Monday, December 31, 2018

A Homer's Travels Look Back At 2018

2017 was the year that I became lost.  2018 was a year of recovery and of finding my way back to my path.  Sometimes it has felt that I'm just floating along and my sense of time is totally shot - don't ask me what day it is, I won't know.  Recovery has been slow and there have been setbacks throughout the year but I feel the changes within me and they are in the right direction.
Let's look back at 2018, shall we:

  • January: The year started how it usually does.  The mild depression that had dogged me all of 2017 was still there but things were improving little by little.  Birds in the backyard always lift my spirit.  The loss of Dolores O'Riordan bummed me out a bit.  Our cord cutting experiment was not successful ... yet.
  • February: The beginning of this month was packed with the school trivia contest, escape rooms, and familyTrek up the Tower wasn't for me. I went to see the short Oscar nominated films, my on-again-off-again tradition.  I bought my seventh camera.  The Olympic games gave the end of the month a non-political backdrop to my life that I needed.
  • March: I welcomed an early preview of spring.  The Wife's Mom passed away not long after.  My annual blood test turned up crappy numbers.  A repairman's mishap ended up disconnecting us for forty-eight hours.  This may have started the ball rolling with our cord cutting plans.  The first to get cut was our landline and us entering the cell phone era.
  • April: The month started out slow.  I continued to walk and was looking forward to biking.  The mid-month snow, on the other hand, was not helpful.  Despite the late snow I really began to start feeling better.  The Wife's student reached third place nationally in Poetry Out Loud - the best performance yet.  The sun came out and I biked in the real world, something I thought would never happen again.
  • May: This month, while walking and riding, my depression began to lift and I caught myself smiling again.  My seventh Caminoversary came and went full of thoughts happy and sad.  I went to my first boxing match.  A new mix of bird seed in the feeder attracted more types of birds to cheer me up.
  • June: We lost Tony Bourdain to suicide.  Summer arrived with thunder and lightning bugs.  We started our train travels through Canada.
  • July: Our travels started in Vancouver with a visit with Just A Girl, The Boy, and E.  I posted part of our travels while I was riding the train.  Next came Jasper where we celebrated nature and relived our honeymoon.  Winnipeg was our next stop and was a surprise for me.  A nice city.  We temporarily left the train and flew to Churchill to see polar bears, beluga whales, and bugs.  We returned to Winnipeg where we spent a few more days due to the train schedule.  The next train leg was our longest at thirty-eight hours and felt like thirty-eight days.  This long leg dropped us in Toronto where we had a whirlwind thirty-six hours to see this modern city.
  • August: While I posted about my vacation mostly while I was on vacation, the last two stops were not posted about until August after we got home.   In Montréal I had my fifty-fifth birthday and, like many other past birthdays, I was in a terrible mood.  I managed to work myself out of my funk enough to enjoy the city.  I dreaded the last train leg to Halifax - I was tired of trains and all the sitting I'd done this vacation.  Halifax was our last stop.  It turned out to be a nice seaside city.  We managed to get out on the water twice - on a hopper and a tall ship.  As soon as we got back we started planning our next travels.  I end the month cycling in hail.
  • September: I'd started hiking with a pack back in August.  I continued these hikes into September including one hike where I got eaten alive.  I posted pictures of all the Canadian magnets we bought (I managed to get them all up on our magnet display).  September eleventh was remembered.  The Wife planted sunflowers.  I welcomed the Fall with a hike at Hitchcock.  The rain we had this month led to some minor flooding along the Missouri river.  This led to a rare hike in the rain.
  • October: I voted early and kept my fingers crossed.  We had our first snow in the middle of the month.  I managed to see the Fall colors this year.  I remembered the fifth anniversary of the end of my second Camino.  Fallen leaves and ladybugs livened up a hike at Indian Cave S.P.  Halloween came and went.
  • November: This month we finally cut the cord.  Actually it took place at the end of July but this is when it all sunk in for me.  The election happened and, mostly, things went in the right direction.  Took a long, cold hike in Indian Cave S.P. where my drinking water froze.  We attended a beautiful wedding in Sioux Falls, SD.
  • December: The Christmas season started with the blooming of the Old Lady.  I got my almost annual curling fix with the Omaha leg of the Curling World Cup.  I kept up my hiking even in the snow and mud.  We had a low key Christmas season.  Winter started with a frosty morning.  The last week of the year we spent in Iceland.  The posts about that adventure will have to wait until next year.
  • Walking: This year I started hiking more.  This is especially true after we returned from our Canadian By Rail travels.  I began hiking with a backpack to help strengthen my legs with mixed results - I am stronger but my range with a pack got stuck between eight and nine miles.  In the end I hiked a total of 458.12 miles (737.27 km) which makes this year the fifth out of twelve for miles hiked.  More than last year but I've done better.  It should be noted that my average walking speed is the second lowest in twelve years.  I guess the backpack ... and my aging body ... are slowing me down a bit.
  • Biking: After pledging never to ride a bike out in the real world ever again, I rode my bike out in the real world.  It took me two years and nine months to convince myself to get back on the bike trails.  The biking lasted about five months before I decided to concentrate on my hiking.  In all, I rode my trainer 345.2 (555.5 km) miles and my bike in the real world 719.89 miles (1158.55 km).  The real world miles in the second longest of the last eleven years.  Not bad.
  • Books: I'd set a goal of twenty-four books to read this year.  While I should have been able to meet this target I fell a couple short.  Part of that could have been the fact I didn't read on our Canada By Rail trip reserving that time for podcast listening and post writing.   Here are my Goodreads stats for 2018.  I didn't read any real clunkers this year nor did I find a gem.  Most of my books were in the four star range with only a handful of three star 'MEH' reads.  I don't think I really was into reading this year.  Just kinda felt like I was going through the motions.
  • Concerts & Shows:  We didn't go to many shows or concerts this year but we did start to go out to see more movies which has been fun.  The three concerts or shows this year were:  
  • I posted 113 times this year - the lowest since 2012.  I found it hard to get motivated to write this year despite this being a better year for me than 2017.  My posting felt like a chore and I often rushed writing the posts so my work was a bit drab, in my opinion.  Having so many television options didn't help either.
At the end of this year I am watching the news less - there is only so much politics I can take and remain sane - hiking more and just floating along.  So what's ahead for me?  I don't know but I am confident it will be filled with new places, new people, and new adventures.  A healing of mind and spirit may also be in the stars.  The only way to find out for sure is to go out there and live.

