Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Homer's Travels Look Back At 2017

2017 was the year that I became lost.  I returned from my failed Appalachian Trail (AT) attempt not knowing where I was or where I was going.  This feeling persisted throughout the year.  The AT didn't break me physically but it did break me spiritually.  I'd gone out looking for spiritual healing but the inability to keep my promise to Gv just ripped my spirit to shreds.  I spent most of this year trying to rebuild.


Let's look back at 2017, shall we:

As the end of the year approaches I am still a bit lost.  I've lost both my joy of hiking and my sense of adventure but I think things will get better. Time does heal all wounds but we can't always choose how long it will take.  I just need to give it time and to keep moving forward.

Here's to a Happy and Prosperous New Year for all.
May all your dreams come true in 2018.

(or at least, may we all survive 2018.)


Friday, December 29, 2017

BRRRRR

I was going to go for the last walk of 2017 today but I decided I 'd rather be warm today.  The high today was 20℉ (-6.67℃).  I kind of wimped out since I've gone walking in colder weather before.  I decided, after the Wife suggested it, to ride my trainer in the basement while watching "The Gifted" instead.

There probably won't be another walk until after the new year.  The temperatures pretty much guarantees it.  Tomorrow the high/low temps are 1℉/-9℉ (-17.2℃/-22.78℃).  New Years Eve isn't much better with -4℉/-19℉ (-20℃/-28.3℃).  New Years Day is a slightly better -1℉/-15℉ (-18.3℃/-26.1℃).

All I can say about all these numbers is BRRRRR!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Book: Douglas Preston's "The Lost City Of The Monkey God"

My last book of the year is Douglas Preston's "The Lost City of the Monkey God".  This was the fifteenth book of the year.  Better than the ten book goal but still a bit anemic.

The book documents the discovery and exploration of a civilization hidden in the mountains and jungles of the Honduran Mosquitia region.  The city, which may or may not be the legendary City of the Monkey God, was discovered using LIDAR which is becoming an important tool for archaeology.  In reality the City of the Monkey God is probably an amalgamation of multiple archaeological sites in the Mosquitia region.

The book is a bit disjointed bouncing between the history of the area, a story of the discovery and exploration of the city, the politics (and jealousy) within the archeology community, and Leishmaniasis which ravaged the exploration team.  This disjointedness took some of the enjoyment out of this story of modern exploration.

I liked the book but it didn't do enough for me.  I gave it three stars on Goodreads.  It's an okay read.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Wishes





Nollaig Shona duit féin agus do chuid féin.

Vrolijk kerstfeest voor jou en de jouwe.

あなたとあなたのメリークリスマス。

Frohe Weihnachten für Sie und Ihre.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

สุขสันต์วันคริสต์มาสกับคุณและคุณ

Feliz Natal para você e para você.

Feliz Navidad para ti y los tuyos.

Joyeux Noël à vous et à vous.

Buon Natale a te e ai tuoi.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

First Snow Of The Season ... Just In Time

Yesterday we celebrated Christmas with the in-laws.  We had a very nice time in the Mother-in-Law's tiny house full of family.

Overnight we had two inches (five centimeters) of snow, our first significant snow of the 2017-2018 season.  It was a bit late this year.  It will be cold enough this week that it should last for a while.

The sun rising over the first snow.
The snow was enough that I could use the neighbor's snow blower to clear our sidewalks and driveways.  Luckily the snow blower worked - last year I could never get it started.

Snow of the ornaments.
I always like how the world looks with a fresh blanket of snow - so clean and bright ... and innocent looking.  It's also nice when it snows in time for a white christmas.

Tomorrow Christmas day at my Mom's.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Photograph: "Ice On Tree"

Yesterday, the first day of Winter, also gave Omaha it's first dusting of snow though, to be honest, it was more of a rain event.  The little snow we had collected in shadowed corners or rested on elevated surfaces that kept their cold.

This morning as the sun erased the winter dusting I noticed the iced branches of the trees across the way and took a picture before they too disappeared.

