Friday, August 28, 2015

1991-06-25 - Train Trip - Day 2

Day 2 of our trip across the country took us through downtown Lafayette, IN. You can hear part of the comment I make about robbing the bank in town and hopping on the train to make a getaway. I think I had a few too many plots from Westerns running through my head at the time. But it was neat to just roll through this city like we owned the place. Of course we were on a train so people gave us the right-of-way but you know what I mean. It was like we were important people and everybody was looking at us. I'm not sure if the train still goes through the city like it did then.

Next up was Dyer, IN where we got off the train. My Uncle Phil picked us up at this tiny station that was more of a road crossing with a bus stop vestibule there. I'm guessing it was a commuter lot of some sort so people could ride the train into Chicago for work. You can hear Phil questioning me like normal about the trip. He was always full of questions. And jokes.It was great to hear his voice again for a change.

Phil and Diana lived in Homewood, IL. It's the source of many of my childhood memories involving the Lester family. One of them is in this video where I play wiffle ball with my cousin Eric. That's right, he hit the ball so hard it went ping. I'm sure the electrical tape on the bat helped. But we played countless games of home run derby in the little front yard and it always spilled out into the island in the street.

The best part of the shot is cousin Glenn. I have no idea how old he is but he's carrying a case of beer. Then proceeds to tell a wonderful story about puking in the baseball stadium and Eric giving directions back to his house. In the background is Aunt Diana having a great laugh about it.

And thus ends the day.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Nosy Neighbors Are Good

Well, maybe nosy neighbors aren't great, but they can be a good thing. Yesterday was proof of that.

After a bit of work stress built up, I went outside for a quick bike ride around the neighborhood. This is pretty normal and it helps me a lot. Not only do I get to clear my head but I get some fresh air and a little exercise. The route is usually only a mile or so long and doesn't take me long.

As soon as I got on my bike, I smelled some smoke. It didn't smell like wood smoke or even leaves burning, but more acrid like burning plastic or rubber. I saw no smoke and the smell wasn't that bad so I continued on my merry way. By the time I got a quarter mile down the road, I could see some light smoke coming from a neighbor's house. It wasn't heavy and I just assumed they were burning something in their burn pile which they occasionally do.

I headed around the loop and didn't think much of it other than maybe going a little slower when I went by their house just to be nosy. By the time I got back around, there was a thick, black column of smoke coming from behind the house instead of their burn pile. My dad's truck was in their driveway and I could see him walking around the house.

My Spidey senses went off so I rolled into the driveway to see what was up. Within a few minutes we determined that nobody was home, there was a small debris pile on fire, and that the fire department needed to come. So as he walked to dispatch, I drove his truck back to my house to grab a fire extinguisher.

I managed to put a good dent in the fire which had continued to grow in size and intensity in just the few minutes I was gone. It had gone from a smallish fire with heavy smoke to large flames with heavy smoke and started to creep up the porch post.

The fire department arrived in a few minutes and quickly doused the flames. Dad and I left our contact info as they were mopping up and then we left. Still no word on what happened but the best guess is a large projection TV was left outside (unplugged) and the clear plastic screen acted as a magnifying glass and started the fire.

In the end, my dad's curiosity saved her house. I'm not sure I would have arrived in time to do that especially since I didn't have my phone on me. My getting the fire extinguisher saved her porch. If we had just sat there and waited for the fire department, it would have caught fire before they arrived. And the fire department obviously saved the day. The fire extinguisher only put a dent in the flames but they made sure everything was clear.

So nosy neighbors do help and can be a good thing. Not necessarily a great thing, and maybe sometimes annoying, but they can be good.

This marks the second active fire that I can remember being a part of. It was the smallest and the only one I helped put out. The other fire was way back in my college days where a dorm three floors below us caught fire and we had to evacuate the building. It was a scary night.

One of the many things to take away from this is you should always know where your fire extinguisher is. And know your address. And carry your phone with you. Some of these lessons should be taught to your kids at a young age.

Finally, I'm extremely happy with what happened yesterday. No, not that some lady's junk burned up. Or that I get the chance to make myself look like a hero. I'm happy that I did the right thing. There are so many times in my every day life that I don't do the right thing or do the easy thing instead of what needs to be done. There's a book or story or something about there about the dog poop and who is going to pick up it. I hate it but it teaches a good lesson. Sometimes you need to just stop and do the right thing. Even if that means it's uncomfortable or dirty. And in those few moments, I made the right decision. And that's what makes me so happy.