Here's to a Happy and Prosperous New Year for all.
May all your dreams come true in 2019.

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Next Adventure Begins Today

We were supposed to start our Iceland adventure yesterday but a cancelled Icelandair flight changed our plans.   Our flight left a  day late.  Hotel reservations were changed and a city tour was rescheduled.  Nothing like a little chaos to start your vacation.

When we got off the plane today we were in Reykjavik, Iceland.  This is only the second time we've travelled internationally twice in one year (the last time was in 2016 - Cuba and South America) and it is the first time we've traveled at this time of the year.

We will be here from today to the second of January.  During this time we will take six tours visiting the highlights of the country.  Most of the tours range from seven to eleven hours - the shortest being the three hour city tour of Reykjavik.  The island is full of natural wonders like glaciers, lava, waterfalls, whales, hot springs, and, naturally, the aurora borealis.  I am looking forward most to the Aurora but I have to be realistic.  The weather forecast for Iceland is looking pretty grim with overcast skies and rain almost every day.  I will be keeping my fingers crossed that on one of our long nights on the island we will get the chance to see a light show.  If not, there is a lot more to see.

I don't plan to post about the trip until I return next year.  I expect to be tired at the end of the long tours and the idea of composing a post and editing pictures doesn't sound appealing. 

Enjoy the rest of 2018 ... I know the Wife and I will.

Note:  The Icelandic Flag graphic is from Wikipedia.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Book: John Scalzi's "The Collapsing Empire"

My last read of 2018 is another John Scalzi book.  It is my fourth Scalzi book of the year and I think I have concluded that my Scalzi Limit is three.  Scalzi's "The Collapsing Empire" starts a new series in a new world with new physics, politics, and intrigues all populated with the same old characters from his other books.  While I was reading this book I thought any of these characters could have been lifted right out of the Old Man's War series.

The book is about an empire dominated by an emperor (an Emperox), a religion, and monopolistic trade guilds.  The 'Flow' which allows interstellar travel is discovered to be collapsing which would result in the end of the empire and the near extinction of the human race.  All of this has so much potential but as I read it I just couldn't get into it.

I wonder if I'm being to harsh and that I may not be in the right mental space to appreciate this book.  There is a second book to the series out but I think I will wait (unless I run out of books to read) a bit before I dive back into Scalzi's works.

