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Showing posts from July, 2018

#26: Ride A Day of RAGBRAI

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I mapped it out, just to be sure and from our drop off point to that beautiful beautiful intersection where The Missus and The Spawn were waiting for me on the other end, I went 51.5 miles on a bike.

I did it. I did a day of RAGBRAI.

I freely admit I was a little bit nervous going into it. I had been training and I had managed to do every distance in between the towns on the day's route, but I hadn't gone out on as many long rides as I would have liked, so I had no idea how the day was going to go. As it turned out, the day went pretty well- and it didn't start getting really hard until the end.

The weather was perfect. There were clouds, a beautiful cool breeze and the day took it's sweet time warming up. We were two miles outside of Harper to start and it was an easy ride into Harper and then it was off to Keota, five and a half miles down the road- which was another relatively easy jaunt, all things considered. I was feeling pretty good about the experience, taking …

This Week In Vexillology #264

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This Week In Vexillology, we're dipping back into the Lost Archives to take a look at the flags of not one, but two Sudans: Sudan and South Sudan. Let's start with the non-directional Sudan:
The current flag of Sudan was adopted following the 1969 military coup of Gaafar Nimeiry- prior to that, they had a blue-yellow-green horizontal tricolor that they used for a flag. The current flag is based off of the Arab Liberation Flag, elements of which can be seen on the flags of Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and the flag of Palestine- the latter of which is almost entirely identical to the flag of Sudan except their 'triangle' is red and the stripe sequence is black-white-green.

The red in the flag represents the struggle for independence and the country's martyrs. The white stands for peace, light and optimism- but it also stands for the White Flag League which was a nationalist group that opposed colonial rule in 1924. The black stands for Sudan (in Arabic, 'Sudan' m…

Boozehound Unfiltered: Roknar Rye

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I made a point of tracking down some Colorado whiskey when we went to Colorado last year, so it only made sense to continue that tradition when we went to Minnesota. I can't remember when exactly I first heard about Far North Spirits- but I do remember that I liked what I heard and wanted to track down a bottle of their Roknar Rye Whiskey.

We've been to the Twin Cities many times over the years and whether it was my early exploration of Surly or other things, Richfield Liquor has been my go-to for many a trip. Just north of the Mall of America, it's conveniently located, right on a highway and relatively easy to find. I headed there first in my quest for whiskey and, shockingly, for the first time ever, struck out. Not to be deterred, I tracked down another liquor store closer to our hotel in Eden Prairie, and where Richfield Liquor had let me down, Eden Prairie Liquor did not and I claimed my prize:
The design of the bottle and label sticks out first. It's clean, mini…

Maybe It's Just Tuesday

I'm sure I'm not the first person to ask this, but you get to thinking, you know. The Missus and The Wee One were away for a weekend up in Des Moines, so it was just me and older two kiddos, hanging out at the mall and as I'm walking down the long spine of the mall where the carousel is along with the other little rides are they wanted to play on when it hit me: is my generation going to be the last generation hang out at the mall?

I mean, malls are nothing particularly special- I'm not sure I'm going to be sorry to see them go, to be honest. They were sort of massive temples of consumerism that seemed to be somewhat struggling with the economic realities of today. They were undoubtedly very cool in the 1980s and when I was growing up- but that was when we had arcades in the mall. That was when you had stores like Sam Goody and B. Dalton and Waldenbooks. That was when Best Buy still sold CDs- which now seem to be heading the way of vinyl.

It's an odd moment to …

Netflix & Chill #46: A Wrinkle In Time

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Watched On: DVD (Redbox)
Released: 2018
Starring: Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Pena, Storm Reid, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Pine
Rotten Tomatoes: 39%
Pick: Mine

I made it a point to read the book before I ever got around to watching this movie and it's still kind of shocking to me that it was as big of a box office disaster as it turned out to be. As adaptations of source material go, this movie does an excellent job bringing the book to life. That's not to say it's a bad movie, however. It just feels a little flat in places- but that's not necessarily it's fault.

The movie opens with thirteen year old teenager Meg Murry (Storm Reid) struggling to adjust to both her school and home life, ever the disappearance of her father, Alex (Chris Pine), nearly five years before. No one is certain what happened to Alex, but Meg and her mother, Kate (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) think that he proved his theory and was transported to another world.

