. No TV. No Twitter. It’s been boring. Add in the Wife’s inability to watch March Madness basketball and we both went stir crazy.

As the hours ticked by we both got a bit miffed. We called our cable provider at least six times only to get the runaround. We even started to lie to the cable representatives explaining it was a medical emergency thing but that apparently didn’t do diddly squat to get the repairman here any sooner.

They set up an appointment for Sunday morning and put us on the standby list for Saturday. The standby list. That’s the list of people who can’t leave the house to do things because the repair guy might just arrive when they’re out. The standby list makes you a prisoner in your own house.

I tried to fill my time listening to podcasts I’d downloaded but that got old eventually. The Wife listen to her games on a fish shaped shower radio like it was 1940 or something. There were times when we both sat in our usual spots staring blankly at a dark screen in a dead quiet house, the silence interrupted only by the ticking of clocks. It was quiet ...maddeningly quiet ... too quiet.

The repairman arrived on time (!) this morning.  Turns out another cable serviceman accidentally cut our cable while working on our neighbors house.  Our cable/intertubes/land line are up again and I am sad to say it really feels good.  Too good I think.  Gives me something to ponder.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Book: Omar El Akkad's "American War"

Finally!  After a couple mediocre reads I find an interesting, thought provoking book.  Omar El Akkad's "American War" describes a second civil war in the America's near future.

In a future where the coastlines of the USA have been drastically changed by climate change (Florida is now the Sea of Florida) a war stretching from 2074 to 2095 starts when the federal government outlaws the burning of fossil fuels.  The states of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia,and South Carolina succeed from the union starting a twenty year guerilla war fought with drones and suicide vests.  The scariest speculation involves the use of a virus to pacify the southern uprising resulting in the quarantine of the entire state of South Carolina.

The story is told following a young southern girl and her family as they escape the front lines to a refugee camp.  We watch the six year old girl become more and more radicalized as the war drags on ending in the greatest act of revenge imaginable.

This is a dystopian novel but it feels like it could be next week.  The only fault I can find is the lack of technological advancement in the fifty years before the start of the war.  Technology, except for a few mentions of solar power, is generally ignored in the telling of the history of despair and warfare.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  I just hope it doesn't become too real anytime soon.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Sproing!

A sun lit Hyacinth.





I would like to wish everyone a

Happy
Spring
Equinox!


If you can, go out and enjoy the first day of spring.

Friday, March 16, 2018

And The Numbers Say ...

I had my annual blood test a week or so ago and the numbers were not good.  The past year of low activity and poor eating habits gave me numbers that roughly match my worse numbers ever.  My worse were back in 2009 before I started training for my Caminos, RAGBRAI, and the Appalachian Trail.

The specific numbers giving me trouble are my high LDL Cholesterol (207 vs less than 200), high Glucose (128 vs less than 100), and pre-diabetic A1C (6.3 vs less than 56).  These have always been my trouble spots.

So it's time to hear this wake up call.  I have successfully tackled these numbers before.  I know what I need to do.  Watch my diet.  Reduce my carbs.  Get off my butt and exercise.  Lower my weight.

I'm getting older and, not having a goal to work towards like I 've had for the past five to ten years, I'm sure it won't get any easier.  I never have been very good at self control and maintaining an exercise regime.  Hopefully the twenty miles I walked this week will be a good start.  But keeping it up has always been hard for me and, frankly, is not getting any easier with time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Book: Jeremy Robinson's "Infinite"

Book number five for the year is Jeremy Robinson's "Infinite".  It seems I've been reading a lot of mediocre science fiction lately.  This one just adds to that list.

"Infinite" has an interesting premise which tries very hard to be engaging but you can feel a twist coming a mile away (in my case I saw it coming three quarters of the book ahead).  Since I saw the twist coming when it arrived it was a bit underwhelming

Reading the afterward after finishing the book, you find out that the author was battling health issues while he wrote the book which may explains the rather shallow style of the book.

I gave the book three stars out of five on Goodreads.  I kept hoping that I would be surprised but in the end it was a predictable read with little depth.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Warning: Jump Ahead

Don't forget to turn your clocks ahead an hour tonight or you will be late all day ... or is it early all day?  While I try to figure that out, here is a picture of an orchid:

An Orchid ... backlit.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Another Passing

Yesterday, Marilyn, my Mother-in-Law, passed away.  She was a good woman, and good mother, and a good wife to Cecil who passed away nearly two years ago.