If you're interested in somebody that's even better at doing the right thing all the time, check out Wranglerstar's YouTube channel. He does a lot of homesteading videos but his most recent ones are of him fighting forest fires in Washington.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Bazooka Gum and Running

Friday was a fun-filled day of getting the kids to school for their Open House. We got to meet their new teachers for the year, drop off their supplies, and freak a few people out. After that, I came home and got on my bike for what would be the longest bike ride I have ever done. 40 miles. My ass is still sore but it was worth it.

Along the way I got the chance to see part of the county that I haven't seen in years. The highlight of the trip was seeing Buddy's Supperette, which was a highlight of my childhood. I'd get to stop there most of the time we went by to get some Bazooka gum. It was a small treat but it was cool. I mean, the gum was hard as a rock but you got a cool little comic strip with it. After the short stop, we'd continue to the small field where my dad would fly ultralights.

Shortly after stopping there for a quick break, I nearly got my ass ran over by some idiot in a black town car who refused to slow down, yield, pass safely, or just be a cool dude. Instead he was a complete dick and would have lost his window had I not been so focused on being pissed at him. And, to top it off, he turned 15 seconds after he passed me. This is why I feel safer as a pedestrian.

After a very long ride and a very sore rear, I cleaned up and went to dinner. I didn't eat all the food but I seriously thought about it.

Today was filled with running and walking. I headed out to join the local Cross Country team for a workout but didn't have 8 miles in me. So I did about 3 and headed home. After breakfast, I headed back out on the trail and got a few more miles of walking in. Along the way I think I hit every damn spiderweb in the park. Sheesh.

But I also found a shortcut. And even though it spit me out on what was actually a closed trail, I felt comfortable in knowing where I was. Unlike when I was on the bike and was a bit lost a few times. Again. Seems like I need more maps when I ride than when I run.


Temps yesterday and today were about the same, about 70F to 80F. Humidity was low but it was a bit clammy this morning. Sun was out in full both days with a slight breeze.

Fluids and Fuel:
Yesterday was breakfast like normal but no lunch, which was about the time I left for my ride. During the ride I had a bottle of GenUCAN, a bottle of Hammer Fizz, two applesauces, an iced tea, and a bottle of GenUCAN Hydrate. Recovery was a dinner of shrimp tacos, white rice, chips, and fried ice cream.

Today was a few sips of coffee, my run, a recovery of a full breakfast. Breakfast was two English muffins, two eggs, two slices of bacon, and coffee. Then I did my walk followed by a recovery of tart cherry juice, iced tea, and eventually a lunch of two BLTs with chips and a cherry Coke. During the run I had plain water and during the walk I had plain water and an applesauce.

Aches and Pains:
Nothing really. Except my ass. That still hurts. And some mild chafing.

No special gear but I did carry my ASP. After my close call with the asshole, I switched it to my left pocket so I can grab it and hit a car if need be.

Yesterday's and Today's Motivation:
I knew the 22 miles on my plan wasn't going to happen but I felt like riding. So I tried to challenge myself to doubling my run plan on the bike. I made it home with 38+ miles so I cranked out another loop around the hood just to hit that 40 mile mark.

Naughty Neil:
Well, the ice cream wasn't a great idea but I was hungry. Damn hungry.

Bike - 40 miles - 3:47:30
Run - 3.5 miles - 42:47

Walk - 3.87 miles - 1:38:05

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

1991-06-24 - Train Trip - Day 1

It was June 24, 1991 and I was about to embark on a journey across the country. A trip that I had taken many times before with my father but this time we were taking the train. We left from Fredericksburg, VA and made it to Alexandria, VA before being delayed due to a chemical spill of some sort. I couldn't find any reference to it in the local papers.

As you can tell from the expression on my face, an expression that will be seen countless times through all of these videos, I was not at all pleased to have my father shove a camera in my face. Granted, it wasn't one of those giant camcorders that needed a VHS tape, but still. The constant nagging to "say something" and "speak up" still get on my nerves 24 years later. But after frequent viewings, I'm slowly developing some thick skin.

For those watching, the only editing done was to split this into individual days. So all those beeps and clunks and blue screens are left in there. I thought about editing them out but figured I would keep them in as original condition as possible.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Busy Weekend

I'm not sure I'll remember every little tidbit of what we did this weekend so I'll hit the highlights of what I can remember. And throw some photos in there to make things interesting.