"Ice on Tree"
by Bruce H.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Photograph: "A (W)hole Lot Of Beautification"

During a walk last week I came across this.  The building was in a more industrial area of the North Downtown (NoDo) area of Omaha.  They are trying to improve the NoDo area and this particular building was across the street from a new apartment/condominium building.  To beautify the industrial building, the windows facing the new apartments were painted a jaunty green.  Unfortunately they did not take the time to fix the holes in the windows before they painted them green.

"A (w)hole lot of beautification"
by Bruce H.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Holiday Season Is In Full Bloom

We have two Christmas cactuses.  This year it was a very close competition to see which would bloom first.  The older, larger in one in our living room opened up this afternoon and won the race.  The smaller one in the kitchen will be fully open tomorrow if not later tonight.

The first bloom of our Christmas cactus.  The holidays are now in full bloom. 
This is a little later than last year but the Christmas season is back on track.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

...And Down They Came

Last Sunday I put up the ornaments on the oak tree (Here's the post).  I predicted that a few would blow off with the forecasted winds.  Well, I was right.  THIRTY balls blew off the tree over about three days.  There were balls everywhere!

Thirty Christmas Ornaments in a pile.
I was going to put them back in the tree once the winds were gone but I changed my mind.  The tree, despite missing thirty ornaments, still looks festive so I'm not rehanging the balls.  It's just too much work for this old man.  Bah Humbug.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Photograph: "A Blue Whale ... And A Few Penguins Too"

I've been waiting to take pictures of snow but nature is not cooperating.  We have yet to have our first snow of the season.  So, instead, I will post a picture of a colorful Blue Whale I took on my walk last week.  Enjoy.

"A Blue Whale ... and a few penguins too"
by Bruce H.
(Original artist unknown.)


Thursday, December 07, 2017

Book: N. K. Jemisin's "The Stone Sky"

The third book of N. K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy, "The Stone Sky" completes the story told in "The Fifth Season" and "The Obelisk Gate" and is the fourteenth book I've read this year.

The first two books of the trilogy won Hugo awards for best novel.  The third book was as good, if not better, than the first two.  Having said this, I'm not sure why it won the awards.  It's not a bad set of books but, frankly, there is nothing special about the story or the storytelling.  It's a perfectly good fantasy trilogy but, in my opinion, it belongs in the middle of the pack, not the top.

The story follows our main character and her daughter as they head towards their inevitable conflict.  The journey is brief and almost throw away.  The conflict at the end is a bit anticlimactic.

I gave this book, and hence the trilogy, four stars out of five on Goodreads not because it was good but because it's not bad.  It was entertaining enough to be okay and there was nothing in the books that put me off.  It's good filler when you don't have anything else to read.

Monday, December 04, 2017

They're Up!

I put the Christmas ornaments in our oak tree on Sunday.  This is a bit later than usual since the leaves didn't drop until this week.

In the last twenty-four hours three balls had dropped.  I rehung the three and a few hours after another dropped.  The wind was picking up and I went out to hang it back in the tree when a gust of wind blew five more ornaments from the tree - a couple hitting me in the head and back. I collected the fallen ornaments and brought them inside.  I will hang them when the wind dies down and, based on the forecast, I will be picking a lot more off the lawn in the next few days.

Our decorated oak tree.
(Picture taken by the Wife.)
Last year fifteen ornaments dropped on the first few days.  Wonder how many will drop this year.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Learning Lessons With Ira

Photo from Wikipedia taken by Tom Murphy VII
Last night the Wife and I went to a live show with Ira Glass, host of This American Life.  The show, 'Seven Lessons I've Learned: a Night with Ira Glass', was Ira talking about his career, the show, and the rather random sampling of the lessons he has learned over the years.

The show was a humorous mixture of talk and multimedia that was very satisfying.  Ira Glass is of a liberal bent and, Omaha being the most liberal part of conservative Nebraska, he tip toed around the politics of modern America.  He didn't really have to, I think, since the applause he got showed approval for the few political musing of the evening.

This is the second time we heard Ira speak.  The first time was during a taping of stories for a future show at UCLA back in 2007.  He hasn't changed much which is a good thing.  He gave us an entertaining two hours which ended with questions from the audience.

Barring something unexpected showing up, this will be the last event we have planned for 2017.  A good end to a full year.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

I Catch Myself ...


