Sunday, May 31, 2015

"All That Came Before" Quest

The first quest we attempted had a history theme.  This quest was initially released at the start of January and was scheduled to be archived at the end of May.  That meant we really had to hustle to complete all the activities in only one week before the month ended. The information below shows the requirement for each of the main quest categories and what we did to satisfy the requirement.

MEDIA – Watch History
We had our choice of 3 documentaries to watch and we chose Mental:A History of the Madhouse by Chris Boulding and The BBC.

Martini Man's comments:

I viewed Mental and it was shocking (truly no pun intended). The discussions as well as the visuals about ECT were disturbing, as were many of the other sequences about other forms of "treatment".  The overarching theme I gleaned was that the UK seesawed as much as the USA did when it came to treatment of the mentally ill. The asylum system was demeaning as it was here, but the government reliance on so called community care was just cost shifting. So instead of being institutionalized, the mentally ailing get tossed on the street. Neither approach seems acceptable to me.  Nonetheless, a very interesting documentary.

Wisconsin Hiker's comments:
I watched "Mental" and was surprised to hear how long the asylums were open. The history of various treatments throughout the years was very interesting (but chilling). It is hard to know what the best approach is for dealing with people that have mental illness. The first issue is to accurately determine what type of problem they actually have, then what the best treatment is based on current science, and then how/where can they live to have the best life possible, yet not be a threat to innocent people. I wonder if any country has come up with a solution....

LITERATURE – Radioactive Read
"Writer and artist Lauren Redniss has created a unique work difficult to categorize. A blend of original art, photographs, graphics and text, “Radioactive” — the first “visual book” to be named a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction — is meant to be both read and experienced. She even created a typeface that makes you think the printed words were done by hand.  Her subject is Marie Curie, the most iconic of women scientists, and her husband, Pierre. The facts of their lives have been distilled to the absolute essence, yet embellished with well-chosen quotations that establish the emotional currents the couple experienced as the years progressed."  -Marcia Bartusiak, Washington Post

Martini Man's comments:It was a very interesting read. Being already aware of the Curies' place in scientific history, I was still surprised at the contributions their descendants made as well. Their emotional trials as well as the physical sacrifices they ended up making in the name of science made for a compelling story. I also enjoyed the many related sidebar stories the author inserted to place the Curies' story in context and to further the explanation of what it meant to be radioactive. Interesting book construction as well.

Wisconsin Hiker's comments:
I also really enjoyed this book. The personal stories made the scientists come to life and I liked that the condensed story-line was supplemented with excerpts from letters and diaries. I got a kick out of some of the humor and phrasing, such as the answer to this query on page 125: "Who wouldn't rejoice in the union of Paul and Marie - a coupling of giants?"
The side stories related to radiation were quite interesting, but occasionally they seemed more an awkward interruption rather than part of the flow. Once again these were a nice mix of synopsis supplemented by actual documents. My great grandparents were born in Poland, so I am going to look up some of the Polish authors on pages 66-67 to see if I can find any of their work translated to English.
And of course the artwork was great and well worth spending some time looking at. My husband even pointed out that the book glowed in the dark - maybe some "undark" paint on the cover?!?
Thank you Quest Scouts for bringing this book to our attention!

VISIT – Day at the Museum
Our mission was to visit a history museum and take note of at least three interesting facts.

Martini Man: WiHi and I visited the Milwaukee County Historical Museum today. It's located in a beautiful old bank building complete with the vaults and a very ornate and beautiful ceiling. The whole building is very open and quite pretty. The exhibiting however seemed a little lighter in content then we remember from past visits. But we made the most of it.

So here's three facts I came up with.

  1. After looking at an exhibit about illegal booze making in the 1920's, I learned that the famous temperance zealot Carrie Nation had the following opinion of Milwaukee due to it's culturally sympathetic stance towards alcohol. "If there is any place that is hell on Earth, it is Milwaukee". Nice......
  2. There were quite a few exhibits dedicated to the concept of Milwaukee as the "City of Festivals". I'd heard the phrase before and thought this was just marketing hype. But the exhibits showed that Milwaukee had a long tradition of festivals. One interesting fact was that the first ethnic festival held in Milwaukee was in 1852. It was mainly started by the German immigrants here who constituted much of Milwaukee's original population. This first festival drew about 10,000 visitors to what was a "May Fest" or a traditional German celebration of the arrival of spring.
  3. Milwaukee does have many strains of ethic folk fests that go on all summer long. One of them is Indian Summer and is a celebration of native American culture. I've never been, but this seems like a deficit on life experience I need to address. What caught my eye in the exhibit about this fair was its claim to be "the largest Native American gathering of its kind in the country". Some "wiggle words" in there, but it still sounds like there's a lot going on there of interest to someone like myself who enjoys history and culture.
Next summer I think we will have to make an effort to hit ALL the ethnic fests at Summerfest.