I gave this book three stars out of five on Goodreads which may be too harsh but it is how I felt as I read this book.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Low Key Christmas

This year the Wife and I decided, for this Christmas season, to do the tiniest amount of decorating as possible.  We didn't put up a tree.  The only signs of Christmas in the house are the Christmas cards propped up over the gas fireplace (which hasn't been lit in a few years) and a candle on a warmer to give the living room a nice holiday oder.

On the outside of the house are laser lights in the front yard.  That's it.  After some thought I decided not to put the big balls in the oak tree.  While I've had some second thoughts about the balls, it's now too late to put them up - the effort it takes to put them up requires a minimum of three weeks of display time.

The Wife and I aren't exchanging gifts this year either.  The funds set aside for Christmas gifts will simple be added to our Fun Money budgets.  Some of that will most likely be spent on our Iceland trip that starts on Christmas Day.

Despite how this sounds, I am feeling the Christmas spirit and it is getting stronger every day as we approach the big day when we will have a nice Christmas Eve at my Mom's place and a Christmas Day evening at the Best Man's and Matron Of Honor's home in Minneapolis.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Frosty First Day Of Winter

We've had some unusually warm day lately and it has not felt like Winter was approaching.  Today, the first day of Winter, we at least had frost on the grass.

I hope everyone has a fun filled Winter Solstice, even if it is the shortest day of the year.

OK, Universe, you can start making the days longer now.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Photograph: "Smash"

Posted on a light pole outside an all girls school.

"Smash"
Photo by Bruce H.
(Original Artist Unknown)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Book: Jy Yang's "The Black Tides Of Heaven"

Every fantasy that I can recall reading have always been likely based on Eurocentric medieval culture.  Knights, sorcerers, kingdoms - that kind of stuff.  My latest read, Jy Yang's "The Black Tides of Heaven", comes at fantasy from an Asian perspective and was totally refreshing.

Along with the Asian angle, Jy Yang brings an interesting gender-centric view as well.  The author describes themselves as "a lapsed journalist, a former practicing scientist, and a master of hermitry. A queer, non-binary, postcolonial intersectional feminist [...]" {from the About The Writer section of the book}.  In the book characters choose their gender.  Once a gender is chosen, mages use magic and chemistry to physically change the person's body to the gender of their choice.

The book is the beginning of a series.  This book sets up a conflict between the magic users and the non-native users.  The book is almost self contained but there are many places the story can go.

The one confusing thing in the book is the use of pronouns.  The author uses they/them/their to refer to persons who have not chosen their gender.  While I read I often has to pause and think if they were referring to a single person or multiple people since 'they' often is used to refer to two or more people.  Once the main characters choose their gender the confusion dissipated.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  The different perspectives gave the story some freshness that I liked.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Slip Sliding On Down The Trail

Went to Hitchcock Nature Center this morning.  I knew that there would be snow on the ground there but there was a lot more than I expected.  most of the trails had four to six inches with some drifts being knee deep.  It turns out, though, that the snow depth was not an issue.  Last weekend the Greater Omaha Area Trail Runnerz (G.O.A.T.Z) ran the Hitchcock Experience.

The Hitchcock Experience consist in three races - an half marathon (13.1 miles), a 50 mile, and a 100 mile trail run.  All those runners, and the ATVs that broke the trail through the snow, left most of the snow in the trails compressed down.  This was good and bad.  On level trails it was good since you didn't sink into the snow.  Going downhill sucked since the compressed snow was slick as ice.  Going up hill wasn't too bad because the racers had pounded little stair steps up the hills.

Early morning sunshine on Badger Ridge Trail.
I showed up at Hitchcock early in the morning to try to beat the thaw.  If the ground is frozen there is no mud.  I hoped to get my hike done before any exposed trail got muddy.  I didn't quite make it.  I was five miles in on my hike when I started down the Angel's Dead End trail. Angel's Dead End is a steep trail dropping down from the top of Fox Run Ridge.  Some of the trail did not have any snow cover and had been in the sun for a few hours.  I stepped on what I thought was dry ground but it turned out to be covered in a thin layer of grease-like mud.  I promptly began sliding.  Ended up with thick, sticky mud up my pant leg, on my butt, and all over my jacket.

I got back on my feet, took inventory and found nothing wrong, and decided to keep going.  I took one side of the Legacy Loop trail back up the ridge.  I was planning to go back down the ridge on the other half of Legacy Loop trail.  When I reached the top I realized that the other half of the loop was a very steep muddy trail.