I write a funny post or
post a picture or
retweet an interesting meme.

I wonder if they will laugh or
smile or
leave a witty comment.

But then I catch myself
and remember
they are no longer there.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Photo Move ... Complete

On Saturday I finished moving all my photos from Flickr to Google Photos.  I mentioned three phases in my August 11th post.  As I mentioned, the first phase took six days and the second phase too fifteen days.  Today I finished phase three.  It took me one hundred and six days to relink all the blog posts.

This sounds like a lot but I didn't work on it every day.  The first few weeks I maybe worked three or four times a week but I soon reduced that to only one day a week - usually on the weekend while I was doing laundry.

While it started out a little tedious I soon started looking forward to working on the transfer.  I read through my old posts, remembering through pictures I'd forgotten I'd taken.  I've done a lot and seen a lot since I've started Homer's Travels.  A lot of emotions boiled up at times, both good and bad, happy and sad.  A lot of life.

Now comes the hardest part of all this exercise: deleting my Flickr/Yahoo accounts.  Google Photos is not very social at all and affirmation through Flickr likes and comments will be missed.

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Holiday Season Begins

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving yesterday.  I enjoyed a turkey dinner with my Mom and her family.  The Wife enjoyed a turkey dinner with her family.

After I got home, and after I gave my food some time to settle, I put on some Christmas music and put the tree together in our living room.  I will confess that I like Christmas music.  I've even caught myself humming Christmas music in the summer months.  The music always gives me hope.  Of course, by the end of the holiday season, I am usually tired of it all.  Too much of a good thing ...

Our tree is a nearly eight foot (2.4 m) tall and is lit up with multicolored LED lights. My job is to build the tree and string up the lights.  The Wife adds ornaments later.  I personally prefer the simplicity of just lights without ornaments.

There is a downside of having the tree up.  The best place for it is in front of the picture window that looks out over a farm field east of the house.  This window lets a lot of bright sunshine into our living room.  During the holiday season the tree blocks about half of the light.  This can be important since it tends to be so dark during the winter.  We usually don't noticed it too much until we take the tree down and the room lights up.

The holiday season is one of my favorite times of the year.  While it can seem hectic at times the whole spirit of the season is positive and uplifting.  I have not been very positive or uplifted most of this year and I am looking forward to some of this spirit rubbing off on me over the next month or so.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Wishing Everyone An ...



Happy Thanksgiving!!!


For everyone in the United States who are celebrating with family and friends, I hope you find something to be thankful for in 2017.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Congratulations To Teams Roth And Schuster!

While I'm not a sports fan I have to admit that Omaha has been very good at bringing sporting events to the city.  Omaha has been the home of the College Baseball World Series for decades.  The city has hosted the Olympic Swimming Trials for the past three Olympic cycles and, last week, it hosted the Olympic Team Curling Trials for the first time.


We have been interested in curling since at least the 2010 Winter Olympics.  A year later the Wife and I participated in an ameteur curling competition.  We participated four times over the next few years but we never really got any better at curling and I lost interest in participating in 2015.

In August we attended a few of the Curling Night in America sessions which were fun.  But the main event was the Olympic Curling Trials last week.  We had tickets for seventeen sessions.  After going to three sessions I realized my limit per session was around two hours.  After my third session I decided to skip the next few days.  We ended up using only six of those tickets.  We did spread around the fun by giving some of our unused tickets to friends.  I still like to watch curling, especially now that I understand the game strategy better, but I think me not being a sports fan all my life has limited how much sport I can watch at any one time.  


The best of three finals finished on Saturday with Team Schuster beating Team McCormick (Men's teams) and Team Roth beating Team Sinclair (Women's teams).  The fact that they both needed to go all three games of the best of three finals tells you that the teams were well matched.  The Wife and I didn't even go to the final games but we did watch the Men's team on TV.  (Hey NBCSN!!!  Why didn't you show the Women's final live like you did the Men's?)

Team Roth sweeping in a rock.
Omaha came through with record attendance for an Olympic Curling Trials.  Omaha always seems to deliver the crowds.  Hope this means we can go see some curling again in four years ... at least the amount I can tolerate.

