Friday, December 31, 2010

A Homer's Travels Look Back At 2010

Some people are not fond of end of the year lists.  I find comfort in looking back and seeing where I've been and thinking about what is to come.  2010 has been a rough year for me.  I have felt like I've been in a rather continuous slump for most of the year but especially for the last six months.  This is reflected in the drastic reduction in my posting this year - 36% below what I posted last year.  I've been disappointed in both my photography and my writing.

Let's look back at 2010, shall we:
2010 had a nice ring to it but turned out to be disappointing. The bad economy (the Wife and I survived relatively unscathed), the dirty political election cycle (once again, the Wife and I not directly affected), and the passing of Homer (no way to not be affected by that) contributed to a rather gray year.   A major case of writers block was either a contributor to and/or a cause of my down mood.  The look back list is mighty thin compared to 2009.

But there is hope.  This last week of 2010 has felt more upbeat and my mood is lifting.   There is hope for 2011.  I have two big events to look forward to: the Camino de Santiago and our Route 66 roadtrip back to California to visit with friends.  We have concerts planned and I have hikes to do.  2010 has brought me down but I am not out by any measure.  2011, I can't wait to meet'cha.

Here's to a Happy and Prosperous New Year for all.
May all your dreams come true in 2011.*

*and this time I mean it.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wacky Weather

In southern California, Oxnard specifically (where we used to live), it is 54°F.

In Omaha, where we live now, it is 62°F ... on January December 30th ...  Something is seriously screwed up.

Later this evening things will get back to normal here with temperatures back in the teens and twenties with a freezing rain/sleet/snow mix and sub-zero wind chills.  whoopee.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Lack Of Reading Material

2010 has been a mixed reading year for me.  I finished 15 books this year, three fewer than 2009.  My average book was longer (413 pages vs 361 pages).  The number of pages read, 6,205, was about 5% less than in 2009.

2011 is going to be tougher.  My fun money is going to my Camino walk so I have no money to buy very many books.  This means  I have to find other sources.  The most obvious one is the library.

I got my library card and went online and scanned through their catalog.  I looked for the fifteen books I have on my Amazon wish list - I only found two (They were both checked out, of course).  I put in an interlibrary loan request for one of the books.  That was three and a half weeks ago.  Not sure if this is typical (two librarians gave me two different answers - 1 week and 2-3 weeks).  I am wondering if I'll have any offline reading material this year.

I suspect that I will be limited to magazines and online reading for most of the year ... at least until I get this library figured out.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Dollar Store Christmas

This year I asked the Wife to allow me to set aside my Christmas gift budget for my Camino walk.  I was fine with not having anything to unwrap.  While she agreed, she was not willing to open presents alone.

After having facials and  a few beers with a friend, they went to a Dollar Store and went Christmas Shopping.  Selection at the Dollar Store is a little limited but, the Wife was able to come up with some ... interesting presents for me to open.

  • A brownie mix
  • A chocolate chip cookie mix
  • A bag of chocolate chips 
  • A package of Daddy Ray's Fig Bars
  • Chocolate Christmas bells (think chocolate kisses in the shape of a bell)
  • Banana Chips
  • A solid milk chocolate ballerina (from the Wife's friend)
  • and the pièce de résistance, three masked wrestler action figures
She topped off the gifts with a stop at a convenience store.
  • 20 scratchers ... which turned out to be worth $22.00
These presents went well with the twizzlers (a Christmas tradition) and bullet level I got from Mom, the Cabela's gift card from the Matron of Honor and Best Man, and Camino cash from the In-Laws and various other family members.

I have to say I had a very satisfying Christmas this year.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I'm Dreaming Of A ....

There's very little snow on the ground around here right now but that may change tonight.  Two to Four inches of White Christmas is in the overnight forecast.  I hope they're right.

The neighbor, anticipating the snow, brought over their snow blower so we could use it.  They're heading south so we will be helping them by clearing the snow off their driveway and sidewalks.  She also left us with a box of chocolates.  Yum.

I'm ready for Christmas.  The Wife and I went skating on Wednesday ... well, the Wife skated and I stood on the sidelines taking her picture.  Me and coordination don't go together.  That got us in the mood.

Christmas Eve will be spent at my Mom's.  Christmas Day will be with the In-Laws.  I'm feeling pretty good.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wandering Around Downtown

It's been a while since I walked around downtown Omaha.  I spent a couple days over the last two weeks walking around and catching up with the new art in the area.

Gene Leahy Slides (Not New But Very Cool)
After some lunch I walked over to the Gene Leahy Mall (think Washington Mall instead of shopping mall).  The main feature of the mall is a large waterfall fountain at the north end that feeds into a long and narrow pond that eventually joins an even bigger public pond.  This time of year the mall's fountains are turned off and the water is frozen.

I wasn't alone on my circumnavigation of the mall.  The mall provides a nice place to walk during people's lunch breaks.  I passed a couple getting their photos taken (an engagement perhaps), a father and young son yelling 'ECHO' as they walked under the 13th street bridge, and small crowds walking off their lunches and talking about office politics.