Wisconsin Hiker: We visited the Milwaukee County Historical Society today. It is located in an ornate building that used to be a bank (a bank robbery scene in the movie Public Enemies was shot here). Here are three things I learned at the museum:
  1. During prohibition, grape farmers made "wine bricks" out of grape concentrate and sold them with warning labels: "Warning. Do not place this wine brick in one gallon of water, stir and let sit in warm temperatures for 10 days, or it might ferment and turn into wine."
  2. The first Wisconsin State Fair was held in Janesville in 1851 and one of the attractions was a 200 lb squash.
  3. The land on Lake Michigan's lakefront that is now home to all the big Milwaukee festivals was actually an airport for over 20 years and then was a Nike missile base until 1969.

TRAVEL- Traveling to History’s Marks
Wisconsin Hiker:
My husband & I have really been enjoying working on our first Quest - "All That Came Before". We rode our bikes one evening this week to visit three historical markers near our house. Yesterday we stopped at another one while driving home and today we visited a few more after our workout at the YMCA. Here is the first of three I am submitting as the TRAVEL component of the quest.

1. City of Brookfield marker gives a very brief summary of the history of our suburb located west of Milwaukee, WI. It is in a city park less than 3 miles from our house.

2. "Ma" Ingalls was the first settler born in the area we live. She was the mother of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of the "Little House" series. This marker is less than 4 miles from our house.

3. Aitken Brothers Birthplace: This was a bit of local history that neither my husband nor I was aware of - some renowned movie producers raised cattle less than 4 miles from our house!

Martini Man:

Over the last few days, my wife and I went around our home town of Brookfield, Wisconsin to visit historical sites, working on our first badge, All That Came Before. Here's the highlights:

Oak Hill Cemetery. This is a cool little cemetery we always pass and it has not only the Revolutionary veteran, but many Civil War veterans as well.  Small, but nicely maintained.

We also visited the grounds of the Dousman - Dunkel House and Museum in Brookfield. On the grounds is a very old log cabin dated back to the 1850's that was the first home of William Donaldson. If you look behind the sign you can see where the historical society has exposed some of the original logs and fill.

Lastly, today we went into Waukesha and visited the library downtown. There we found a number of historical markers and one of them expounded on a number of Native American burial mounds located there. Have always found this interesting as Wisconsin was home to so many of them.

RESEARCH – This Old Town
The oldest standing building in the city of Brookfield, WI is the Dousman-Dunkel Behling Inn. It was built in the 1840s (probably 1843). However in 1981 it was moved a few blocks from its original location. It was restored and now serves as a museum less than 5 miles from our home.

Martini Man: I think Wisconsin Hiker shared this before, but the Dousman-Dunkel Inn, located on the grounds of the Brookfield, WI Historical Society is indeed the oldest building in our home town. I found an interesting inventory of old buildings in Brookfield which you can access via this URL:

What's of more interest is that there appear to be a lot of old buildings in Brookfield dating from 1860 or earlier. Here's the order of age as the inventory cites:

1) Dousman Inn, 1075 Pilgrim parkway, Greek Revival, 1843
2) Residence, 3625 N. Calhoun Road, c 1849 Log Home
3) G. W. Brown Residence (?), 2710 N. Brookfield Road, Greek Revival, C. 1850

ART – This Old Sketch

For this challenge, we had to sketch the oldest building.

Martini Man: This drawing was done in support of the art challenge in the All That Came Before badge. We visited the Dunkel- Dousman inn on the grounds of the Elmbrook Historical Society, which is the oldest standing building in Brookfield, Wisconsin. We decided to give the art challenge a go and perhaps I bit off more than I could chew. I found that, given the angle of my view of the old place, I could not seem to do perspective accurately and that annoyed me a lot. Proportion seemed to be difficult as well. Oh well....figure practice will help all this. Nice few hours on the grounds today executing the sketch.

