Sunday, March 31, 2019

Book: C. L. Polk's "Witchmark"

My sixth book of the year was C. L. Polk's "Witchmark".  The book is a fantasy in an alternate version of the early twentieth century where magic exists.

The book is a murder mystery that explores prejudice (anti-magic sentiment), the accumulation of power, and multi-leveled slavery.  Polk builds an interesting world to explore how humans interact with power and how power corrupts.

"Witchmark" explores a variation of PTSD and the invisible wounds of war with a magical twist.  The ending of the book is an unexpected "Soylent Green is people" moment.  All the threads tie together nicely but still leaves enough loose ends for a guaranteed sequel.

I gave the book four stars out of five on Goodreads. It held my attention with its intriguing world construction.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Photograph: "Patterns"

"Patterns"
by Bruce H.
A close up photograph of "Wind Sculpture III", an art piece by Yinka Shonibare, outside the Sheldon Museum of Art in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Book: Glendy Vanderah's "Where The Forest Meets The Stars"

My latest read is the sweet debut book by Glendy Vanderah.  Her "Where the Forest Meets the Stars" tells the story of a graduate student ornithologist who is adopted by a nine year old girl claiming to be an alien.

The novel weaves a tale of childish wonder, trauma, romance, and healing.  While I sort of predicted where the book would end up, the discoveries along the way make the journey worth the while.

I gave this book four star out of five on Goodreads because of the sweetness despite the somewhat abrupt ending of the wonderful tale of a girl named Ursa Major.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Happy Pi Day!!!

Happy Pi Day!!!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Thirty Years Of The Internet

Yesterday the Internet turned thirty years old. In those thirty years the Internet has changed a lot.

I started exploring the web back in the '90s.  Back before the Internet was a visual medium with pictures and video.  There wasn't much out there.  Many pages were lists of links compiled by humans.  Those links were either academic or just plain weird pages coded by amateurs.  The net felt like a creative version of the wild west.

When Mosaic and Netscape took over the tubes took off with graphics and videos.  Soon the net started attracting commercial businesses.  I was excited when I saw my first commercial with an internet address list.  I am easily excited.

Blogs appeared fairly early on allowing 'ordinary' people to spill their guts, show off their children, and document their lives.  I began blogging seriously in 2006.  I started Homer's Travels as a way to let our families know what the Wife and I were doing.

Blogs soon connected me to the world.  Over the years I met people through my blog.  It started with Phil who writes Wild Rye.  He left a comment on a post of mine and started following me.  I took the second move when I came across a hiking post when I was researching the Sandstone Peak, Mishe Mokwa, and Tri-Peaks trail.  I came across a write up on GeekHiker's blog and, inspired by Phil, left a comment thanking him for his post.  GeekHiker started following my posts.  One day, while bored at work, I went through GeekHiker's blogroll (his list of interesting blogs).  This led me to Just A Girl's 'Angsty' blog, Miss McCracken's 'Silly With Heart' blog, and Dobegil's 'You Did What?' blog.  Before I knew it a small family had formed as we read each other's writing and left comments.

Over time I met in the real world, first GeekHiker and Just A Girl, and then Dobegil.   (I have yet to meet Miss McCracken - that will have to change someday.)

Eventually My blog friends slowed and stopped updating their blogs.  Our lives are not constant.  Things change over time to the better, to the worse, or simply to the different.  The lives of my blog friends have all changed in one way or another.  GeekHiker quit his job, traveled the country and the world for a year before settling in a new area of California, getting a new job, and getting married.  Miss McCracken quit her job as well and is working towards becoming an illustrator for children's books.  Just A Girl met her "Boy", became less Angsty, and has now become Just A Mom.  Dobegil, battling health issues, is supported by her faith.

I know what happened.  It happened to me too.   My life changed with the move  to Omaha and my two Caminos.  But the real reason blogs are no longer being updated: We all discovered social media - i.e. Facebook and similar sites.

Facebook (and Twitter is some cases) became a replacement for blogging.  It was just easier to spread information to our family and friends as they were all there. The didn't all have to visit your blog.  At the same time, social media, in my case anyway, discouraged long form writing.  Most Facebook posts are limited to a paragraph or two.  Often, when someone writes more than a paragraph they feel the need to warn people and apologize for the length of their post.  Twitter is even more overt by limiting posts to two hundred and forty characters.

Over the last decade or so blogging has been slowly fading.  I used to randomly wander through Blogs to get ideas for Homer's Travels.  Over time I started noticing something.  Many of the bloggers, after faithfully blogging for a year, two, or three, would start to slow down or even stop.  Often abruptly.  Many times there was no warning.  Often the last post said they would be more diligent at posting and then ... nothing.  The decline I saw occurred sometime between 2008 and 2010.  Something happened these years.  That's when it seems most people would either slow down their posting dramatically or stop all together.  That's also when Facebook adoption approached an inflection point.



So it appears that Facebook may have been the culprit.  Long form blogging has been replaced with short snippets of random thoughts.  I miss the longer posts.  I looked forward to sitting down and exploring the thoughts of my friends.  Taking a long look at their lives.  Now, while we share more than ever, all we show are glimpses.  Tiny little peeks that only scratch the surface of what we are really thinking.  In my opinion, social media ruined the Internet turning it into a homogenous world with limited creativity and rebellion.

I have succumbed to this trend as well.  Little posts I would have written up for Homer's Travels now find there way to Twitter or Facebook instead.  I have tried to steer a middle course.  I post links to my Homer's Travels posts to Facebook and Twitter.  People can click through if they wish more than short little blurbs or interesting links that I have shared.  I have tried.