Marilyn
February 28, 1933 - March 5, 2018
I liked her and she approved of me which is all a son-in-law can ask for.  I am told, when my back was turned, she would sprinkle water at me in the hope the baptismal dishwater would save me.  Thank you for trying Marilyn.

She will be missed by everyone who knew her.  Like Cecil, every life she touched was made better.

Here is a link to her obituary.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

First Sign Of The Coming Spring

Today was a beautiful day.  I would say it was a preview of the coming Spring.  Temperatures peaked at 68℉ (20℃) and it was nice to walk outside in my t-shirt and bare feet and not feel cold.

Another sure sign that spring is in the air: the first Robin in our backyard.

First Robin of 2018 in our backyard.
Winter isn't over yet and we have a few more weeks of mixed weather on the way but this little preview was a welcome change.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Book: Jeff Vandermeer's "Annihilation"

I saw the preview for the upcoming movie adaptation so I decided to check out the book.  Jeff Vandermeer's "Annihilation" is an odd little book.

The book follows a team of scientist (all women) who are sent to 'Area X' which has mysteriously appeared.  The only defining feature of Area X is the border barrier.  Other than this the book is incredibly vague about what makes Area X weird.  Yes, every expedition into Area X except one have either died or disappeared.  This is never explained.  Yes there are hints about strange creatures but the descriptions are so thin that it's hard to tell what is wrong with them.

The characters do not have names being referred only by their professions.  The characters do not act natural which is probably done are purpose to heighten the tension and weirdness of the narrative.  The location of Area X is never mentioned.

This vagueness was kind of disappointing.  This is the first book of a series so more details may come in later books but frankly I needed more to keep my interest.  The first book of a series is supposed to suck you in but I am not sure I will even read the other two books.

As I read this book I kept thinking that the storytelling style was similar to H. P. Lovecraft.  This seems appropriate since I also considered Lovecraft's horror to be vague and a bit disappointing.

I gave this book three out of five stars on Goodreads.  This may be a a case where the movie may be better than the book.

P.S.  The hardcover version of the book is listed at $153.87 on Amazon.  This for a two-hundred-ten page book.  Crazy!

P.P.S. Happy World Book Day!!!


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Olympic Withdrawal

For the past two weeks I have had the Olympic games on the TV nearly every day.  Now, I have always been a fan of the Olympics and I have always watched some of the games, but this year for some reason I watched a whole lot more than usual.

I really enjoyed the snowboarding, skeleton, luge, and just about any sports that involved whipping out.  I also enjoyed the heck out of the curling - it helps when you actually saw the team qualify for the Olympics.

To be honest, I did not devote 100% of my attention to the games at all times.  I often surfed Twitter while the games were on.  Even while they were often just in the background, they provided a comforting, mostly non-political, backdrop to my life these past two weeks.  The games officially end tonight and I will miss them. 

It's time now to catch up on some of my streaming that I put off while I watched the competitions.  Time for some "Altered Carbon", "The Expanse", "The Tick", among others.  Netflix and Amazon Prime Video ... here I come.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Photograph: "Orange Hibiscus Bud"

Another flower picture.  This bud is from an orange colored hibiscus plant the Wife gave her father for the lake house on Lake Cornelia.

"Orange Hibiscus Bud"
by Bruce H.
At the end of the summer lake season the hibiscus returns to Omaha where it winters in front of a sliding glass door in our basement.  This hibiscus, along with our own red hibiscus blooms through the winter until they can be moved outside.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Photograph: "Rose [HDR]"

Another picture from my new camera. This is a close up of a rose in the Wife's valentine flowers.  The camera is set to an HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode that boosts the colors creating an interesting effect.

"Rose [HDR]"
by Bruce H.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Number Seven

I've owned one film camera and six digital cameras over my lifetime.  My first digital camera recorded pictures on floppy disks (One picture from my current camera would need seven floppy disks to record!).  I killed my second digital camera by dunking it in Malibu Creek.  My third, the one I took on my first Camino, is still around and still works.  My fourth was my Canon T1i DSLR I won in a photo contestMy fifth - bought for it's compact, rugged, waterproofness - died while snorkeling off the Galapagos Islands.  This camera was replaced by another compact, rugged, and waterproof camera of a different brand.  Last week I bought my seventh digital camera, a replacement for the T1i which started to die of old age last year (the exposure sensor is going flaky and randomly overexposes pictures).  I upgraded to a Canon Rebel T7i.