Wisconsin Hiker: We finally took the time to try to sketch the oldest building in Brookfield, WI - the Dousman Stagecoach Inn. Like Martini Man, I also had a hard time with proportion and perspective. I actually moved my chair so I could try to get an easier view. My lack of proper proportion meant I had to use a little "artistic license" in my sketch, but it was fun to get out with my hubby to try to revive our artistic skills. Hopefully we will improve on future quests!

PHOTOGRAPHY – This Has Been With Me
Identify and locate the item you currently own, and have owned, for the longest amount of time.  

Prayer book, rosary, scapular, uniform emblem and remembrance card

Wisconsin Hiker: I have saved many things throughout my life, but last year I finally culled through them. I took photos of many items and then tossed them. However I did save some of the mementos and the items that I think I have had the longest are my prayer book and rosary from my First Communion. I had just turned 8 years old and it was near the end of 2nd grade. I went to a Catholic school and wore a uniform. The emblem in the photo is from my uniform and the STS stands for St. Therese School. The writing at the top on the first page of my prayer book is my mom's, but the bottom half is my careful writing showing I received my First Communion on May 2, 1965 and my teacher was Sister Sidora. I liked my school quite a bit, especially when things changed to a more modern format when I was in 4th grade or so. At that point we had more young nuns teaching at the school. We had guitar masses and listened to Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida in music class. We had books such as "How to Be a Non-Conformist" in our classroom. The 60s culture was definitely part of my Catholic school experience! Unfortunately the school closed when I finished the 7th grade due to a lack of parish funding.

Martini Man: It took a while to come up with anything and actuallyWis Hiker came up with this. She reminded me that long ago I had inherited some baby things of mine from my dearly departed parents. So pictured below is a metal cup and teething ring with a metal talisman of some sort attached to it. Both have my full name engraved on them as well as some birthday info on the talisman. Well, I would not remember ever using these implements and the teething ring shows no use at all. But I imagine my mom liked these things as a momento of my time as a baby back in 1956. Reminds of my parents whom I miss still......

DIY – Memory Holder
To earn points in the Do-It-Yourself category, we need to make a photo frame.

Not done yet.

FIND – Letterboxing History
This objective required finding a very old letterbox (planted in the year 2000 or earlier).  Unlike the other quests, this one allowed your find to be retroactive.  We searched our spreadsheet and discovered that we have found at least 27 boxes that were planted before the end of 2000.  The ones we found were located in 7 different states and include the very first letterbox planted in Wisconsin. It was also among the very first planted in the entire United States.

Cave Point letterbox with original stamp & logbook, plus 2 more logbooks

First page of the logbook inside the Cave Point letterbox

GAMES – Oldest Game in History
The game of Senet is believed to be the oldest recorded game in history.  We researched the rules and made our own simple version of the game.  It involved throwing  four "sticks" with a light and dark side.  They acted as an early version of dice to determine how many moves we could make. There was definitely some strategy involved and we had a lot of fun playing it.

photo of our game

Wisconsin Hiker:
This game was actually a lot of fun! The video I found helped a lot to quickly grasp the rules. It was a very close game, but I edged out my hubby at the end because he drowned in the water and had to go back to the House of Rebirth. I then had two lucky throws to get my last piece off the board. We liked the forward/backward part of the rules - it added a nice twist and kept the pieces moving to keep the suspense up near the end of the game.

Martini Man:
My spouse found a YouTube clip about the game, which gave a nice explanation of the game. She then made a gameboard and we scoured up some dimes and pennies for the markers. The game seems simple, but we got a rousing competition between the two of us. I lost, but it was hard fought down to the wire. Interesting that the game is so old...

MICRO QUEST 1 - Write a letter to the future
Here's the assignment: What if you could talk to the you that exists 10 years from today? What would you tell them? In 10 years, what you are doing today will be history. Preserve a bit of history for your future self by recording pieces of your life. Considering writing about your life now, your hopes for the future, and where you think the world will be in 10 years.

We wrote our letters and will put them in our safe deposit box.  Maybe we'll remember to read them in 10 years!

MICRO QUEST 2 - Print a photo
Since the advent of digital cameras, most photos are only seen electronically and very few are printed. This micro quest asked us to have a photo printed to remember the history of photography.