Kids left messages for the curlers.
It will be nice watching the teams compete in next February's Olympic Games.  It always helps when you've seen the competitors in action.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Night With John Cleese

After a relatively slow start to the month, this week has been pretty full for me.  The week was dominated by curling and Monty Python.  I'll post about curling once the Olympic trials are over (the last playoffs are today).  I will post about last night.

Friday the Wife and I went to the newly renovated Orpheum Theater to watch "Monty Python and the Holy Grail".  I'd already seen the movie years ago.  The Wife had never seen it before.  It was as funny and odd as I remembered it.  The Wife ... didn't get it.  British humor is often like that - you either get it or you don't.  Fortunately, the movie was not the highlight of the night.

Following the rather raucous viewing of the movie (lots of vocal fans in the theater) we enjoyed an hour with one of the python's himself: John Cleese.  He was interviewed by a local radio DJ.  Cleese was very funny talking about the movie, his TV shows, and his life on tour (the DJ tried to be funny but just seemed awkward).  We both enjoyed this part of the evening.

If I could have changed anything, I would have skipped the movie entirely and increased the time spent with Cleese to ninety minutes.  I think he would have benefitted from using the same format as Shatner's show.

Note: I read Cleese's autobiography in 2015.  Here is my review.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Photograph: "Late Hunter Moon"

The Hunter Moon was earlier this week but it was obscured by clouds here in Omaha.  Tonight the clouds added a little mystery to the almost full moon.

"Late Hunter Moon"
by Bruce H.


Friday, November 03, 2017

Book: Kapka Kassabova's "Border: A Journey To The Edge Of Europe "

My latest read is about the border between Europe and Asia, the people who cross it voluntarily or not, and how their lives are affected.  Kapka Kassabova's "Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe" looks at the the borders between Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey.

The story of the borderlands and the often forced migrations of Muslim and Christian populations between Europe and Asia (and back) is told through the experiences of people living in villages on both sides of the borders.  The stories, ranging from personal family histories to fables of treasures and the supernatural,  keeps the reader engaged.  We soon learn of the rich history and mythologies linked to the mountains and forests of region.

The region has been shaped by many forces including the Ottoman Empire and the Cold War.  As I read this book I realized my knowledge of the Ottoman Empire was severely lacking.  I will have to fill that gap.

I gave this book four out of five stars on Goodreads as the book held my interest and I learned things I didn't know about the region which is always a plus.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Light That Fire

Early registration for Trek Up The Tower started yesterday.  Last year I registered but, due to unexpected minor surgery, I was unable to participate.  I decided to try again next year and registered.

I hope by registering I will light a fire under my butt.  My bike (trainer) rides and my hiking has been spotty at best.  My exercise motivation has been near nonexistent.

Maybe this minor goal is what I need to get out of my funk.  That and the desire to beat my 8 minute 39 second record.

Friday, October 27, 2017

An Unexpected Piece Of Shat

Continuing the Star Trek theme of this week, Last night the Wife and I went to the Holland Center to see William Shatner's one man show "Shatner's World: We Just Live In It"

Why would we go see this?  I saw the show advertised last week and, jokingly on my part, asked the Wife if she wanted to go.  To my surprise she replied "Hell Yes!"

William Shatner, an actor most famous for his role of Captain James T. Kirk on the original Star Trek series, has never been on my list of favorite actors.  I like the Kirk character but the actor always seemed a bit pompous and full of himself.  For that reason I entered the Holland Center with a few mixed feelings and low expectations.

Shatner introduced himself over the PA and then made an entrance.  Over the next two hours he talked about his career, his childhood and family life, the love of his life (horses), and other topics.  All his storytelling was full of humor and punctuated with short video clips/photographs on a large screen behind him.  His performance sometimes seemed to jump between subjects at random but in the end it all came together in an entertaining way.

The strangest part of Shatner's life story is his music.  Yes, William Shatner has several albums.  Now, to be honest, his performance is less singing than spoken word.  Have you lived until you've heard Shatner performing "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"?  I think not.