Here are a couple of my first pictures with the new camera: 

Old Man Iago.
Iago is looking grey these days.

A picture of an hibiscus from the rear.

"Behind the Petals"
by Bruce H.
The new camera is similar to the one it's replacing.  I bought just the body since all my old lenses work on the new camera which saved me some money.  It has a better sensor and several new functions that I will have to learn.

It has a flip out touch screen which is handy for some awkward over the fence/crowd pictures. The screen can also be folded in towards the body protecting it from scratches.

One of the things I was excited about is the Bluetooth and WiFi support.  Unfortunately the app doesn't run well on my Chromebook so WiFi connection is flaky and Bluetooth doesn't work at all.  I blame this on Chromebook/Android hybrid idiosyncrasies.  Nevertheless I have managed to upload pictures to the cloud and to my Chromebook over WiFi though it would be easier to just pull out the memory card and plug it into the Chromebook.

The camera has all the bells and whistles. It's missing only one thing - GPS.  Strangely enough GPS is mentioned in the setup but it is not implemented in the camera.

Now I just need to get out and find things worth photographing.

P.S.  This camera was partially funded with Christmas/Birthday/Anniversary money from the Mother-in-Law.  Thank you!

Monday, February 19, 2018

A Movie Shorts Trifecta

Every two or three years I go to see the Oscar nominated short films at the local art house theater (Film Streams' Ruth Sokolof Theater).  This year I saw them at the newly refurbished Dundee theater which is now owned by Film Streams.

There are three categories of short films with five nominees per category.  The categories are Live Action, Documentary, and Animation.

I watched the Live Action shorts last Thursday.  In the past there were a good mix of serious and funny movies.  This year four of five were serious and a bit depressing.  To give you an idea, the first one was about a shooter breaking into a school.  I was watching this the day after the Parkland school shooting.  It made me cringe even though it had a happy ending.  My choice for the best live action shorts is "Watu Wote" a story based on an actual event in Kenya.  A group of Islamic bus riders defend a christian woman from Al-Shabaab terrorists.  Both heartwarming and sad at once.

The Wife joined me on Friday to watch the Documentary shorts.  A couple years ago we left depressed after seeing the gloomy documentary nominees.  This year they were a bit more uplifting and positive.   Our favorite was "Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405", a documentary about Mindy Alper, an artist living a rough, troubled life but still finds joy in her art.  This one made us smile.

Today I watch the Animated shorts.  As I entered the theater I was surprised to see some elementary aged girls from Girls, Inc.  The reason I was surprised is just because a film is animated does not mean the topics are appropriate for children.  This year three films included death, murder, and stealing.  One included a photorealistic picture of a bloated dead body floating in a hot tub.  Another had Little Red Riding Hood killing two anthropomorphic wolves and an anthropomorphic pig with a handgun (and stealing money from the dead pig).  Not good for small children.  My favorite was the photorealistic "Garden Party".  It was done so well it didn't look animated.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Not Even An Ember

Last November I signed up for Trek up the Tower.  I mention it in a post called "Light That Fire".  I hoped that preparing for Trek up the Tower would motivate me.

It didn't.

Today was Trek up the Tower and I stayed home.  My hiking and biking plan faded to nothingness.

*sigh*

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Escaping To Trivia

It's been a while since I've posted.  Just haven't been interested in writing much.  Things have also been fairly quiet here.  This weekend turned out to be busier and full of blog-worthy activities.

It started Thursday evening when the Matron of Honor (MoH) and the Best Man (BM) came down to visit.  We celebrated their arrival with a delicious burger dinner at Stella's and a visit to a tap room (Kros Strain Brewing).

On Friday The Wife and MoH went to a spa for facials in the late morning.  In the afternoon we had a leisurely lunch at Blatt Beer & Table across from the College World Series stadium in the north downtown area of Omaha.  The restaurant is named after Rosenblatt the former College World Series stadium.  The Beer Nuts enjoyed the beer and I enjoyed the chicken and waffles.

