Friday, April 24, 2015

X From Outer SPAAAAACE ... And A Trivia Question Too!?!

Thew Wife went to a sale at her old school a while back and bought some treasures.  For me, she bought an old board game.  I'm not a fan of games but the subject matter is hilarious.  The game is called "X from Outer Space".  I love it!

The game isn't complete.  A couple of the playing pieces are missing and the dice are missing but that's okay because what is left is awesome.
The surviving player pieces.  Why X looks like a bird is a mystery.
The game is about an alien - a Bisnipian named 'X' naturally - who is visiting our solar system.  It is our mission to give X a guided tour ... in our "space mobile".  Meanwhile a "space agent" named Quatz (always with the Qs and Zs ... so typical) is chasing X for no known reason.  Along the way the players have to pick either Planet Zoomer or Black Hole cards which help you move ahead or backward respectively.  The cards are by far my favorite thing about the game since they are soooo cheesy.  Here are a few examples:
X From Outer Space - Planet Zoomer
The awesome Planet Zoomer cards.
X From Outer Space - Black Hole
The awesome Black Hole cards.
My favorites are:
 "X finds a gizmo to fix the whatsit"
 "Agent Quatz' boomerang whomps you back," 
Who would have thought that Agent Quatz was Australian and I'm surprised it wasn't a space boomerang.

Now, a trivia question.  One of the cards shown above is a homage to Star Trek.  If you are 'game' leave a comment naming the card and explaining how it is connected with Star Trek.  No fair using a search engine.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Book: Florian Illies' "1913: The Year Before The Storm"

I have read several books this year that weren't what I expected.  I read the summaries and, thinking I know what the books are about, I check them out of the library just to discover that they are not what I thought they were.  Florian Illies' "1913: The Year Before the Storm" was the third book this year that surprised me ... in a not so good way.

I was expecting a book that discussed the conditions in 1913 that led up to the start of World War I in the following year.  That was what the book was about ... sort of.  The book concentrates on the lives of socialites and artists - painters, authors, poets, composers - in the year leading up to the war.  Each chapter covers a month.  Each chapter is broken up into sections covering each artist's or socialite's life during the month.

While I will admit this is a new and somewhat original approach, I really wasn't interested in the neurotic and mentally twisted lives of German and French artists.  Getting through this book was a struggle at times.  I kept hoping that, as we got closer to 1914, things would get more interesting but that was not to be.  Perhaps the most interesting thing, mentioned sparingly throughout the book, was what Adolf Hitler was up to during this year ... namely selling mediocre watercolors.

In the end what I learned from this book was that artist are often strange people.  I also learned that, even as the Great War approached, people's lives just carried on like the outside world didn't exist.

I was generous and gave this book three stars on Goodreads.  It was not the book's fault that I had rushed to select this book without adequately researching it first.  I'll have to be more careful with my future reading selections.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

I'm Having A MARVELous Time!

I recently finished watching Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix.  Loved it.  It's a wonderful time to be a comic book lover.  All of us kids at heart are reliving our comic book days - for me these were mostly my college days not being that much into comics in my tweens.

Now just look around.  Spider Man, X-Men, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Agents of Shield, and Daredevil!    Soon Avengers 2: Age of Ultron comes out.  Then Ant Man.  Several more shows on Netflix.  Marvel's plans go on and on for years.  I'm in comic nirvana.

The comic world is so simple.  There is good and evil.  They fight.  In the end good triumphs and evil slinks off to the shadows to lick their wounds.  Everything is so clean compared to the real world where the line between good and evil is not a line but a fuzzy, undulating, ever changing hazy world painted in shades of grey.  Maybe that's why the comic movie genre has taken off in the past few years - we are all in need of some pure shades of black vs white to return some sanity to our lives ... even if it isn't real.

I have to admit that I regress several years when I'm watching this stuff.  Some of that childish wonder resurfaces.  It never has gone away, it just gets buried and suppressed by the responsibilities of being an adult.  These brief exposures of boyhood (or college) feelings are always welcome and oh so refreshing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Camp #F (... Or #6 If You Prefer)

The sign directing me to my campsite.
Yesterday I went on my first camping trip of the year.  I decided to get one in early to make up for not having one last November.  I went to what appears to be my favorite place to camp since I've already camped there twice before: Hitchcock Nature Center.  The actual reason is that it's close by and convenient.

