Friday, August 18, 2017

This Blog's History: CampQuest Camping

In case you missed it last month, I point you back to the long post I wrote on my daughter's experiences camping at CampQuest last month.  To sum it up, she had an AWESOME time!  For more details on CampQuest and her specific experiences, please view the original post, linked below.

Camping at CampQuest

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Despicable Me 3

While my oldest daughter was at CampQuest, I took my youngest daughter out to the movies to see Despicable Me 3.

It wasn't the best of the Despicable Me movies but it was still a fun movie to watch.  I shouldn't have to refute the bad science in the movie given that it is a superhero/villain cartoon movie, but we live in a world in which climate change is considered a hoax by our President and dismissed by much of the GOP.  We also live in a world in which life saving vaccines are openly attacked and for some reason the flat earth movement is slowly growing.  So let me just say a few things about this movie so everyone is clear.

Bubble gum bombs that lift parts of a city into space DO NOT EXIST!  Villains from the 1980s with cheesy 1980s mustaches DO exist.  :-)  Go out and enjoy this movie!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wonder Woman

Prior to leaving for Scotland we took the kids to see Wonder Woman in the movie theater.  We went in the evening, which is very rare for us, but that was the only available time before leaving for two weeks and we really wanted to see the movie.  Typically we go to the movies on Sunday mornings as our local theater has deep discounts on movies before noon on Sunday's.  When you're buying 4 tickets plus popcorn (I know, I could skip this, but movie theater popcorn is SOOOO good!) the costs add up fast, so the deep discounts are what we go for.

Here's how I'd best sum up Wonder Woman.  AMAZING!  Loved it!  It was great to see DC Comics finally put together a good movie after several sub-par attempts.  It was also great to see a superhero movie with a strong female lead that isn't tied into a male superhero leaving as well.  It's a great message to all girls (and boys too) that women are just as powerful as men, even in a fictional universe.

If you haven't yet watched it, I recommend you do and let your kids watch it.  My kids are 10 and 6 and although there is violence in the movie it is not bloody/gory violence.  People are shot, but no blood or wounds are shown.  People do die, but I didn't find the scenes inappropriate for kids the ages of my kids.  My 6 year old (now 7 as she recently had her birthday) really loved the movie!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Scotland: Blackness Castle

After spending two full days in Edinburgh, we hopped in the car and headed north to Beauly, near Inverness, in the northern highlands of Scotland.  We took our time and stopped at several places along the way, including Blackness Castle, just on the northern outskirts of Edinburgh.  Blackness Castle is a smaller castle than Edinburgh Castle, but much less populated with tourists.  Despite being smaller, it was no less interesting.  It's cheaper to visit, although if you purchase the Explorer's Pass at the start of your trip, you don't have to worry about the cost of visiting many of Scotland's Castles and historic sites.

The tower seen in the images above is open and you can take the stairs to the top for some very good views of the surroundings.  This castle is located on the shore, so you get some great views, including those of the very impressive bridges nearby that carry cars and trains across the waterway, as opposed to having to drive all the way around.  

If in the area on your visit to Scotland, Blackness is another great castle to visit, especially if you have that Explorer's Pass.  Hint hint.  By now it should be clear to you that I'm a big fan of the Explorer's Pass.  :-)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Scotland: Arthur's Seat

After a fun first day in Scotland (in Edinburgh), we spent the second day visiting the other end of the Royal Mile and took a climb to the top of Arthur's Seat.  Arthur's Seat is the highest of a set of hills near Edinburgh.  You can walk to it relatively easily from the end of the Royal Mile opposite Edinburgh castle.  Or you can take a bus (great bus system!) and get pretty close to Arthur's Seat.

It's a relatively steep climb to the top in places, but there are built in stairs.  You can reach the top from several different angles, so don't worry about being on the right side of the hill/mountain when you start.  There are several clear trails all over the place that lead to the top.  

Be aware that it gets extremely windy at the top, especially on an already windy day as it was for us!  The reward, however, is amazing!  Fantastic views from the top and beautiful scenery in all directions.  It's certainly not a disappointment when you get to the top!  There are many, many things to do in Edinburgh.  Arthur's Seat is just one of them, but one that I highly recommend if you are visiting.  

Friday, August 11, 2017

This Blog's History: Evolution Misconception #5 - Long Time Periods

Thus far I've posted five evolution misconceptions.  For This Friday in This Blog's I point you back to the fifth of these evolution misconceptions.  This misconception states evolution ONLY takes place over very long time periods, but that is not the case.  For more, head back to the original post, linked below.

Evolution Misconception #5: Evolution Takes Place Over Long Time Periods Only

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Ticket to Ride - Horrible Geography

Before I jump into the horrible geography aspect of the board game Ticket to Ride, let me be clear that this is an awesome board game.  It's easy to learn, it's a lot of fun, and it's fast paced and games are completed within an hour for most games.  Don't let what I say below stop you from playing Ticket to Ride.  With that disclaimer, take a look at the image below.

