Homer's Travels

Monday, March 20, 2023

Happy Spring Equinox


    Spring Has Sprung!   


Go out there, weather permitting, and welcome the arrival of Spring.  I pre-celebrated by going for a walk.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Weekly Ephemera #49

  • On Monday I just didn't feel like walking.  I think the Daylight Saving Time change really did a number on me.  This is not really normal for me.  I usually adjust quickly but this year it felt like the foggy brain lasted all week.

    I did manage to go for a long walk on Wednesday.  I aimed for around twelve miles and ended up doing 12.95 miles (20.85 km).  This is the longest single walk I've done since April of last year.  It also absolutely killed my legs.  *oof*

    On Friday I decided not to walk which was probably a mistake.  My legs were still feeling the Wednesday walk and my head was still a bit foggy but I should have pushed through it and gone out even if it was for a shorter walk.
  • On Thursday the Wife's niece came down and stayed with us.  She was presenting at a school technology conference in Omaha.  It was nice to have a guest in the house.  It also gave us an excuse to go out to eat.  Now that I think about it, the high carb meal I had on Thursday night might explain some of the sluggishness I felt on Friday.
  • Today I washed my car once the temperature went above freezing.  Some of the dirt I washed off was from Arkansas, Luisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Missouri.  Yeah I don't wash my car very often.
  • The house guest theme continues this coming week when some British friends, who we met on the Amazon back in 2016, will be visiting for a few days so we can go all bird nerdy and witness the Sandhill Crane migration.  This will be fun.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Weekly Ephemera #47

  • On Monday the Wife and I went shopping for Camino gear.  We started at Cabellas and were very disappointed.  Their selection was okay but during our visit no one ever asked us if we needed help. 

    After eating some lunch we went to the 'new' REI outlet (not sure how new it is but I didn't realize it was here) and had an incredible experience.  As we approached the backpack section a representative came up and asked if he could help.  The Wife tried on four backpacks that the rep had filled with our desired weight so she could easily compare how they felt.  She ended up with a Osprey EJA 58L which should work well on the Camino.

    While she walked around the store with a pack on to get the feel, we looked at socks.  Once again a rep asked if he could help and he helped us find some non-wool socks the Wife could wear.

    On the way out we purchased a sleeping bag liner (we will not be carrying sleeping bags on the Camino but the liners are good sheets/covers for the hostel beds and can be treated with permethrin to keep the bugs off).

    Our experience was so good that I bought an REI lifetime membership for $30 and was pleasantly surprised to get a $30 gift card so ... free membership.
  • Continuing on the Camino gear topic, I purchased a set of trekking poles for the Wife.  She's never walked with poles and I hope she finds them as helpful as I do.  They came this week and they looked so nice and shiny that I ordered a new set for myself.  I feel a bit guilty since my old poles are still working but they are all scratched up and there is some corrosion and cracking on some of the quick locks - the Appalachian Trail was tough on them.  When they arrive I'm sure the guilt will quickly evaporate.
  • After the Robins returned over the last few weeks, the Red Wing Blackbirds (along with other types of blackbirds) started to show up.  When they get here in force they will empty our bird feeder double speed.  Of course, that's what the bird feeder is for ... to feed the birds.
  • I contacted the Government Office of Personnel Management this week to confirm my eligibility for my retirement annuity.  I remember thinking when I chose a deferred retirement annuity back in 2008 how far my sixtieth birthday was.  Now it's just a few months away and I wonder where the time went.  The form I need to fill out is pretty straight forward but I had questions on when I could submit it.  The ideal time will come while we are on the Camino but it looks like sending it in a few weeks early is no big deal.  I'm not sure exactly how much this annuity will be but it should cover some of our travel expenses and help extend our savings.
  • I walked two times this week for a total of 21.6 miles (34.8 km).  I am now easily covering ten plus miles per hike and I feel surprisingly well.  This is making me feel optimistic (is that what this feeling is?  I think so) that my third Camino will go well for me.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Book: Nikki Erlick's "The Measure"

This book, Nikki Erlick's "The Measure", begins with a truly novel premise.  On an ordinary day in March, everyone twenty-two years and older wakes up to find a small box outside their doors.  On the outside of the box it says "The measure of your life lies within."  Inside the box is an inscription of the recipient's name and a length of string.  No one sees the boxes appear.  Each day thereafter, when someone turns twenty-two, their box mysteriously appears at their door.

It is soon discovered that the length of the string is proportional to the length of a person's life.  A long string means a long life.  A short string means a short one.  The strings turn out to be accurate no matter the cause of death ... accident, illness, murder ... the strings are always right.

The book then follows several people whose lives become intertwined like pieces of string, one could say, as they try to cope with the world changing events that result from the appearance of the strings.  Laws are passed to prevent short-stringers from working in services like police, fire, and the armed forces in the belief that long stringers would not die on the job (being maimed or put into a coma is still a possibility of course).  Some short stringers become violent.  A Presidential candidate wins an election when his string is shown to be longer than his better opponent.  Relationships breakup once people discover their lives will not be the same length.

This premise fascinated me but as I read on I realized the author really didn't know how to end the book.  It just sort of faded away near the end.  Some things get better.  Society adjusts.  We never learn who or what was delivering the boxes.  I found the end anti-climatic.

When I started this book I thought it may be a five star book but I ended up giving it only four stars out of five on Goodreads because the five star premise was held back by the four star ending.