After our lazy lunch we went to the House of Conundrum (HoC).  HoC is an escape room.  You can enter one of seven rooms and you have an hour to solve puzzles to get out.  We ended up doing the 20,000 Leaks Under the Sea room.  This was our first escape room but the MoH and I have both played online room escape games so we had some idea of what needs to be done (my favorite online escape rooms games are those by Rusty Lake and Forgotten Hill).  We ended up needing only one clue from the HoC employee and we ended up solving everything with a short minute to spare.  We all left the House of Conundrum thoroughly entertained.

Friday ended with some Winter Olympic open ceremonies, snacks, and lots of good conversation.

On Saturday, after clearing away the two to three inches of snow we had overnight, we tried to go the the Early Bird for a late brunch but the wait was too long so we ended up at the 11-Worth cafe instead.  After a hearty brunch we spent some time at another tap room in the Blackstone district called the Scriptown Brewery.  The MoH and BM had three tap rooms/bars on their list to visit and we successfully hit all three.

The main event for Saturday, and the whole weekend frankly, was the charity trivia contest at the Wife's school.  The Wife and I were joined by the MoH, BM, the Brother-in-Law, his wife, their three daughters and two boyfriends.  They had changed the rules of the trivia game since we participated a couple years ago.  The changes (No buying of answers. No jail) were all improvements.  The questions were challenging.  After winning the first trivia in 2014, coming in second in 2015, and not doing well at all in 2016, we ended up in sixth (out of twenty) which we consider an improvement.  If we'd just gone with our guts more we would have ended in the top three at least.  We all had a good time and I'm sure we will be participating again next year.

As an added bonus, the Wife won the fifty-fifty game which paid out some good cash - More than the second place trivia team won and more than enough to pay for the today's breakfast.

Today we went to mass at a nice chapel at the Poor Clare Monastery before heading to Le Peep for breakfast.  Unfortunately there are more than one Le Peep and some went to the one off Dodge while the Wife and I went to the one off of West Center.  We realized the error and we joined the others for a good breakfast.

After breakfast we all scattered heading home in a several directions.  The Wife and I promptly took naps as we don't have the stamina we used to have.  The last four days wore me out but the trivia contest, escape room, and all the good food (and way too much caffeine) made for a great time with family.

Time to recuperate and catch up on some Winter Olympic sport.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Book: Kameron Hurley's "The Stars Are Legion"

Book number three of the year was an interesting read.  Kameron Hurley's "The Stars are Legion" is very different from most Sci-Fi I've read while being similar in other ways.

There are two things that stand out in the book.  The first is the world built by Hurley.  The book takes place on world-ships, large self contained biotech ships.  By biotech I mean that the ships, and most technology in the ships, are living organisms.  There are multiple worlds who are part of the legion.

The second thing is all characters in the book are female.  There are no males anywhere in the book.  This gives everything a different perspective.  To make things weird, the women inhabitants of the world spontaneously become pregnant, often carrying living biotech parts that the ship needs to repair itself.  It is confusing if the women are inhabitants of the ship or are they just components of the world-ships.

Part of the book has one of the main characters climbing up from the core of the world-ship facing obstacles with a team of women she picks up along the way - a very common theme of fantasy novels.  This felt very familiar to me and not very original.

I liked this book but there are holes in the world building.  I kept trying to wrap my mind around the universe created by Hurley but I just couldn't figure out the basic structures outside of the world-ships.  I was confused to the end.  I liked what I read but I needed a little more information.  What was the purpose of the legion?  Where was it located?  Were they in space or in a larger structure?  So many questions.

I gave this book four out of five stars on Goodreads because, while it felt original while having parts that weren't original or were missing altogether, I kept wanting to read more.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Cord Cutting Disconnect

I've been thinking about getting rid of cable TV for awhile.  I wanted a more on-demand experience with, hopefully, a reduced cost.  The one roadblock in the way was Sports.  I am not a sports fan but the Wife is and any replacement for our cable TV had to satisfy her sports habit.  Until recently, there was no such replacement.

