Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Congratulations Old Friend

Nearly all of my friends are blog friends.  One of the oldest of those is Geekhiker.  I discovered his blog back in 2007 when I was looking for information on a hike I was about to do.  One comment led to another and we soon became good online friends.


Two days ago ... not sure how I missed it ... he announced his engagement on Facebook.  I knew the day would come and I know it didn't come as soon as he would have wanted it but the day has arrived and I can only say that I am very happy for him and his fiance.

I will end this congratulatory post with a picture taken by my friend GV who passed away last year.  The picture was taken on the Camino de Santiago in 2013.  It is good advice then and it is good advice now.

Gen's Heart & Arrow
Follow your heart and it will always lead the way if you let it.
(Taken by GV)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Start Of Something Wonderful

Yesterday the President signed an executive order banning entry to refugees and other legal immigrants from seven nations in Africa and the Middle East.   There was a protest at Turner Park in the Mid-Town Crossings area of Omaha.

2017-01-29_Refugee Protest_027The Wife and a friend joined the crowd of roughly a thousand peaceful protesters.  I would have joined as well but I am still recovering from my surgery and I definitely was not up to the challenge.  I am sure there will be other opportunities to join the righteous cause and protest the crazy sh!t our elected government is trying to get past us.

It's nice to see the return of peaceful protests.  I expected to see a few during the Iraq war but was disappointed when they didn't materialize.  I guess it took a narcissistic reality star with delusions of White grandeur to bring out the protest in people.  All we need now are some awesome twenty-first century anti-establishment folk music to sing at the rallies.

2017-01-29_Refugee Protest_025
Nice crowd at Turner Park this afternoon..
Note: The photographs in this post were taken by the Wife.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Working On The Recovery

Well, I got home for the hospital yesterday morning and things are going as expected.  The recovery process, expected to take about two weeks, is proceeding.  I have to say that is is not going to be a comfortable recovery for a few more days.  Things are a bit sensitive in places.

Having said this, the tennis elbow that I had seems to have nearly disappeared after the totally unrelated surgery.  Not sure why that is.  I'm still wearing a brace just to make sure it doesn't return.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Few Kinks To Get Worked Out

The theme this week is health I guess.

So I'm wearing a brace on my wrist.  I seem to have had tennis elbow ... for the last six months.  I'm getting a bit tired of it so I went to an orthopedist and on went the brace.   I also have a tennis elbow band to wear when I'm doing anything physical that may irritate the problem.  I hope this works since I'd hate to have a sore forearm for the six months I'll be on the trail.  What an inconvenience!

Talking about inconveniences, I've been fighting ... issues ... for several years now and I'm finally going to get it taken care of.  On Thursday I'm having minor elective surgery.  I'm sure that after the surgery and a little recovery time I'll be kicking myself for not getting it done years before.

That is often my problem.  I suffer through stuff for way too long before I get it taken care of.  I can be such a procrastinator sometimes.

Now, it looks like it's getting close to time to irritate the elbow some more and shovel the snow that accumulating outside.  Yeah Snow!!!

Seriously ... I really like snow.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A New Camera For The Appalachian Trail ... And Everywhere Else

This week I received my new rugged camera that I will take on the Appalachian Trail (AT).  This camera replaces the Nikon Coolpix AW100 that I've owned since March 2012.  I really liked the AW100 and took it everywhere.  Unfortunately, off the Galapagos Islands, the camera screen went dead.

When I returned home I planned to replace the camera with the newer model (the AW130) but, after reading a few comments, found out that the dead screen problem still existed in the newer models.  This was disappointing.  I decided to go for the newer version of the camera that came it second to the AW100 when I did my previous search.  The Olympus Stylus TG-4 had good reviews and hit most of my criteria (I list those criteria in the AW100 post linked above).

Olympus Stylus TG-4
In fact, the TG-4 actually meets one more criteria than the  AW100 does - the capability of taking RAW format pictures.  The one thing that convinced me to purchase the AW100 before was the 5x zoom vs the TG-4 4x zoom.  As I mentioned in the linked post, zoom and tough cameras are not always compatible.  We'll see if i miss the extra zoomability.

I like the TG-4's auto Panorama mode which creates the panoramas in the camera without the need for external software.  This simplifies things a lot.  I do love me a good panorama and the tools provided should allow me to take better ones.

The Microscope mode (referred to as macro mode on most other cameras) is great.  The TG-4 has more options that make taking close up pictures even better including focus stacking that increases the depth of field of macro pictures.  Like panoramas, close up macro pictures are another favorite form for me.  Looking forward to experimenting with the new modes.

The Underwater modes are also more versatile than the AW100 including an High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode for underwater photographs (there is an HDR mode for above water pictures as well).  Not sure when I will get to try these new underwater modes out.  Who knows, it may be in a swimming hole along the AT.