Tha…

This Week In Vexillology #263

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This Week In Vexillology we're doing something a little different. I was digging around for inspiration and I stumbled across this article from io9.com that was published all the way back in 2013 ambitiously entitled The Coolest Flags In Human History. I'm not going to break down every flag on their list- some of them are quite cool and I've done them before like The Most Serene Republic of Venice. Others I own, like British Columbia. Some of are thankfully consigned to the ash-heap of history (Rhodesia and pre-1994 South Africa.) But out of that list, here are two of what I consider to be the coolest:

This, along with Northern Ireland are the two flags of the British Isles that I don't own- and it's probably the one Isle that people outside of the UK probably overlook. Yes, it's the Isle of Man:



How cool is this flag? The central symbol is a triskelion, which features three armored legs with golden spurs on a red background. It's been the official flag of …

Tintin, Ranked

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What can you say about Tintin? He's been around for decades- was one of the most popular comics of the 20th Century. He's spawned a television cartoon (which I remember watching on Nickelodeon) and more recently a movie (two more of which are apparently coming, though it's been awhile since the movie dropped.)

He hasn't been free from controversy- Tintin In The Congo is hard to find these days for a reason, the least of which is (what I'm guessing) the somewhat 'problematic' portrayal of Africans in the Belgian Congo when the reality of that chapter of colonial history was dark indeed. For sure, if there's an aspect of these books that makes me cringe somewhat, it's his portrayal of Africans. Herge's portrayal of Latinx individuals and cultures tends to be a bit better, though his portrayal of indigenous folks and Asians is somewhat mixed. He's excellent in The Blue Lotus, somewhat less so with his portrayal indigenous people in Tintin In Am…

Epic Bookshot #2: The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy

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For my second Epic Bookshot, I spent a few months winding my way back through the zany and humorous science fiction antics of Douglas Adams' Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy. I've always enjoyed these books, but it had been awhile since I had plunged into them- so it was a treat to work my way through them again, especially the last two books: So Long And Thanks For All The Fish and Mostly Harmless. These are the two books I've read the least, especially Fish.

First of all, I suppose we have to touch on what makes this particular 'franchise' so fascinating: it's existed in just about every medium you can think of. It started as a radio show and has continued as a radio show over the years (I still have the cassette tapes we used to listen to on family vacation.) It's been a stage show, comic book, a TV series on the Beeb in 1981, a video game in 1984 and a feature film in 2005. Here's the hook with all of these mediums: every time it's moved i…

Sportsyball: Post World Cup Edition

World Cup: This was a fantastic World Cup. Probably the best I can recall since 1998, which is kind of appropriate since 1998 was the last time France won the whole damn thing. In general, I'm a fan of 'not the usual suspects' winning the whole thing. Italy being out helped that cause. Germany being decidedly non German and losing to both Mexico and South Korea and crashing out in the group stages. Brazil being good but not their usual level of good. Argentina continuing the waste the dwindling prime of Lionel Messi. By the time you got to the semifinals, you had two teams that people expected (France and Belgium) and two more teams that you probably didn't (Croatia and England.)

England was enjoyable to watch. Normally that shouldn't be a sentence that out of the ordinary to type, but England was enjoyable to watch. They had an identity. They had young guys and a refreshing paucity of egos. They were all about pushing forward and trying to score goals. Multiple go…

This Week In Vexillology #262

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It's Bastille Day, so where else are going to turn to but the country of France? Now, we've already looked at The Tricolor itself (and there's really not much more you can say about one of the most iconic flags in the human history- and yes, I'm comfortable putting it right up there with the most important of them) but France has plenty of regional flags that are worth taking a peek at as well and that's where we're going This Week In Vexillology... a delightful trio of French regional flags.

First up, is the flag of Brittany:
Brittany is the administrative region of France that juts out the most to the west...  if you can find Normandy on the map and move southwest, the peninsula you're going to hit is Brittany. The name of the region is derived from the settlers from Great Britain who fled the Anglo-Saxon invasions between the fifth and seventh centuries. As a result, it's maintained a lot of it's Celtic heritage, including a language (Breton) that…

The Virtue of Minding Your Own Business

Dad shaming is now a thing. I'm not sure why it's a thing, but I suppose if Mom-shaming is a thing, it would be inevitable that at some point, Dad-shaming would have to follow. Who is the unlucky Dad who is getting raked over the online coals of outrage? Justin Timberlake, of all people, who had the temerity, the nerve to post a perfectly lovely picture of his kiddo online.
What was wrong with this picture? Well, his son has long hair.
Yeah, that's right. People got all butt hurt and bent out of shape because the kid has long hair.  It's the usual reasons ("boys shouldn't have long hair!" "he looks like a girl!") you are probably thinking and it's incredibly disheartening really, because he seems like a happy enough kid and both Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel seem like doting parents who really love the little dude, but the more I read about it and the more I heard about it, the angrier I got. Why do people care? Why do people feel this …

Road Blog: I-29

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When I drive, I tend to get really quiet and sort of lose myself in the landscape around me for long periods of time. It drives The Missus (and a few other people down the years who have driven with me) a little nuts, because I don't really talk. I mean, I can talk and I do talk, because being silent is boring and sort of impolite when you've got someone sitting next to you, but my default state when I'm driving is usually silence, because I'm just taking it all in.