I went into the show thinking it would be an odd but mediocre experience and I left, I have to admit, finding him funny and engaging ... if not a bit odd in a good way.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Rediscovering Star Trek

For many years I was a hard core Star Trek fan.  After the cancellation of Star Trek: Enterprise I had a falling out.  The new movies failed to rekindle my fandom but when CBS announced a new TV series set in the original Star Trek timeline I discovered something: Once a Star Trek fan, always a Star Trek fan.

This weekend I subscribed to CBS All Access (The only way to watch this show is to stream it) so that I could watch the new series and, after watching the first five episodes I am hopeful.  About CBS All Access - I am pissed I need another streaming service to watch this show - it is on Netflix outside the US.  I am also pissed that they are releasing only one episode every week making it nearly impossible to binge watch - so twentieth century.  Boo Hoo.

The new series, Star Trek: Discovery (often unfortunately shortened to STD), is a prequel to the original series taking place ten years before the events of the original Star Trek.  This has resulted in several heated disagreements online (where else?).  I was going to address a few in this post but decided that it wasn't worth the effort.  I will just say one thing: Could you imagine the uproar if the new show put their female officers in miniskirts?

There are two speculative theories going around the internet.  One involves the Klingon Voq and the other is about Captain Lorca of the Discovery.  I won't say more because both may become spoilers if one or both turns out to be true.  I will say that either of these speculations would be awesome if true.  It would take Star Trek into new directions.

Star Trek: Discovery is certainly a different approach to Star Trek and I welcome this new approach.  My continued support will depend on the risks the writers take.  It is not a time for timidity.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Book: N. K. Jemisin's "The Obelisk Gate"

My twelfth book of the year was the second book of the Broken Earth series.  Like the first book, "The Fifth Season" which I read earlier in the year, N. K. Jemisin's "The Obelisk Gate" also won a Hugo award (best novel in 2017).  While I had some mixed feelings about the first book, the sequel was a very solid second book.

The book starts where the first ended.  Instead of following only one main character, the book follows two: the main character from the first book and her daughter.  They were separated early in the first book and they took very different paths as the world around them was coming apart.

Like the first, this book sucked me into the story while fleshing out more details of the volatile world.  I'm not sure where it is going but I suspect the mother and daughter will end up on opposite ends of a war.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  I am looking forward to reading the third book soon.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Fourth Caminoversary Of My Second Camino

Four years ago Gv and I ended our second Camino on the rocks of Cabo Fisterra.  The sunset was not the most spectacular I've ever seen and the wind was cold but that moment, as the setting sun marked the end of our Camino, will always be precious to me.

Gv's Mom walked part of the Camino last month.  She left a little of Gv in Fisterra.  This would have made her very happy and this makes me happy too.


Photos taken by Bruce H.
(Music is "Walk on the Ocean" by Toad the Wet Sprocket)

Saturday, October 07, 2017

A Reversal

In the past rainy days have often given me the blues.  It's less the rain than the gloomy, cloudy lack of sunshine.  The past few days have been drizzly and rainy and I have found myself feeling comforted.  Hunkering down under a blanket, listening to the falling rain, has calmed my mind.  A total reversal of what normally happens.

"Hibiscus with raindrops"
by Bruce H.
I hope this reversal continues on into the winter when I often suffer the winter blues.


Thursday, October 05, 2017

Tonight Is The Harvest Moon

Enjoy.



"Harvest Moon"
Neil Young

Sadly it's raining here in Omaha so I will not be able to enjoy it.  I hope you all have better luck than I.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Book: Yuval Noah Harari's "Homo Deus"

My eleventh book of the year was Yuval Noah Harari's "Homo Deus".  The book attempts to project how Homo Sapiens will transform in the coming decades and centuries.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book.  Most of the book talks about humanism and how our beliefs have transitioned from animism to deism to humanism.  The author then suggests that the rise of evermore powerful algorithms will supplant the human in most decision making thus making humanism moot.

The author seems to believe that we have solved our traditional problems of hunger, disease, and violence.  He thinks the next goals will me immortality, happiness, and divinity.  I'm not sure we have solved the old problems yet (we have improved in all of them) and I'm not sure about the new goals.  He puts a lot in the hands on algorithms to fix everything.  It's like when steam was the new tech everything was steam powered including the human body.  The highest tech is always used to explain our greatest mysteries.  Most of the time these analogies are way off the mark.