A nice, easy, flat part of the Hidden Valley trail
showing how much snow was on the trail.
I thought it over and decided to try walking on the snow along the edge of the trail.  I took three steps when the snow under my foot gave way.  I grabbed onto a small tree and swung around it as my backpack pulled me downhill.  I ended up on my back, head pointed downhill, holding onto a tree.  At least it was snow and not mud.  To get back up I released the tree and, as I slid down a foot or two more, rolled over so my backpack was up (think a turtle flipping itself over).  I climbed back up and decided I'd had enough and took the easiest way back to the car.

I ended up doing only 5.7 miles today - 2.3 miles shorter than I planned.  Can't wait til the temps go low enough, and stay low enough, that I don't have to worry about mud.

P.S.  As I got in my car I'd placed my GPS on the roof of the car.  Three hours later I realized I'd left it on the roof.  I ended up driving back to Hitchcock where I found the GPS in the middle of the road.  It still works.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Omaha ... Curling Capitol?!?

Last year Omaha hosted both Curling Night in America and the Olympic Curling Trials.  This year Omaha is co-hosting (with legs in Suzhou, China and Jonkoping, Sweden and a grand finale in Beijing, China) the Curling World Cup.  This year the world cup includes ten nations - USA, Canada, Russia, South Korea, China, Japan, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, and Scotland.

The Curling sheets in Ralston Arena.
This leg is being held in Ralston Arena which is like five minutes from where I live.  I went to the opening session on Wednesday, another one on Friday, and, with the Wife, the last session on Sunday which showcased the men's team final.  The women teams and mix doubles were earlier on Sunday.  Team Schuster, the American team, won the the Men's event, Japan won the Women's event, and Norway won the mixed doubles' event.

My souvenir from the Curling World Cup: a tiny curling stone only an inch and a half across.
Last year I bought a T-Shirt as a souvenir.  This year I bought a scale model of a curling stone made with authentic granite (from Scotland) and a metal handle.

A few photos (taken with my cell phone) can be found in my 2018-12 Curling World Cup Google Photos album.

I am always surprised what events pop up in Omaha.  My hat is off to the people who book all these events.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Photograph: "Frosted Cafe"

This is the sign for the now defunct Bohemian Cafe in downtown Omaha. The sign faces north.  Can you guess which way the wind was blowing when it snowed on Sunday?

"Frosted Cafe"
by Bruce H.

Monday, December 03, 2018

The Christmas Season Has Begun Again.

While, for me, the holiday season starts with Thanksgiving, the season of Christmas starts with the blooming of my Christmas Cactus.  Today, a bud that I have been following for the last week, bloomed.

First bloom of the 2018 Christmas season.
This plant is a descendant of the Wife's Great-Great-Grandmother's cactus.  It is quite possible that this plant, and all the clippings I have gifted to other family members, continue a line that is over one hundred years old.

Christmas is finally here and all is good with the world.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Book: Victor Lavalle's "The Ballad Of Black Tom"

I have only read a little Lovecraft.  Horror, on the pages of a book, doesn't do much for me.  To me horror is a visual and aural experience.  I received the e-book of Victor Lavalle's "The Ballad of Black Tom" as a free gift for subscribing to the TOR.com newsletter (as was "All The Birds In The Sky" I read in October).  This book is a take on H.P. Lovecraft's world that twists the racial inequalities of the Jazz era with the horror that is Cthulhu.

The book is a short read and, like most short stories or novellas, always feel a bit incomplete to me.  I always feel the author should have taken the time to filled out their world a little bit more and built up richer character backstories.

I can't say that I dislike this book.  For what it is, a short horror novella in the Lovecraftian tradition, it is perfectly fine and I gave it four stars out of five on Goodreads because of this.  If Goodreads let me though, I would have given it three and a half.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Wonderful, Profound, And Amazing

It's hard to believe it's been two years. Thank you for making my two Caminos so wonderful, profound, and amazing.

From Postsecret.com, 08/26/2018

Monday, November 26, 2018

Entry, Descent, And Landing ... Successful!

Congratulations to the NASA/JPL team for a successful entry, descent, and landing of the Mars InSight!

Mars InSight
Photo Credit:  NASA/JPL
I watched it live on NASA TV.  It was fun to see how happy the scientists and engineers were after each milestone was reached.