I've posted about this same subject before over six years ago ("More than One Hundred Forty Characters").  Things have not improved much.  I have moved away from Facebook a bit only linking to Homer's Travel's posts and occasionally liking family and friend posts. The short form is so enticing, so easy, but I miss the long form of writing I used to enjoy.  They say the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Maybe, if I stick with it long enough, long form writing will come back into style and the Internet will once again become the wild west of creativity.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Saying Goodbye To The Snow

Over the next few days ... a week tops ... the snow will all be gone.  To say goodbye to the snow, here is a picture of someone's great idea for brightening winter.

Snow Flowers.
Soon, the fake flowers will melt away and the real deal will start sprouting.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Book: Brooke Bolander's "The Only Harmless Great Thing"

This year I have chosen only one book to read (The first one).  The other three (and the fourth I am currently reading) have been free ebooks you get when you sign up for the Tor.com newsletter.  Tor is a publisher of science fiction and fantasy books and the books have been, so far, an eclectic mix of genres.  Letting Tor.com pick my reading has exposed me to author's I would never look twice at.  I consider that a good thing.

The latest of these selections is a short novella.  Brooke Bolander's "The Only Harmless Great Thing" is a very strange book.  It took me a while to figure out when and where it was happening.  It is an alternate history taking place in the early twentieth century where the Radium Girls, sentient elephants, radioactivity, and early demonstrations of electricity weave a quirky tale.

I like quirky.  This book was almost too quirky for me but as I figured out what was going on and I sorted out the different threads, the story grew on me.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  Quirky can be difficult but if you stick with it it can become something wonderful.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

So Close And So Poetic

This afternoon was the Nebraska state Poetry Out Loud competition down in Lincoln, NE.  The Wife's student, a freshman with lots of potential, came in second.

Congrats to the Wife for being such an awesome poetry coach! 

My role in all of this was taking pictures and eating the cookies they put out during the intermission.  They were yummy.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Book: Myke Cole's "The Armored Saint"

The third book of the year was a fantasy novel.  Myke Cole's "The Armored Saint" is the first book of a series following a young girl as she fights the religious zealots who control her world.

The world is teetering on the edge of hell, where demons use unknowing wizards to be actual doorways between hell and our world.  The religious zealots known as the Order battle the demons and hunt down and ruthlessly exterminate any wizard who may inadvertently release a demon.  In their zealots they are cruel, corrupt, and abusive to the innocent country folk.

Our hero is a young daughter of an ex soldier.  Her strong will gets her in trouble with the Order and is thrown into a role she may not be ready to accept - leader of a revolution.

This is a typical fantasy story and paints and interesting, if not gloomy, image of the world the characters live in.  It is also a typical eurocentric vision.  While this makes it a bit 'ordinary' is also feels comfortable.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  I may be interested in reading the other two books in this series.

Friday, March 08, 2019

A Night Of Occasional Magic: The Moth At The Rose Theater

I have mentioned before that I listen to Podcasts.  In the past I have experienced a podcast in real life.  For example, we saw a live taping of This American Life at UCLA.  We saw a live taping of This American Life on a movie screen (I can't find a post so I guess I didn't post about it).  Finally, in 2018 we saw Ira Glass live in Omaha.

Yesterday we extended the real world experiences to another podcast, The Moth.  The Moth showcases ordinary people telling true stories about themselves.  The stories are ten to fifteen minutes long, are often humorous, serious, or both, and always interesting.

The very cool exterior
of the Rose Theater.
On Thursday evening The Moth held a main stage event (as opposed to their story slam events) at the Rose Theater.  The event consisted in five story tellers with some link to the area.  The stories varied from collected frosty cups to make airfare, to a descendant of slaves locating documents about their family.  My favorite was from a man living in Alaska doing all the wrong things when he encountered a grizzly bear and in doing so learned a lesson about himself.  The Wife and I both enjoyed the show.

This was the first time in the Rose Theater for me so it was cool to see inside this old theater built in 1926.  Since the theater usually caters to children's theater, this may have been my only chance to see inside.  It's not as spectacular as the Orpheum but it was nice enough.

This was the first Moth show in Omaha.  The Rose appeared sold out so, hopefully, there will be more in the future.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Snowshoeing Iowa: Probably The Last One

I went for my fifth snowshoe of the year this morning.  While we are getting more snow on Thursday, by Saturday temps go above freezing and we get nearly an inch of rain.  Next week is starting to look like a messy mix of snow and rain with above freezing highs most of the week.  This all means that the piles of snow we have everywhere will soon be gone.

Today's snowshoe was around 4 miles (6.4 km).  It was a tough one for me today.  My butt was dragging most of the day.  Not sure why I was so tired today but not even a blueberry muffin could fix me.

I blew a snowshoe - a first for me - and walked a couple steps before realizing that I was missing a snowshoe.  As I was putting my snowshoe back on I noticed a tear in my boot.  It turns out both of my boots had major tears on the leather uppers.  I bought these boots in October 2007 so I got almost twelve years out of them.

With the snow probably going away and my boots giving up the ghost, I think my snowshoeing is done for this winter season.  Hopefully I won't have to wait ten more years before I get to snowshoe again.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Snowshoeing Iowa: Double Or Nothing

Today I did the fourth snowshoe of the year doubling the number of snowshoes I've done in the last ten years.  My eighth snowshoe ever was 5.4 miles (8.7 km) which is also my longest ever.  I also did more elevation this time.  I also saw a lot more snowshoers in the park most likely due to it being the weekend.

I'm not sure how many more snowshoes I'll get in before the thaw finally gets here.  Hopefully a few more this week.