Monday, July 9, 2012

What I Did On My Summer Vacation, Part the Second- with cute babies, bird and human

We spent the last few days with our oldest daughter and her family in Schaumburg, IL (west of Chicago). They have a 9 month  old baby boy. It was great to spend some time with them. We did a little shopping, went to a (rather lame) Fourth  of July carnival, tasted some wine, and had a nice little visit. We did manage to get out for bike rides every morning. Schaumburg (and the area) is very bike friendly, with trails and bike paths all over. We did several different trails.

The only down side was the heat. Temps were in the high 90's most days, and hit over 100 more than once. We got up early to do the bike rides, since I really did not want to be out there when the temps hit 92 at 10 AM. Lots of water, and reasonble rest breaks, and we managed to do several 10-12 mile rides, and two at 6 or so miles. Which  is good because-

We had dinner on Thursday night at Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill in Chicago. John stayed home with the baby, since he is teething and is a bit on the cranky side, especially when he gets tired (the baby, not John!). It was a bit of a downer not having all of them with us, but it was really nice having dinner with Jill. It was really, really good! Jill had a tuna tartare that was like butter it was so fresh. My appetizer was smoked salmon- wow! For entrees, we chose from the trios menus- three diffferent samples of thier main dishes. I had the street food sampler- short ribs, duck, and goat cheese. Really delicious. Well worth it, all the way.

And now the picture tour:

Carter, busy doing baby things:

Carter with Grandpa:
 Along one of the rides in Schaumburg:

 Yes, there is a great blue heron waaaaaaay over there-

 A cormorant on the water:

On our last ride, we stopped for a rest and water break at a picnic pavillion. We were strafed by a flock of swallows, who flew around and around and into the pavillion, over and over:

And then we figured out why:

(It's a bit drk, but yes, a nest. There was one in every corner joist. This one originally had two little birds but I guess they were close to fledging because a moment later:)

We took the video and pics and left them alone. But they are cute!

Now we are in Ohio (I type this on Saturday, Jly 7). Dinner at one of Michael Symon's B-Spot burger places tonight. Yummy!!! Tomorrow, we head to Endicott, NY to spend a few days with the BaldMan's parents, then home on Tuesday. It has been a really nice couple weeks, and I have enjoyed all of it, but it will be good to be home.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi

RedshirtsRedshirts by John Scalzi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"This is where it gets really crazy."

Those or similar words are spoken by more than one of the characters in this book, but they never get tired sounding because, no matter how crazy things are, they do get even more so every time.

The story is (on the surface) fairly straightforward. Andrew Dahl has been assigned to the Universal Union flagship Intrepid. It is a prime assignment, and Andrew is thrilled to be given the chance to work in the xenobiology lab on the top starship in the fleet. The excitement starts to wear thin, however, as Andrew begins to discover some disturbing things about the Intrepid. The crew seems to have an extraordinarily high rate of deadly encounters with alien life forms, the top officers, while always involved in the dangerous missions, are never harmed, and there is always a fatality, usually among the lower ranking ensigns. As Andrew digs into these anomalies, he and a few friends begin to discover some unbelievable things about the ship and crew.

Any more would run into spoiler territory, and it would be a shame to ruin an extremely entertaining read for anyone. I simply did not want to stop reading the book, and finished it in about two days.

Anyone familiar with the Star Trek universe will catch onto the reference in the title, and, in part, this is a story about those all to familiar "redshirts," but it is far more than that. The plot is clever and engaging, the action moves along at a fair pace, with only a few slower sections, and the characters are likable and well-drawn. Sci-fi fans will see some familiar types, but each one is more than a stereotype.

One of the most interesting things to me was the "three codas" that end the book. Not only do they tie the individual stories together to a complete whole, but they also address, to a point, the question of what happens after Happily Ever After? The events of a story do not only impact the main characters, but also some of the secondary people that get pulled in. And we, as readers, rarely see how the consequences impact those characters. The main story works out well, and with the three additional pieces tie things up for several others, as well. I found them to be interesting and a nice addition to the main story.

This a fun book, that most sci-fi fans will enjoy, both for the familiar concepts that support the main plot, and for the original and fun treatment of them. Very much recommended!

View all my reviews

Monday, July 2, 2012

What I Did On My Summer Vacation- Part the First (Including Sasha, the Three-Legged Kitty)

We spent a few days just outside of Syracuse, NY with the Baldman's sister and her husband. We always enjoy visiting with them, whether at their house or ours. They live in the Finger Lakes wine region, so, of course, we went on a tasting tour, and got to wineries we had not been to before, as well as a couple of craft breweries. Rather than go on in words, I will post some pictures of our days in NY.

The entrance to Montezuma Winery

Entryway water feature at Montezuma

 View of Cayuga Lake from a winery deck

 Grapes in the vineyard

 Taughannock Falls. This is what happens when there isn't enough snowfall over the winter

One of the craft brewers we visited. We tasted 12 beers between the two of us, and, while there were some I liked better than others, there wasn't a really bad one in the  bunch


 A neat painted bench  on the grounds of the New York Wine and Culinary Institute

 The BaldMan and I

 View of Canandaigua Lake

 Sasha, who had one rear leg amputated because of a tumor. As you see in the video below, it hasn't slowed her down! And she is a sweet kitty, too! The video is a bit dark, and I apologize for that, but you can see her run after that laser!