My first camp was at Hitchcock on the Westridge trail.  Last night's camp was at another campsite along the same trail.  The views are similar with unobstructed views to the west.  All of Hitchcock's campsites include a sand pad for pitching your tent and a metal fire pit/grill.  The only thing missing is a comfortable place to sit.  Both the sand pit and fire pit have logs surrounding them but they can be uncomfortably low to the ground.  I prefer Preparation Canyon's picnic tables.  I guess I'm spoiled.

The tent went up first.  It was a bit breezy but nothing I couldn't handle.  I did have to dig into the sand to find firm dirt to push my tent stakes into.  I had the same issue my first camp.

After the tent came a little wandering around to see what was nearby.  There is a game trail that takes you to a nice view point.   The sun was reflecting off of water standing in farm fields - pretty.   As the sun went down, despite the distance, you could hear the chirping of frogs in the water.  Turkeys and a lone woodpecker finished nature's symphony that night.

I made dinner - Spaghetti.  I'm still using my original gas canister in my camp stove.  This is my fifth meal (I skipped a hot meal on my fourth camp).  I hope to get at least six meals out of the canister.  Since I don't drink coffee and am planning to limit myself to one hot meal per day on multi-day camping trips, one cannister should be enough for both Rocky Mountain National Park and the Appalachian Trail (where I will stop in town once every six days or so) ... though I will most likely carry an extra canister anyway.
Camp #6 2015-04-13_025
The Sunset.
The sun started going down and I started collecting firewood and kindling.  There was a lot of wood around left there either by the Hitchcock folks or other campers.  I used one vaseline soaked cotton ball to get the fire started.  It was one of the easiest fires I've ever started.  I'll have to buy a flint and steal to see if I can get a fire started that way.  They say the vaseline soaked cotton ball is very good at catching a spark.  Maybe for my next camping trip.
Camp #6 2015-04-13_026
My campsite in the setting sun.
I spent the rest of the evening tending the fire and reading.  The stars came out but there was a high altitude haze that kept them dull.  It started to chill so I got in my sleeping bag early and read a little in my tent before falling asleep.  It hit the low 40s overnight.  I started out too warm - I think I overdressed for the night with long john bottoms and a fleece jacket.  In the wee hours of the morning I was dressed just fine.  Snug like a bug in a rug.  (I did find a tick on me earlier before I went to bed but I left it out in the cold.)  I did discover that an over-inflated air pad will end up giving me an aching back.  I need to remember to let out a little air to soften it up a bit.

My next camp will be sometime in May.  I think it may be a return to Indian Cave.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Book: Elizabeth Kolbert's "The Sixth Extinction"

I've been reading a lot of non-fiction lately.  My latest read, Elizabeth Kilbert's "The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History" was an interesting read.

The book covers, briefly, the five mass extinctions that have occurred over the last 500 million years or so.  The title refers to the current uptick of extinctions that may be part of a sixth mass extinction, this one caused by human activities.

The book chapters each cover one species of animal currently living or long extinct and shows how human activity, such as inadvertently or purposefully moving species around the world, has contributed to the problem.  These transplanted species, such as the fungus that is killing off frogs or the one killing off bat populations, transported around the world hitchhiking on our global trade, cause havoc in a places where there is no natural immunity or predator.

Humanity has reached a point in its evolution where we are making global changes to our only home.  If we are not careful we could become one more victim of our own creation: the sixth mass extinction.

I gave this book four stars on Goodreads because of its thought provoking topic.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Halfway To The Benjamin

Eight years ago, when Homer's Travels was less than a year old, I started to allow advertising.  I mentioned it here and here.

Google Adsense advertisements pay out once a month when the total is at least $100.  As of this month I have reached $50!!!  Half way there baby!  Can't wait the pay out in 2023!

By some coincidence, my deferred government pension starts the same year.  Now, what should I do with my $100 bonus?

Monday, April 06, 2015

Book: Matt Richtel's "A Deadly Wandering"

My latest read was a bit disappointing.  Matt Richtel's "A Deadly Wandering: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention" was not what I'd expected.  I thought it would be about how our technology was shortening, or at least affecting, our attention span.  It turns out, while about half of the book was about the neuroscience of attention, the other half of the book was about one texting while driving incident.

There are interesting things in the book but I couldn't help thinking that it felt like a bastardization of a padded magazine article and an episode of Dateline.  The author hashed, and rehashed, the accident details over and over again.  He went into the history and early childhood development of nearly everyone involved in the accident including the lawyers, victim's advocate, and their spouses.  By the end of it all I knew way too much about these people.  It left me feeling a bit 'Meh'.

I still gave this book three starts on Goodreads.  It wasn't bad, per se, but it was not a satisfying read either.