Sunday, March 05, 2023

Weekly Ephemera #46

It was a slow week.  Not much happened worth noting except for a couple things like:
  • The Wife and I started our Camino shopping this week.  I recommended some Salomon hiking shoes that I like.  She's been wearing them for a few days and she likes them so far.  We ordered some toe socks as well.  A short test proved that the Wife is still allergic to wool.  She tried on a pair of my merino wool blend socks but started itching in only a few minutes.  We will have to find a non-wool (probably polyester) option for her hiking socks.  We will be going sock and backpack shopping on Monday.

    I did something that I thought I would never do.  I ordered the Brierley Camino Guidebook.  Brierley has lots of good information including history about what you are passing along the Camino de Santiago but, since it also includes suggested stages and a lot of pilgrims treat Brierley's guide as the bible, you end up with traffic jams at the suggested Brierley stops.  We cursed Brierley during my first two Caminos but here I am buying his guide.  We will not be following the stops suggested by the book but will use the information about the places along the way.
  • I walked three times this week and managed to do a decent distance.  I walked a total of 31.8 miles (51.2 km).  Two of the walks were over eleven miles and they both wore me out but I felt better than I expected so that is a good thing.  I also, somehow, knocked 4 lbs (1.8 kg) off my weight this week which makes me happy.  I'm not overweight by any measure but I am much closer to what I think is a healthy weight for someone my height and age.  I've been this weight before and my cholesterol numbers are always better.

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Photograph: "Under The Railroad Bridge"

"Under the Railroad Bridge"
Bruce H.
During my walk today, under a beautiful clear blue sky, I went under a railroad bridge.  I've taken pictures of the bridge before and I decided to take another one.  I am a fan of rusty metal.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Photograph: "Sun Beam"

"Sun Beam"
Bruce H.
Beautiful sunrise this morning.  I've never seen the bright vertical beam before.  This photo doesn't do it justice really.  The beam was more pronounced to the naked eye.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Weekly Ephemera #45

  • On Monday the roofers came in and swapped out our box/turtle vents with turbine vents.  This was done to increase the ventilation in our attic (to reduce condensation) and to prevent the sucking of snow into the attic.  The snow and condensation was staining our ceiling in several rooms.  The roofers also vented the bathroom fans to the outside as they should have been from the beginning.  The builder had just vented the bathrooms into the attic.

    While doing the work the roofers pointed out that the baffles that ensure proper airflow from the soffit vents into the attic were not installed correctly.  They will be back in April (when workers return after taking off the winter season) to evaluate/fix these air flow issues.  This will result in a bill between $2K and $4K depending on what they find when they tear off part of the roof.  *sigh*
  • Geek Talk Warning:  For years I've been using GoDaddy as my domain registrar for Homers Travels.  This week I learned that GoDaddy had discovered a multi-year hack of their system.  While this only seems to affect websites hosted by GoDaddy and I only use their Domain Name registration, I decided to play it safe and moved my registration over to Google Domains instead.  I suspect you, the consumer of Homer's Travels, will not notice anything.  Carry on.
  • Walking was a bit chaotic this week.  Due to several factors beyond my control I only managed two hikes this week - one short and one long.  I ended up walking 15 miles (24 km).  The longer hike, over 10 miles (16 km) felt very good so I think I can push longer miles.  I don't expect any interruptions to my walking schedule this coming week so it will be interesting how my body handles longer miles.

    A pair of signs that made me smile.
  • Saw my first Robin last week.  This, and the more spring-like temperatures in the forecast, seem to be hinting at an early Spring.  Our snow is almost all gone (we didn't get anything more than a trace from the storm that came through Wednesday night).  We only have rain coming this week.  Yay.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Photograph: "Faux Black & White"

"Faux Black & White"
by Bruce H.
This photo which appears to be in black and white is actually a full color photo I took this morning out our back window.  The trees are covered in a thin coating of ice and the sun is at the correct angle to wash out most of the color.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Oscar Shorts 2023

Wednesday afternoon I performed the pseudo-annual tradition of seeing the Oscar Nominated Shorts (Animated and Live Action).  Over the past few years the art house movie theater that shows them here has had the terrible habit of timing the airings so that it was impossible to watch both on the same day.  Fortunately for me they corrected their wayward ways and this year I could watch both back to back.

The animated shorts were first.  They all were pretty good.  "The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse" was a bit too saccharine for me.  "The Flying Sailor", based on a true story (The Halifax harbor explosion) was a little too abstract as was "The Ice Merchants".  I think "My Year of Dicks" probably should win but not sure they have the guts to give the Oscar to an adult themed short even if it was funny.  The safe one would then be "An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It" which is ok.

After a short break between movies - and a good piece of banana bread - the live action shorts started.  The danger of the live action shorts is they often take on serious themes that are often very bleak.  This year two of the five fit the potentially bleak category.  The other three had enough humor and a happy enough ending to make them good.  My pick to win this category is "An Irish Goodbye".  It was sweet, funny, and had a satisfying ending.

There is a third category of Oscar shorts: Documentary.  The Wife and I have gone to them a couple times and have left depressed.  They are almost always too tragic and downbeat.  I'm not sure if I'll go to those this year.

Left the theater to find a glaze of ice on the windshield.  We have some ice and snow coming overnight.  Yay.