Talking about the AT, travel weight for the camera is comparable to the AW100.  The camera, charger/data cable, and extra batteries come in at 13.6 oz (386 grams)  only a smidge (2 grams) heavier.  The TG-4 is heavier than the AW100 but the charger/data cable is much lighter.

The camera also has GPS and even Wi-Fi.  I will be taking my full size GPS so will probably not use the GPS function to conserve battery power.  The Wi-Fi, which allows transfer of pictures directly to my tablet without cables may or may not be used.  I think a direct cable transfer may be quicker and, at times, easier.

All in all,  the new camera has a lot going for it and I can't wait to really experiment with it.  Tomorrow may be that first day as I hope to take a walk and I almost always find something interesting to photograph on my walks.

Friday, January 20, 2017

That Bloated Disgusting Feeling

I spent the morning watching the presidential inauguration.  In the process I ate an entire bag of Chocolate Creme Oreos.  By the end of the bag I felt bloated and disgusting ... which frankly matches my opinion of our glorious leader.

Chocolate Creme Oreo
Chocolate Creme Oreos - so yummy ... so bloat inducing.
I think the next four years will be a disaster for our nation.  I can't see anything good coming out of this.  But to be honest, for once,  I hope I am proven wrong.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Too Much Quantity, Not Enough Quality

I didn't post lat night and I will not be posting everyday going forward.  While I am capable of posting everyday I noticed that with the quantity of posts, the quality either went down or, at best, did not improve.  I think I will shift a bit, be a bit more discerning about what I post, and hopefully the quality will improve.

I do have a couple posts that will be put together and posted over the next couple of days but after that I suspect posting will be less frequent.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Olde Timey Emoji

While I was cleaning out the den closet I came across a sheet of stickers.  They probably came from some calendar I bought ages ago.  They say things like Dentist, School, and To Do and they have pictures of birthday cakes and party hats.  When I saw them all I could think was they looked like prehistoric emojis.

Olde Timey Emoji
Prehistoric emoji sticker sheet.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Ice Storm ?!?

Well, the worst was supposed to be today and all we got were a few tenths of an inch of ice.  I have to say I was disappointed.  I was hoping to take pictures of an icy winter wonderland but it remained above freezing most of the day and any ice we had melted away by noon.
Ice Storm ?!?
The little ice we got ... sad little icicles on our deck.
The 'storm" unnecessarily canceled a doctor's appointment I had this morning and school was out so the Wife had a long weekend.  The rain we got stopped me from walking so I did as I said I would and straightened up the tornado room.

Tomorrow morning may be another story since it will go below freezing overnight but the rain has stopped so any ice accumulation will be minimal.  Having said this, the Wife is getting another ice day off tomorrow so someone benefitted from the little ice we got.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

I Got That Minimalist Feeling

The closet in our den/computer room was a mess.  I've been thinking about cleaning it out for a while.  I always seem to get the itch to organize this time of year (for example).  The kick in the pants this year I got was when I was riding the trainer in the basement.

When I ride the trainer I watch Netflix.  This ride was powered by a documentary call "Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things".  The movie talks about simplifying your life by getting rid of junk you don't use or need.  The philosophy fits right in with my hiking/camping philosophy: carry only what is needed not what you think you will need.  So, while I waited for the ice storm to kick in I spent four or five hours pulling everything out of the den closet.

I ended up tossing a crap-ton of CDs, DVDs, and, gasp, floppy disks into the recycle bin along with tons of paper, old magazines, AAA travel books and maps, and just about every type of cable known to man.  It's amazing how empty the closet is now.  Nothing I threw away will be missed since I'm pretty sure some of the things I tossed had not been touched in over five years.

Tomorrow the ice storm starts in earnest.  Going out is pretty much out of the question so, until the electricity goes out, I think I will start tackling the tornado room (a room that is combination workroom, camping/hiking equipment storage room, and room to hide in from unwelcome tornadoes).  Not sure when ...if ... I will tackle the furnace/storage room.   We'll have to see the next time the weather turns bad.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Entering The Ice Age

We will be entering an ice storm warning tomorrow morning which continues through early Tuesday.  We are getting ready to hunker down in our cave for a couple days as the ice accumulates.  They are talking anywhere between a quarter and three quarters inches (6 to 19 mm) of ice when it's all over.

Shadows on the Cave Wall
With an ice storm, I'll be happy casting shadows on the cave wall.
With over a half inch of ice, power lines start snapping so it will be interesting to see if the power stays up over the next forty-eight hours or so.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Photograph: "To Brighten The Day"

It was a rather gloomy day here so here is a bit of yellow to brighten the place up a bit.  I hear he's a fun guy.  😛

To Brighten The Day
"To brighten the day"
by Bruce H.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Traveling In Time With Podcasts

This post is a follow up on an earlier post (Traveling In Time With Ira posted 18 March 2008).  In that post I talked about listening to This American Life (TAL) podcasts and reliving moments in time through the stories.  That post mentioned the 2000 election and the coming of 9/11.  A while later I relived Hurricane Katrina.