I can't say the book was not well written.  It was and it flows well.  I just can't say I agree with all the conclusions.  But difference of opinion is what makes the world go round.

I gave the book four stars out of five on Goodreads since it did make me think of other possibilities.

Friday, September 29, 2017

A Little Spark Of Positivity

I went for a short walk yesterday (13.28 miles - 21.37 km) and I saw something unexpected that brought a smile to my face.

On a corner, in a residential neighborhood of the Florence area of north Omaha, a woman stood on a corner holding up a sign.  The sign said "have a great day".

The street she stood on wasn't very busy and I doubt few saw the woman and her sign but I'm sure everyone who drove or walked by smiled.

For a few minutes my day was a little more positive.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Reaching The Summit ... Or Not

Today, if I'd stuck to my original Appalachian Trail (AT) plan, I would have been summiting Mount Katahdin right about now.  But who am I kidding?  If I'd had the heart to keep pushing on I most likely would have hiked shorter stages and taken more zero days (i.e. rest days in towns).  Around now I would be somewhere in New England trying to decide how much farther I would go before I walked off the trail and I would be thinking about completing the AT in 2018.

Not staying on the AT has left me a little lost right now.  I never really expected to be home most of the year doing the things I would have done if I'd never heard of the AT.  What an odd,unexpected outcome.

P.S. The AT, the seven days I was on it anyway, resulted in one physical loss.  Two weeks ago I lost the big toenail on my left foot.  I don't think I've ever done any hike of any substance without losing that nail.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Happy Autumn???

I was going to write a post wishing everyone a happy first day of Autumn but it's


96℉
36℃

outside and that's just wrong.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Book: N. K. Jemisin's "The Fifth Season"

After seeing the Hugo awards winners this year, I decided to check out last year's best novel.  N.K. Jemisin's "The Fifth Season" is the first book of a series. Not only did it win the 2016 Hugo award for best novel but the second book of the series won the 2017 Hugo award.

The book is a fantasy book set in a world where seismic activities periodically wreaks havoc on the world.  The turmoil caused by supervolcano eruptions and earthquakes is referred to as fifth seasons.

The book follows three characters who have the power to control the seismic activity.  They remind me of earth benders from "Avatar: The Last Airbender".  In this world they are second class citizens feared by the 'normal' population and controlled by the leadership.

In the end the three storylines come together and we find out that the three characters were one and the same and each storyline is a different time of their lives.

The book was interesting.  I'm not sure about the world being built by this series but, by mid book, I was sucked in and looked forward to read more.  There are enough loose ends at the end to pull me along to the second book of the series.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads and I will be reading the rest of the series in the near future.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Hey Look At That ...5,000 Miles!

I just noticed that my walk yesterday pushed my total hiking distance over five thousand miles.  It just took me ten and a half years.

Those five thousand miles took me along some awesome trails and beautiful sights.  Kind of bummed I wasn't able to add the two thousand plus miles of the Appalachian Trail onto that total.

I wonder where the next five thousand miles will take me.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The Dodge Street Subway And Other Things

Today's weather just screamed "GO FOR A WALK" so I did.  I went on an urban hike starting in the Old Market area of Omaha and heading west along Farnum and Dodge streets before looping north through the Dundee area and back east.

The Dodge Street Subway.
Along the way I searched for something I'd heard about: a pedestrian tunnel under Dodge Street.  Dodge is the main drag of the city.  The tunnel allows children to get to their school without crossing the busy street.  They have recently decorated the tunnel - known as the Dodge Street Subway - with murals.  It's kind of cool.  A few photos of the subway and murals can be found in my 2017-09-06 Dodge Street Subway Google Photos album.

One of the murals in the subway.  The 'famous' Dundee clock tower.

A butterfly on a flower beside a white picket fence.
The rest of my walk took me by flowers and butterflies and other signs of late summer.  In Dundee, where a late June hail storm did damage, the sound of roofers hammering came from all directions.