Last year Hulu announce the launch of Hulu with Live TV (HLTV).  It would take the on-demand Hulu service and add fifty channels of live television.  Looking at the initial network lineup I saw that it provided most of the networks that we watch regularly and, notably, more sports networks than we get now on our basic cable package.  It came with fifty hours of cloud DVR service, more than the thirty-seven hours out current cable DVR provides.  Its was exactly what I'd been looking for.  An added bonus: HLTV was about forty dollars a month cheaper than cable TV.

I would have tried it out last year but they did not have a Roku app that supported HLTV yet so I waited.  The updated Roku app was released last September but I didn't realize it was available until a couple weeks ago.  A week ago we started the free trial and began watching live TV on Hulu.

At first everything seem awesome but over the first forty-eight hours a couple things became apparent.  The first was there was no grid guide for the live TV.  We soon discovered that it was hard to figure out what was on TV without a guide.  While a grid guide was not necessary for on-demand shows it is a necessity for live TV.  NOTE: after the Wife pointed out this issue I Googled around and, by coincidence, found an article published two day before.  The article was an interview of a Hulu honcho announcing that Hulu was developing a guide for their live TV service.  Seems we weren't the only ones wondering where the guide was.

The second issue was the occasional stuttering/freezing/buffering of live TV.  On-demand shows played fine.  By occasional I mean four or five times in a half hour maybe.  Sometimes it was worse ... sometimes it didn't happen at all.  The killer was when you watched sports.  A two to three second freeze means you miss an entire play on the field - unacceptable.  I thought it might be a slow internet connection but, after some more Googling around I found some people with internet connection speeds up to twenty times faster than ours were having the same issues.  It looks like the issue is on Hulu's end when they encode the live TV.

So, after watching a few Hulu exclusive shows (the incredible "The Handmaid's Tale" and, for my Marvel fix, "Runaways") I canceled the service before the free trial period ended.  HLTV is not quite ready for prime time yet.  It is still considered a beta service so it is still having some growing pains.  We will try again in six months or so to see if things improve.

Someday we will cut the cord but not quite yet.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Book: Andy Weir's "Artemis"

Andy Weir's first book, "The Martian" (which I reviewed in this post) was awesome.  I gave it five stars on Goodreads, something I rarely do.  When I saw that Weir had written another book - "Artemis" - I was excited.

"Artemis" takes place on a moon base at some unspecified future date.  It follows a smuggler who lives in Artemis and smuggles things like cigars and exotic foods onto the base.  Along the way we learn about the corruption and organized crime in Artemis.

It's a good book.  There are interesting characters and some interesting science.  The science is not as 'dense' as that of "The Martian".  I expected a bit more.  It was good ... But it did not live up to his first book.  I expected more.  I feel sorry for Weir.  It will be hard to live up to his first book.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads for being good enough ...almost.

Monday, January 15, 2018

"I Still Do"

Years ago, on a flight from Los Angeles to New York for work, I had this song stuck in my head the entire way.  There are worse things to have stuck in your head.


"I Still Do"
by The Cranberries

Last summer I bought a ticket to see the Cranberries (Their official site had been taken down) at the Stir Cove in Council Bluffs, IA.  I was looking forward to seeing them live.  Unfortunately the concert was cancelled a month or so before the show.  They said Dolores O'Riordan, the lead singer of the Cranberries, was suffering from back issues.

Today it was announce that O'Riordan passed away suddenly during a recording session.  She was forty-six.  She was taken from her children and her fans too soon.

Rest in peace, Dolores O'Riordan.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Book Suzy Hansen's "Notes On A Foreign Country"

My first book of 2018 was Suzy Hansen's "Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World".  A mixture of travelogue and personal commentary on American meddling, Hansen's book discusses her move from New Jersey/New York to Istanbul where she has lived for some ten years.  Her experience in this, the first foreign country she had ever lived in for any amount of time, enlightens her to just how ill informed she (and most Americans) was concerning the world outside of America' borders.

Istanbul opened her eyes and dispels many of the stereotypes and misconceptions the typical American has nurtured, fed by a shallow education of history and a government that works to keep its citizens uninformed.  Providing examples (many first hand) of Turkey, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guatemala, Hansen explores how post-world-war American colonialism, often in the guise of modernization, has wreaked havoc on the governments, societies, and people of the developing world, especially the Middle East and the Muslim world.