It took a couple of games before I noticed the issues with the location of several cities on the game board.  Start with Chicago.  Chicago is in Illinois.  On the board Chicago is inexplicably placed in Indiana.  Boston, located in Massachusetts, appears to be placed in the southern tip of Maine on the board.  Omaha is a city in Nebraska, not in Iowa as shown on the board.  Granted, Omaha is on the Nebraska/Iowa border, but Omaha is a Nebraskan city, not an Iowan city.  The board has Miami located, not on the coast of Florida, but more toward the middle.  In fact, it's closer to the Gulf of Mexico border than the Atlantic Ocean side of Florida it is actually located.  Then there's the state of Minnesota.  Having lived 5 years in Minnesota, I am appalled at the location of Duluth on the board game.  Duluth is located much farther north on the southern tip of Lake Superior.  The city marked on the board is not Duluth, but Minneapolis/St. Paul!!!  Also, New York City appears to be in New Jersey on this board.

There are probably several other geography errors as well that I'm just not catching at the moment.  Again, Ticket to Ride is a wonderful game, but riddled with geography errors and I'm not sure why.  There's no reason for the misplacement of cities and in at least one state, labeling the incorrect city!  Don't let this stop you from playing but please understand that the Ticket to Ride board game should never be used in a geography lesson!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Ticket to Ride

For her birthday, my now 7 year old received the board game Ticket to Ride, among a few other things.  Shortly after receiving it we opened it up and I played a couple of games with her and my 10 year old.  I've never played Ticket to Ride, but wow, what a fun game!

The goal of the game is to earn as many points as possible by connecting cities with train cars.  This is the U.S. map, as shown above.  The game is very easy to learn and takes anywhere from about 30 - 60 minutes to play.  It was very easy for my two kids to pick up after just a few minutes playing.  Despite its ease of learning, there is quite a bit of strategy involved.  Points are awarded for longest continuous train.  Points are lost if you have destination ticket cards left in your hand at the end (when a player runs out of trains).  In addition, blocking other players from completing their tracks can go a long way in helping you earn the most points.  You really have to spend time thinking through each move and thinking ahead several moves if you hope to succeed and win.

My kids love this game, as do I.  I won the first couple of times we played.  One evening we held a family game night and my wife joined us.  With four of us playing, my wife finished 4th and I finished 3rd.  Our two kids beat both of us!!!  LOL!  After the kids went to bed my wife and I played a couple of games together to get more practice!  :-) 

If you're looking for a great gift idea that challenges your kids (adults too!), you can't go wrong with Ticket to Ride!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Scotland: The Real Mary King's Close

Following our Harry Potter Trail tour in Scotland, we proceeded down the Royal Mile to The Real Mary King's Close for our next tour.  Yes, our first day in Scotland was a busy one, but a TON of fun!!!  The Real Mary King's Close is a tour that gives you a great view of 17th century Scotland and the means by which citizens of different economic classes lived.  For the poorer citizens, the living conditions were quite squalid.  The tour gave us a good view of the close (sort of an underground alleyway) and gave a great description of how homes in Edinburgh were built on top of each other due to lack of space.

Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures on this tour, but the image I pulled off the web below gives a good view of what we saw.

There are so many tours you can do in Scotland that it's impossible to hit all of them, but The Real Mary King's Close is an excellent tour I highly recommend if you have the time.  The tour guide did an excellent job and mixed in the perfect dose of humor to make this not only an educational tour but a fun tour as well!  

My only complaint is the online booking process.  You have to book early and if you are only in Edinburgh for a day or two as we were, you don't have the option of booking onsite.  When booking online, our booking kept failing.  After checking that my credit card wasn't being declined, I learned that the likely culprit is the tour I was trying to book was full, so the payment wasn't being processed.  The time of the tour online showed as being open, but I did get a message that one reason my payment was canceled was possibility due to an already booked tour.  In other words, the website was not keeping up with which tours were open/closed.  I kept trying to book a closed tour even though the website said it was an open tour.  Aside from that, this was an excellent tour.  

Monday, August 7, 2017

Solar Eclipse Viewing Glasses

Today marks the two week mark before the great summer solar eclipse of 2017.  This will be the first total solar eclipse to cross through the lower 48 states in several decades, so naturally quite a few people are very excited, including my family and me!!!  When viewing a solar eclipse, there are safety precautions you must take to avoid long term damage to your eyes.  When viewing the eclipse directly, you must be looking through the proper filter.  Fortunately solar eclipse filters are very cheap and its easy to get your hands on some without spending much.

First check with your local library and/or local college/university.  It's quite possible they are doing a program and have acquired several for free to hand out.  If you can't find any for free, try these:

Eclipse Glasses - CE and ISO Certified Safe Solar Eclipse Shades - Viewer and filters (5 Pack) - Made in USA

I could have found glass a bit cheaper per pair but I've heard stories of some filters being sold without the proper filter protection.  Therefore I wanted to make sure I was buying something safe.  This particular product is produced by Rainbow Symphony, one of just four companies approved by NASA as selling proper solar eclipse eye protection.  Thus I felt justified in spending a few pennies more per pair.

There are still two weeks left to go before eclipse day is here, so if you don't have your glasses yet, don't worry, you still have time.  But don't wait too long!!!