I have always been behind in my podcasts.  I typically listen to four or five podcast episodes (not just TAL) while I clean the house and do chores.  The backlog forms when I go on vacation (including walking my Caminos).  More podcast episodes flow in faster than I can listen to in a week.  Earlier this month I realized that I had around fifty hours of podcasts lined up.  I knew if I didn't try to catch up, my backlog would explode once I left for the Appalachian Trail (AT).  So ... I started to make time.

Over the last few weeks I've listened to at least an hour's worth of podcast each day.  When I started my oldest podcast was from early July.  I swiftly moved through the months and, over the last few days, as I approached the episodes near election day, I started to relive some of the anxiety I'd felt.  Knowing how it turned out just made the dread worse I think.  As I traveled through time listening to the podcast episodes I was struck by how hopeful and oblivious the world seemed back then.

Now, most of the podcasts I listen too do not directly link with current events but a few - TAL, Planet Money, Radiolab, and Note To Self - occasionally have tie-ins with the news.  I also listen to On the Media which I listen to 'live' since every episode is linked to the real time world.  It was interesting to listen as these podcasts approached the election.  There was a bit of denial, anxiety, and a general naivete.  There was also a feeling that everything would be okay after the election.

I caught up to the post-election podcast episodes and nearly everyone was surprised and shocked by reality.  You could hear the disbelief in many of the voices and in the stories.  TAL did the best with this episode when they talked to supporters of both candidates the day after the election.

I'm down to less than twenty-five hours of podcasts remaining.  I expect to catch up with real time in less than a month.  I think I will miss traveling through time but it will be short lived.  The AT will start and I will once again fall behind.  When I return in October I will once again be six months behind and my time travelling will start once again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Photograph: "Schwinn"

Seen along the South Omaha trail.  It appeared out of place among the trees.

Schwinn
"Schwinn"
by Bruce H.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Photograph: "Sidewalk Philosophy #2"

Some more deep thoughts from the sidewalks.

Sidewalk Philosphy #2
"Sidewalk Philosophy #2"
by Bruce H.
(Original artist unknown)
"So many years of education no one taught us to love ourselves"

Monday, January 09, 2017

Shouldn't It Get Easier?

I went for a walk today in Council Bluffs.  I meant to park in the downtown area but I couldn't find a parking spot that either was time limited or threatened to tow my car at my expense.  I drove around my intended route and discovered that where I was going to cross under the interstate was a construction zone and I couldn't go that way.  I ended up parking in a park lot south of Lake Manawa.

Manawa Trail
"Manawa Trail"
by Bruce H.
I always have a planned route in my head but, since part of the planned route was impassable I had to shuffle the route around to fix the problems while hoping I didn't accidentally add too much extra distance to the walk.

The final route kind of sucked.  The scenery was not that inspiring and I took few pictures.  I did manage to keep the length of the walk to a workable distance of 16.7 miles (26.8 km).  Despite having walked this distance for several weeks now, my legs were screaming by the time I got to the car.  You would think it would be getting easier.

To spice up this post a bit, I will add a haiku - something I haven't done for a while.  Enjoy.

The soft crunch of waning snow under tread,
Through grey skies the sunlight illuminates an unlived new year,
A lone walker seeks the beauty that is hidden.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Photograph: "Yellow #5"

In honor of the Golden Globes ceremony that is airing tonight, I give you a round piece of gold (well ... actually yellow) candy emblazoned with the number five.

Yellow #5
"Yellow #5"
by Bruce H.
NOTE:  This post is neither affiliated with the Golden Globes organization or makes any sense in any way, shape, or form.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Photograph: "Pycho-Delic Ele-Phant"

Commissioned graffiti/public art painted under an overpass along the Keystone trail.  Elephants, especially purple ones, seem to be popular around here.

Psycho-Delic Ele-Phant
"Psycho-delic Ele-phant"
by Bruce H.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Graffiti ... Some Translation Required

I saw this piece of street literature a few days ago.  Still haven't figured out what it means.