Hansen learns just how ill informed the average American is.  I have thought this for many years.  If I were in control I would have every American live in a 'developing' country for at least a couple years early in their lives so they can really and truly learn about America and American influence outside her borders.  Needless to say my nine years in Guatemala opened my eyes but I still have to be careful not to fall into the America-can-do-no-wrong trap.  With recent events, it is becoming easier to avoid being swayed by the propaganda.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  Unfortunately the people who need to read it won't.  *sigh*

Thursday, January 11, 2018

A Snow Day For The Birds

Today we were supposed to get 2 - 4 inches (5 - 10 cm) of snow over ice.  As a result the Wife had a snow day and had a delicious morning sleeping in and catching up of her TV shows.

My job today was to go out to clear off the snow which was not bad at all since we received only about an inch or so of snow.  The wind blew most of it off the driveway.  It also turns out that we had little or no rain after midnight unlike what the forecast had predicted.  There was still some ice under the snow but much less than I expected to see.  There was enough that I spread deicer on our driveway, our neighbour's driveway and the sidewalks.  I'm also grateful for the spiked slip-ons I wore to keep me from slipping around.

The little snow we had did provide a nice backdrop for the cardinals eating out of our backyard bird feeder.

A cardinal taking a break from stuffing its beak in our bird feeder.
I've seen cardinals in our backyard before but it's rare.  I recently changed the mix of bird seed in the feeder to see if I could attract different birds.  Sure enough, today, I saw three cardinals around the feeder.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Mental Overload

I went for a walk today.  When I walk I often think about my Caminos or the Appalachian Trail but today my thoughts often strayed to the state of the world.

I have confessed that I am a news junky many times in the past and I have even tried to reduce the amount of news I have consumed but the past two years have changed things.  You can no longer ignore the news.  The past two years have emphasized just how important it is to follow what is happening around us.

The state of our union ... and my mental state while reading the news.
I am very likely consuming more news per day than anytime in my past.  Tell-All books, FBI investigations, Incoherent Tweets, #MeToo, #TimesUp, Brexit, F-ing UFOs - mental overload.  This has not been a good thing for my mental health as my anxiety levels have been elevated for awhile now.  However, I cannot turn away from the slow motion (and often not so slow motion) train wreck our country is going through.

Hopefully things will turn around.  I only want one thing.  One very simple thing.  I want a return to an Ordinary World.


"Ordinary World"
Duran Duran

P.S.  Happy Birthday, Gv.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Photograph: "1071 - Under The Sea"

I haven't been posting much this year so far so here is a picture or graffiti/public art I took a few weeks ago:

"1071 - Under the sea"
by Bruce H.
(Original artist unknown.)
I have taken a few pictures while I've walked so I will post more when I come up short with post ideas ... Which has been often lately.

Monday, January 01, 2018

A Quiet And Calm New Years

This New Years holiday was almost identical to last years, different only by the slight change of the order of things.  I rode my trainer, took down the wreaths and lights outside.  I took down the Christmas tree and sat back and waited for the change.  Midnight arrived, kisses were exchanged, and I went to bed.

This morning I woke up from a restless night.  I'd woken up at 2:00am wide awake despite having taken two Tylenol PMs and rolled and tossed awhile before falling into weird dreams.

I watched an episode of Black Mirror before dressing very warm and going out to take in the laser lights.  Despite the negative temperature I decided to also take down the ornaments from the front oak tree.  I decided it was easier to get some of the ornaments down by using a tree trimming pole to cut the branch the balls were hooked to.  Kind of lazy, I know, but I had little patience this morning.  I ended up breaking two of the ornaments this year.

The holiday season is officially packed away in it's cubby hole in the basement.

I ate lunch and, realizing I was really tired, I went down in the basement, put on my headphones, and napped to some good music.

While all this was happening the Wife was either shopping with her Christmas money or watching football ... her New Year's ritual.

As you can see we had a quiet and calm New Years.

Last year I started a new Homer's Travels tradition posting my best picture from the previous year.  Looking through my pictures - most of them taken at concerts this year - I found only a handful of pictures I considered interesting.  The best one, in my opinion, is this up close picture of a peony with a small bug attached.

"Peony"
by Bruce H.
(Taken on the 18th of May, 2017)
I hope you all had a calm and quiet New Years full of happy memories, family, and friends.