Saturday was a girls vs. guys day. While the ladies of the house went shopping, did some super-secret-stuff, and met us for lunch, the guys went to the gun show, John Deere dealer, and talked. In fact, my dad and I talked so much, William complained that he didn't get a chance to say anything. Which is hilarious because it's usually him that talks so much we can't get a word in edge-wise.

While we were at lunch at Goolrick's, I used the bathroom. I know, not exactly what you needed to hear about but it was my first time. So I had a pleasant surprise when I walked to the back of the building and saw this cool safe.

After that, we got our groceries and headed home. After a short break, we went back out into the wild and had a good time at a local car show. The owner of a 1974 VW Beetle offered William $100 if he could find the radiator. Well, he had no idea what that was but after walking around a bit more I showed him one. He promptly went back to the guy and asked if his offer was still good. It was so he looked all around the engine. I finally gave him my only hint. Turns out neither of us knew it was a trick question and that the engine was air cooled and there was no radiator. After seeing the look on William's face, he was nice enough to allow him to sit inside.

Sunday was full of exercise. Elizabeth dragged my butt out of bed and we went running bright and early. Then it was breakfast (sweet rolls) then after breakfast settled, it was off on a bike ride with William. Both of them were troopers and we had a great time. Most of the photos I took were at his direction.

When we got back, I got to work on cutting the grass and trimming up some of the crab apple tree branches. William helped out a bit and earned a few dollars. Then we went to the pool and chilled out, then home for dinner, then bed. I was pooped by the end of the day. And a little sunburned. But it was worth it. Great weekend that was fun and productive.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Review - Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

It's been ages since I've done a full-on book review. So let's start it in style with the evening TV lineup of August 5, 1985.

No, this isn't the full list of channels that were available. The guide went on to include several PBS stations, a few independent stations, and cable channels. But we didn't have cable. And our antenna wasn't big enough to get those independent channels. And of the PBS channels we did get, they were either fuzzy with static or chock-full of boring programs. I mean, what kid wants to watch the MacNeil Lehrer News Hour? Maybe Alex P. Keaton.

Anyway, what you see above is what I had to pick from. More than what I had to pick from really since we only got channel 4 (NBC), 5 (FOX), 7 (ABC), and 9 (CBS). The big four networks. I can remember watching a lot of different shows as a kid and a few of them are listed here. Happy Days. Mork & Mindy. One Day At A Time. M*A*S*H. The rest of the stuff was after my bedtime. I mean, it was 1985 so I wasn't even 10 years old yet.

So what does this trip down memory lane have to do with Ernie Cline's book? A shit-ton. A metric shit-ton. Ready Player One is a book set in the future that lives in the past. The future is bleak with starvation, over-population, and crime being the norm. It's no wonder everyone wants to escape into the online world of OASIS where you can be anyone you want to be.

Surely there is some hidden or layered meaning behind the dark future and the politics that play out within OASIS, but I ignored it. I've been a fan of dystopian stories for decades so reading another one was nice. At least at the start. Later in the book the real world was a little forgotten and I wanted to see more of it. But maybe that was the hidden tale of the future that I ignored.

OASIS is basically a giant alternate universe that's online. Everyone logs in and lives there life online. Kind of like the Sims or World of Warcraft, but on steroids. Kids go to school here, people wage wars, use magic, live in the past, and anything else you can think of. For a gaming nerd, this book is heaven. For a non-gaming nerd, this book is still easy to understand.

The basic plot is the standard trope of a young kid getting sucked into an adventure. A trope that's often overused but is still believable and easy to relate to. The MacGuffin, yet another standard tool in storytelling, is introduced when the guy behind OASIS dies. His last wish is to send everyone on a grand adventure to find three keys and three gates. If you make it to the end, you win. If you win, you get to become the richest person on the planet.

Along the way the kid gets sucked into all sorts of schemes and plots in both OASIS and real life. Cline does a good job keeping the reader engrossed with action and 80s trivia. Music, movies, TV shows, video games, and anything else that could be found in the 80s played a key role in the book. Even though I never played that many video games as a kid, I was never really lost when I read the book. I'm sure a few references went over my head but it never took me out of the story.

In the end the kid wins. If you didn't see it coming, well, you're clearly not familiar with that trope either. I mean, the good guy always wins, right?

Would I recommend the book? Absolutely. I'd even go so far as to make it required reading for anyone that was a kid in the 1980s because, well, it's just nice to take a trip down memory lane sometimes.