Pink with a dash of yellow.
I felt good during this walk.  It was not as strenuous as my hike at Hitchcock but it was nearly three times longer.  The cooler than average temperatures made it that much more enjoyable.  Not sure the spark was there yet but I might have spied a glow out of the corner of my eye.

Total Distance: 9.18 Miles (14.77 km)
Total Time: 3 hours 2 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 556.0 ft (169.46 m)
Total Elevation Down: 548.9 ft (167.30 m)

My walking path for the day.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Get Out Of My Way Please

The past few nights a pesky spider has decided that a great place to spin its' web would be in front of the basement sliding glass door (the opening part, naturally).  Now if this was a tiny web it wouldn't be much of an issue but the web is huge!

The web stretches from the top of the slider down to about mid way down my chest.  This places the actual spider at about nose level to me and, I tell you, I nearly wet myself the first night when I just missed walking through it.  The actual spider is over an inch tip toe to tip toe which I categorize as scary huge.

I've destroyed the web three times so far, even swatting at the actual spider with a stick a couple times, but it keeps coming back.

*Shiver*

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

In Search Of Monarchs ... And A Spark

It's been one hundred and forty days since I walked off the Appalachian Trail (AT).  It has been one hundred and forty days since I last hiked.  This is the longest period without hiking since I started in earnest in 2007.  Today I went for a short hike in search for monarch butterflies and the spark I feel when I hit the trail.

Late summer wildflowers.
I headed to Hitchcock Nature Reserve thinking my re-entry into hiking should not be an urban one but one in nature.  I was out of shape, as I expected I would be, but it was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  The hike was a short one with a few steep, but short, hill climbs including the Angel Dead End trail which I'd seen but never climbed until today.

Angel Dead End Trail.
Every year the monarch butterflies migrate through the area.  I have seen dozens of monarchs along the trails in Hitchcock Nature Reserve during this time of year.  I posted about them in 2011.  I've seen the largest numbers along Westridge trail.  I hiked to the spot and found nothing.  Not one Monarch.  I only saw three non-monarch butterflies along the entire hike.  Not sure where they are.  The weird weather and heat we have had this summer may have shifted the migration path/timing.  Very disappointing.

Hmmm ... This reminds me of something.
As for the spark ... there was no spark.  The weather was beautiful, the late summer flowers were blooming, the birds were singing, and the sun was sparkling off the dew but the feeling I used to get when I was out on the trail just wasn't there.  I guess my failed AT attempt did more damage than I thought.  I'm not going to give up.  I want to regain that spark but it may take a few more hikes to relight the fire.

Total Distance: 3.09 Miles (4.97 km)
Total Time: 1 hours 24 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 504.5 ft (153.7 m)
Total Elevation Down: 507.0 ft (154.5 m)

Map of my Hitchcock Nature Reserve hike.
Pictures of Hitchcock Nature Reserve I've taken over the years, including a few from this hike, can be found in my 2008-2017 Hitchcock Nature Reserve Google Photos album.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Curling Night In America

The Olympic Curling Trials are going to be held in Omaha this November.  We purchased tickets for them as soon as we could.  I've been interested in curling since, I think, the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010.  The Wife and I even participated in an amateur curling tournament in Sioux City, IA for four years in a row.  We never really were any good at it and I lost interest in participating after 2014.  I am still interested in curling though and I am looking forward to watching the trials.

USA Men's team throwing a stone.
Included in the trials tickets were tickets for Curling Night in America which will air on NBCSN. Taping of the event took place last week.

USA Women's team throwing a stone.
I decided to attend a few of the sessions (there were nine sessions total over three days) and decided on Thursday afternoon, Friday afternoon, and, with the Wife, Saturday night.  Each session showcased four matches involving Men's, Women's, and mix double teams from four countries (USA, Japan, China, and Scotland).

USA Men's team sweeping.
It was interesting to watch in person.  The rules are easy to understand and it's a sport that looks like anyone could do (though it is harder than it looks).  The audience was full of both newbies and people in the know and a lot of good information was shared in the stands as we watched the action on the sheets.