The latest addition to the mall, I discovered, were new benches around the Gene Leahy Mall .  Each bench is unique and each one has an artistic flair.  One my favorites is the screaming man below.  Pictures of some of the other benches can be found here.

Hold Your Hands Up And Say Hey!
I passed the father and son on the other side (we were walking in opposite directions).  The boy was going down the slide.  He was having fun.  I know because I've gone down the slide before.  It's fun.  Trust me.  They've improved the sliding experience by adding a fun bench nearby:

Blaaahhh!
I need to make it a point to visit the mall more often. The new public art keeps catching me by surprise and life needs a little pleasant surprise every now and then.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Book: Sonia Nazario's "Enrique's Journey"

JA, one of my sisters-in-law, gave me this book the last time we were at her place.  Sonia Nazario's "Enrique's Journey" tells the story of a Honduran boy traveling through Mexico to the United States in his attempt to reunite with his mother.

Enrique's mother had left home and come to the United States illegally to earn money to support Enrique and his sister.  The book describes the difficulty and life threatening conditions immigrants face when trying to enter the United States.  It talks about the hardship that results from split families torn apart by economics.  It talks about the strong family ties that drive children to reunite with their mothers.

The book is based on a Pulitzer Prize winning series originally published in the Los Angeles Times.  Unfortunately the book reads as a series of articles  loosely knit together.  When I should have been engrossed in Enrique's harrowing experience I was distracted by the rather shallow writing style.  In the end what should have been a moving book for me faded out with a whimper.

I'm not sure why this book didn't click for me.  This may simple be a matter of bad timing.  I am so burned out from all the crappy political news over the last six months that an issue book like this one irritated more than engrossed me.  I think I need to stick to fiction for a while

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sharing

We had two to three inches of snow with a lot of wind Saturday.  The wind whipped up a small drift on our driveway.  I went out and cleared it and then went over and cleared a smaller drift on our neighbors driveway.

I came in exhausted.  This really didn't make sense since the drifts were rather small.  Throughout the afternoon my energy was a no-show.  I laid down and napped but woke up weak and groggy.  I started thinking I may be coming down with what the Wife has been battling when the body aches started.

Ahhh, the things married people share.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I Miss The Geese

Where are the geese?  In 2008 we had flocks landing in the field behind the house each evening, munching on the leftover corn in the fields.  In 2009 there was no corn, the farmer had planted soybeans, but we still had geese flying overhead.  This year, until earlier this week, I hadn't seen nary a one.

2009 Geese Off Our Deck.
This week the geese have started to appear but they are two to three months late and their numbers, so far, are anemic.  I'm a little disappointed.  I hoped that the corn returning to the fields would signal the return of the geese.   I appear to be wrong.

Why???   Climate change ... wind turbines ... habitat destruction?  It's a mystery.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Potrero John Comes Through Once Again

Of all the trails I have hiked, a rather modest trail named Potrero John is the one that left the fondest memories.  I've posted about this trail twice already - once when I did the hike and once when I reminisced about doing it.

The trail is only 5.5 miles long.  There is very little elevation change.  The scenery is ... nice.  The trail turns around at a rather impressive falls, though when I was there only a little water was flowing.  Despite the low flow, the trail still manages to cross Potrero John creek over a dozen times.  I'm not sure why I felt so content on this trail but I did.

Potrero John has been good to me and, once again, it has come through.  I was contacted last week by an author who has published a book about California Waterfalls.  The fourth edition of her book is coming out in the spring and one of my Potrero John waterfall photos will grace its pages.  This will be my first real-world published picture (I've had a few published on-line).  Can't wait to get my copy next spring.

I'll have to return to the falls someday.  Give it my thanks for being so kind to me.  Maybe I'll do it next year.  We're planning a route 66 drive with a visit with our California friends (I'll send you an e-mail, GeekHiker, when I have some firm dates) and a Potrero John hike or a Topa Topa hike are on my short to-do list.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Balls ... Growth ... The Passage Of Time

It seems, as I get older, more and more things remind me of the passage of time.

Every Christmas since we moved back to Nebraska, we have decorated the oak tree in our front yard.  The first year we bought large Christmas balls and hung them from the leafless tree resulting in a tree reminiscent of the Charlie Brown Tree.  I managed to hang all twelve of the ornaments using a step ladder.

In 2009 I hung the ornaments using an eight foot extension poll while on snow shoes.  I had to buy more because the tree seemed larger and the balls just didn't fill the tree.  The tree ended up with thirty-eight big balls, though some were lost during a blizzard and one was obliterated by the snow blower.

Today I decorated the oak tree once more.  This time it took the eight foot extension poll and a step ladder to reach the tippy top of the tree.  Once I got all the balls hanging I realized that more balls would be needed.  The tree keeps getting bigger and taller.  Tomorrow the Wife and I are going Christmas decoration shopping to fill the gaps.

The oak tree has turned out to be a great sign of time's passage.  In a year or two I will no longer be able to decorate the tree.  I guess I could climb the tree to hang the ornaments but, as the tree gets older so will I, and I'm not sure I should be climbing in trees.   Come to think of it, it's been years, if not decades, since I last climbed a tree.  How time flies when you're having fun.