To fulfill the requirement, I ordered two 8"x10" prints of my grandfather's dog, Princess and then brought frames for them. She is failing and I know he will like to have a nice framed photo to remember her when she is gone.


We could choose any Crash Course History segment we wanted to watch and then comment on it. "Crash Course is a free youtube channel geared toward making history fun and accessible. While it is geared toward high school students, it is great for adults who need to brush up on their history."

Martini Man:Wow, that was cool! I am kind of a history wonk and a lot of the titles were familiar to me. So I chose one that discussed the Indian Ocean trade. That was GREAT! I learned a lot about the impact of trade on a part of the world that does not figure in a dramatic way in world history...unless you study it closely. It was a great discussion about how lucrative trade routes can self-regulate peace. Guess if there's something in it for everyone, it's a remarkable how well-behaved people can be. Great little crash course on history.

Wisconsin Hiker: I also couldn't stop with just ONE video. I decided to choose some that focused on how nature influences history. I watched one video on Disease, another on Drought & Famine and another on Water. I learned that the course of history has been changed by diseases brought in by invaders (and sometimes disease has thwarted invaders). The D&F video made the point that although droughts can make famine more likely, it is actually human action that usually creates famine by setting the price of available food too high or controlling access to it. The control of water has also allowed groups of people to become dominant in several areas of the world. A common theme across all three videos is that history isn't only about human interactions, but also interactions with natural forces.

This quest asked us to appreciate the history of video games and to play an early version of Pong, the first popular video game.  I watched all three episodes of a series developed by Time about the history and development of video games from 1972 to 2009.  Then I tried to play Pong using the keyboard to move my paddle (like we did in the early days of video games).  I did terrible, even at the Beginner level, so I then switched to the option to use my mouse to move the paddle. I did much better and could win at the Beginner level.  However I'll need a bit more practice to master the Intermediate level.  Martini Man also tried his hand at the game, but his mouse was not cooperating.

Wisconsin Hiker's comments:Oh man! I tried playing with the keyboard first, to mimic the early days (and yes, my dad bought us an Atari). I tried Beginner mode but still got creamed the first game, then did slightly better the next game. I then switched to using the mouse and won quite easily. You can tell that we have evolved to be users of mice! However I remember when mice were first introduced and some people had to adjust to using them.


For this quest we had to take a short quiz asking us to match up 10 historic events with 10 different years.  We each got 6 out of 10 right, but had some differences in which ones we missed.


We needed to get at least 1,000 points to complete the quest and we both exceeded that.  We thereby earned our first badge! We definitely had a lot of fun doing some different activities and look forward to the next quest.

"All That Came Before" badge

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Quest Scouts

We have been letterboxers since July 2003 and have made many friends through the hobby.  One of these friends (Desert Flower) posted about her "new obsession" on May 24, 2015.  She had recently discovered Quest Scouts, a scouting program for adults.  I read what she had to say and also went to the Quest Scouts web site (  to get more information.  It did indeed look fun, and I decided to get involved.  When I told my husband (aka Martini Man) about it, he also decided to give it a shot. The themes and activity categories looked interesting and we figured it would provide an impetus for more exploration outside of our normal routines. 

The Quest Scout program doesn't involve any troops or meetings, it is more like a personal quest to meet certain objectives in a variety of categories.  The founder of the company says: "Quest Scouts is a community of people collectively working to live our fullest lives through engaging with the world around us in new and interesting ways."

Points are awarded for completing activities and the objective is to get at least 1,000 points to complete each monthly quest.  I believe you typically have 5 months to complete each quest, so you can overlap by starting some activities for a new quest while still completing an earlier quest.

According to the web site, Quests are designed to help you:
  • Learn new things
  • Explore your creative side
  • Connect with interesting people
  • Discover more of the world around you
For more information, check out the web site and sign up for the weekly newsletter.

You may participate for free, posting your comments and photos on the Quest Scouts web site or various social media platforms.  If you give it a try and enjoy it, I would then encourage you to at least join as a Digital Member ($4.99/month)  to support the creative effort involved in creating the Quests and maintaining the site.  If you would enjoy actual physical badges of various types, as well as badge booklets and creative surprises, you can sign-up for Scout Pack Membership ($12.99 or $16.99/month depending on what type of badges you want to receive).  You can also purchase the Badge Book and badges separately.

This is a new start-up company, but I hope it gains a lot of support because it is a fun concept!