The flags of the four participating teams.
In the end Team USA won on overall points.  USA Women's team and mixed doubles also won their individual categories.  Men's team was won by Japan.  They also announced that this iteration of Curling Night in America had record attendance.  This caught me by surprise since I thought the stands were a bit sparse.  Anyway, I'm proud of Omaha for representing.  I'm guessing the trials in November will have more record crowds.

Team USA - overall winner.
Curling Night in America will air on NBCSN on the 10th of October.  Watch for me and the Wife!

Photographs can be seen in my 2017-08 Curling Night In America Google Photos album.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Book: J.D. Vance's "Hillbilly Elegy"

I heard about J.D. Vance and his book "Hillbilly Elegy" on CNN.  He was invited to discuss how the 'President' had won the election and the disaffection of the working class and working poor of appalachia.  It heard rave reviews so I decided to give it a read.

I had to wait a while to read it because there were so many people with a hold on the book at the library.  I finally got it and dove in and was promptly disappointed.  The line under the title is "A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis." This is a bit misleading.  95% or more of the book is a memoir of the author's family with only a tiny fraction of the book about the 'Culture in Crisis' that I was more interested in.

As a memoir the book is fine.  I wish the author had dove deeper into how the working class had become disaffected and how this changed how they saw their country and government.  To be fair this book was written before the last election so he had no way of knowing what was coming.  I expect he would have written a different book entirely after the election results.

I gave this book three stars on Goodreads mainly because my expectations hadn't matched the book.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Dark Skies Over Homestead

Safety First - Glasses for
observing solar eclipses
Yesterday I drove down to Beatrice, NE home of Homestead National Monument.  This was also one of the many official NASA observation points for the total Solar Eclipse of 2017.

I left home at 4:00am and drove to the Gage County fairgrounds where I parked my car and took a shuttle bus to Homestead.

I arrived before most of the concessions were open.  I sat down in one  the chairs that we set up around a main stage.  While I waited food and shopping concessions opened and I had the luck to watch Bill Nye (the Science Guy) answering questions on live TV.  I was sitting maybe ten feet from where he was standing.  I'm not a huge Bill Nye fan but I do respect what he is trying to do (educate the public in science) and I might have been a bit star struck.

Bill Nye, the Science Guy.
It was around 7:00am and nothing would really start astronomically speaking until 11:30am.  In the meantime, on the main stage, a folk singer performed (including playing "Moon River" on a handsaw), a NASA scientist gave an explanation of what to expect and what exactly was a solar eclipse, and a PBS band played songs from "Ready, Jet Go".  As you may have guessed, most of the events and entertainment were kid-centric.  Fortunately a guy from Texas struck up an adult conversation with me and we killed the hours talking.

The day's weather had started out relatively clear with only wispy clouds but as the events proceeded heavy clouds moved in and we experienced on and off showers.  While I was a bit disappointed I really felt sorry for all the people who drove many hours to get here.  There were even people from Britain and France.

As the eclipse started the clouds thinned a bit and we got our first view on the sun missing a chunk.  This peek didn't last long before the clouds thickened again.

When the sun disappeared behind the clouds everyone headed for the food trucks.  The lines were so long I decided just to eat the snacks I'd packed just in case.  I did have a Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcake at 9:00am before the lines formed and it felt wrong eating it so early in the morning but it was very tasty.  I bought a magnet for our collection and, from the US Post Office van, a cool sheet of color changing eclipse stamps.

As we approached totality, when the moon would completely cover the sun, I checked the National Weather Service kiosk where they had a live radar feed.  Weatherwise it wasn't looking good so I slowly made my way to the shuttle bus stop.  Right when totality occurred the clouds thinned again and gave us an awesome view of the ring of fire.  The sky darkened like a sunset on all horizons.  The crowds cheered and we all stared in awe of a total solar eclipse.

Totality.
(A slightly zoomed version can be seen here)
When totality ended I jumped on the shuttle bus and headed for the car.  Despite being on that first bus it still took over four hours (normally an hour and a half drive) to get back home via the clogged back roads of Nebraska.  There had been 8,000 - 12,000 people at Homestead and they said there were over 400,000 people along the area of totality in Nebraska.  They all seemed to return home at the same time.

All it all it was a pretty cool day.