Roads and driving long distances have been a part of my summer routine ever since I was a kid. We'd be rousted out of bed at about 3 AM and my mother would take the first leg of the driving, taking us across Iowa in the pre-dawn darkness until we would arrive in Omaha where we'd stop for breakfast. I have vivid memories of the road: catching sight of the Rocky Mountains for the first time, coming through the mountains at night and seeing the lights of Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and San Francisco eme…

Netflix & Chill #45: Spider-Man Homecoming

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Watched On: DVD (Redbox)
Released: 2017
Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Pick: Mine

I've been waiting to see this movie for a very long time and I'll just get it out of the way right at the top of the review: I absolutely loved this movie. Instead of yet another origin story, we get a Spider-Man movie. No, 'with great power comes great responsibility' no inevitable romance with Mary Jane Watson. So much baggage that seemed to have weighed down this franchise is jettisoned and what results is probably the best Spider-Man movie to date.

The movie opens immediately in the aftermath of the Battle of New York, which took place in the first Avengers movie. A local salvage contractor, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) is eager to bring in his crew to start cleaning up the Chitauri technology and repairing the damage, but the government has other ideas. Anne Marie Hoag (Tyne Dal…

This Week In Vexillology #261

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We're back! After a much-needed hiatus in June, it's time to hit the ground running with our usual 4th of July Special. As you're reading this, we should be either in the Medium White North or passing through it's neighbor to the southwest, South Dakota. (I don't think we've locked in our final itinerary yet, but we're close. It may or may not include a stop in Sioux Falls.) I did some checking of the archives and it turns out that in the distant past, I knocked off Minnesota in another 4th of July Special, so I can't really do that. (Though adding a flag of Minnesota and a bottle of good Minnesota whiskey are on my wish list for vacation.)

But, let's get to South Dakota:
Right off the bat: Sigh. Another Seal On A Bedsheet. Someday, states are going to start getting better about their flag designs and hopefully we'll see a reversal of this trend, but I'll give South Dakota this: it's not a boring Seal On A Bedsheet. The color is unusual e…

Squawk Box: Troy, Longmire and Babylon 5

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Editor's Note: I'm changing up the format of Squawk Box a bit because I feel like it's getting way too long and way too disorganized and I want to streamline it a bit.

Nerd Watch: Troy, Fall of A City. Y'all. I cannot begin to tell you how much I love The Illiad. When I was a kid, Greek mythology was my jam and The Illiad was the toast on which I smeared it on. I've read a variety of translations multiple time and I have been waiting and hoping for a really good adaptation of The Illiad for most of my life. The movie Troy was disappointing enough that when I saw Troy: Fall of A City appear on Netflix and gave it a try, I was somewhat apprehensive, but by the end of episode one I was all in. This. Was. Incredible.

The show opens with the birth of Paris (Louis Hunter), whose birth is perceived as a curse, thanks to black blood and a vision by a very young Cassandra (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) of the destruction of the city. King Priam (David Threlfall) and Queen Hecuba (Fra…

Bookshot #109: The Left Hand of Darkness

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The Left Hand of Darkness had long been sitting on my bookshelf, part of the long list of books that I was planning to read at some point, but the passing of it's author Ursula K. LeGuin in January finally gave me the motivation to pick it up and actually read it. By all accounts LeGuin was one of the icons of science fiction and it was high time I read at least one of her books. And what a book to read... I don't want to say that it delivered on the hype, because 'hype' strikes me as the wrong word to describe one of the classics of the genre. But after finishing this book, I'd put it right up next to Dune, The Martian Chronicles and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress as a 'must-read' of science fiction.

Set on the icy world of Gethen, where it's always winter, and everyone is always one gender unless they're in 'kemmer' a cycle of sexual receptiveness and high fertility where the residents of Gethen can take on either male or female characterist…

5 for 2018: An Update

2018 is over the halfway mark, so I dug back into the archives to see how I've been doing with the goals I set for myself way back in January. This is what I've found:

1. Getting another tattoo.  Still hasn't happened yet...  I know what I want. I just need to save some ducats and then make an appointment to go get it.

2. Finishing my Year of Books: This year of books thing might stretched into 2019 at this rate. I'm fighting my way through Gravity's Rainbow and I've got a couple of other of these on deck or ready to by read. Progress is being made, books are being read, but this specific list might elude me for another year, but we'll see. 

The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
Catch-22, Joseph Heller
Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
Ulysses, James Joyce
Use of Weapons, Iain M. Banks

3. This is my Year of Health. As usual my health goals start strong and fade as the year goes on. For the back half of the year, I…