Not Sure What This Means
Some translation required.
My guess is this can be divided into three parts:
  1. "SLIM 16" - I presume that this is a tag or name.  When I google it all I get is mentions of boy's pant sizes.
  2. "HEART OF STEEL" - This could be several things but I think it may be the name of a song. One possibility is Galactic - "Heart of Steel" feat. Irma Thomas which happens to be an awesome song.  Another possibility is Manowar - "Heart of Steel" which I can't say I'm fond of but it kind of fits the times we live in.  Both of these songs are several years old so it would be strange to pop up in newer graffiti.
  3. "IN THIS FAKE AZZ SWERVE TOWN" - Swerve appears to be slang meaning to dodge someone or something (as in avoid them or it).  Not sure who or what this town is dodging.
So what do you think?  Does it mean something or is it a bunch of random rambling? I imagine it means something to someone.  Leave you idea in the comments, Facebook comments, or as a Twitter reply.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Photograph: "Midwest Bartenders School"

There are several things that catch my eye.  Sunsets.  Graffiti.  Interesting architecture.  Shadows. Doors.  A Camino pilgrim from Puerto Rico once told me he was fascinated with doors.  When seeing a picture of a door he always wondered about the stories hidden behind that door.  I think I share some of his fascination with doors and their mysteries.

Midwest Bartenders School
"Midwest Bartenders School"
by Bruce H.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Photograph: "Under The Trestle"

Taken on the Keystone trail under a train trestle.  Like most pictures of old metal, it is best viewed in black and white.

Under The Trestle
"Under the trestle"
by Bruce H.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

A Few Minor Changes To Homer's Travels

I made a few minor changes to the blog yesterday.  I doubt anyone will notice the changes but I will explain why I did them.

First, I removed the Travel Magnets from the sidebar.  After the discontinuation of the slide show function back in October I kludged together a fix that I found unsatisfactory and required too much work on my part.  Therefore I have added another tab under the header (beside the Camino and Appalachian Trail (AT) tabs) that takes you to the Google Photo album of all the travel magnets.  I used to add a new magnet each week (more or less) but now that all the magnets are in a single tab, I will work to add all the magnets that I have not posted.  In a few days you will be able to see all of our travel magnet collection.

Second, I removed the Goodreads Book Challenge widget from the sidebar.  This is a temporary change since I will not be setting a reading goal this year because I will be on the AT.  I'm sure I will read some books this year, I just don't want to work towards a goal.

Finally, I changed the page view counter in the sidebar.  I'd been using sitemeter since I started Homer's Travels to keep track of visitors to the blog.   In the past I used to check it religiously but over the past year or two I've kind of ignored it.  Last month I realized that it had stopped counting ... for at least eleven months.  It could have been more but, since I wasn't paying attention, I have no idea.  Shame on me for not catching that sooner.   I have replaced it with the Blogger statistics widget.  The counter appears a lot higher than my old sitemeter count (119K before quitting) because sitemeter counted visits while blogger counts pageviews. In other words, if someone visited Homer's Travels and viewed three pages, sitemeter would count it as one and blogger would count it as three.  The higher number, over 730K at this posting, also is more impressive.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Photograph: "Return To Sender (Address Unknown)"

I went for a walk that took me through the Benson area of Omaha.  I saw this sad sight.  A happy looking mailbox in front of a burned out house.

Return to sender (Address unknown)
"Return to sender (address unknown)"
by Bruce H.
After taking this picture a young, well dressed, lady started talking to me.  Took me a few minutes to realize she wasn't making any coherent sense.  I smiled, nodded at a few appropriate times, and said "yeah" a couple times.  This seemed to appease her as she complained about the "stuck up world" and how bad her sister treated her.  We parted ways a block later.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

The Changing Of The Year And A Few Pretty Pictures

2016 went out quietly at the Homer's Travels' household.  The Wife watched football and basketball while playing games with a friend in the UK.  I road my trainer, did laundry, and took down the Christmas tree.  I removed the outside Christmas wreath and lights and took my balls out of the oak tree out front.  I left the the laser lights since they kind of fit in for New Years Eve decorations.

Today, while the Wife was a bit aimless, I took down the laser light projectors, packed up the holiday decorations, and returned them to the cubby hole in our furnace room, their job of bringing cheer completed successfully, where they will wait for next season's festivities.  The holiday season is officially over ... at least in our household.

Every year Flickr, the website where I upload most of my pictures, curates a group of everyone's best picture of the year.  The pictures are picked by each member.  It isn't a contest or anything.  It's just a place to show off what you think your best picture was for the year.  I have contributed three times - 2011, 2015, and 2016.  Not sure why I left our 2012 through 2014.  I will start a new posting tradition and use the New Year's Day to show off my selection.

My selection for 2016 was taken during our cruise on the Amazon river:

2016-06-14_Brazil Amazon_099
"The waters of the Rio Negro at sunset .... smooth as glass."
by Bruce H.
(Taken on the 14th of June, 2016)

Since I never showed off my other two entries, I will post them here.

My 2011 selection was of a butterfly on a backyard flower (first posted here):

Tiger Swallowtail
"Tiger Swallowtail"
by Bruce H.
(Taken on the 3rd of August, 2011)

My 2015 selection was a close up of a faded rose (first posted here):

Faded Rose
"Faded Rose"
by Bruce H.
(Taken on the 8th of October, 2015)
I hope everyone had a fun and uneventful New Years!