Again, good job Mars InSight team!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Book: Becky Chambers' "Record Of A Spaceborn Few

"Record of a Spaceborn Few" is the third book of Becky Chambers' Wayfarers series.  This series is interesting in the fact that all of the books are so low key and there is very little climactic action in them.  In most cases this would be an issue but the world and characters the author is building are interesting.

The first two books were linked together by a couple characters but the third introduces a whole new list of protagonists.  These are people living on the Exodan Fleet, ships that took the survivors of Earth to the stars after an ecological collapse.

In a way, the main character of all three books is the world the author has built.  The people are just instruments to show off the Galactic Commons, the Exodan Fleet, and other facets of her universe.  Characters and action are secondary.

I like this universe and I am curious how Chambers will flesh out her world.  I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads and I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Turkey Day!!!

The Wife and I had a great Thanksgiving Day feast at my Moms.  Now I have a full belly and am kind of sleepy in a content sort of way.

Happy Turkey Day!!!
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Great Weekend In Sioux Falls

The Wife and I had a great time celebrating the wedding of her niece in Sioux Falls, SD. Nothing better than bunch of family, a bevy of babies, and a beautiful wedding.

Congratulations Caity and John!

Now I just have to come down from this sugar high ...

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Book: John Scalzi's "The End Of All Things"

This year I seem not to be able to get enough of John Scalzi's Old Man's War series.  My latest read, "The End of All Things" is the last in the series.  I will miss it.

The book takes off where "The Human Division" ends.  In this last installment we discover who was trying to divide the fragile peace in our part of the galaxy.

The book, like "The Human Division" is divided into independent sections, following different characters, which come together in the end to tell the story of transformation.  Not sure I like this disjointed style but it wasn't a show stopper for me.

I like these books and this series, a true space opera.  I do have to admit that I prefer the earlier books of the series better than the latter works including this one.  Having said this, I still enjoyed reading this book.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  I will miss this series but, fortunately, there are other books to wet my Scalzi appetite.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Water Freezes ... Who'da Thunk It

I went for a hike at Indian Cave today.  Thinking back, I realized that this was the first time since I moved here that I hiked in the winter.  I've done city walks in the winter but, until today, I never went to a trail.

A snow frosted trail in Indian Cave S.P.
When I started it was around 15℉ (-9.4℃)*.  I'd hiked a couple miles when I got thirsty.  When I hike with a backpack, like I did today, I use a 2 liter water bladder.  I grabbed the drinking tube, gave it a suck, and got ... nothing.  Examining the tube closely I realized the water in the tube was completely frozen.

A view of the Missouri River from the top of a ridge.
Farther down the trail I stopped to have a snack and rest my legs.  I pulled the water bladder out of the pack and found it not frozen so I got my fill of water.  The tube thawed out a little while later as the day warmed up.

I'll have to keep this in mind as I do more cold weather hikes.  If I want water to drink I'll have to forgo the bladder for bottles I can stick in my coat to keep thawed.

I ended up doing just over 9 miles (14.5 km) with about 2,000 ft (609.6 m) elevation change.  I have to admit, with the 35 lb (15.9 kg) pack, I was a bit pooped at the end of the hike.

This isn't the coldest I've been out hiking.  I once snowshoed in -5℉ (-20.5℃).  I got some awesome pictures on that snowshoe.  It was magical.

Monday, November 05, 2018

One Chance To Get It Right

Tomorrow America has one chance to get it right.  The midterm elections may be a critical point in the history of our democracy.

Before the 2016 elections, I expected the Democrats to win the presidency but there was a feeling in the pit of my stomach that would not go away.  That gut feeling was right.  Now people are predicting a "Blue Wave" or even a blue tsunami.  Once again I have that feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I really hope that it's wrong this time around.  I don't want to see a blue ripple or worse, a red wave.

If you haven't voted yet, get out there and vote.  Don't let this be our last chance to get it right.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Cutting The Cord

This was year we started experimenting with cutting the cable provider cord.  At the beginning of the year our cable company provided TV, telephone, and internet services.  In addition to this we had a no-contract dumb cell phone, Amazon Prime, and Netflix.  At the peak we were paying $285 a month for communication, information, and entertainment.

We started cutting in March when we replaced our landline and our dumb cell phone with smart phones (t-mobile unlimited everything).  Doing this actually increased our monthly costs by $30 (some because the cost of the phones is included in the cell bill).  In my opinion the extra services provided by the smart phones - instant access to the internet wherever you are, access to travel apps when on the road, being reachable when you want to be - is worth some of the increase.

The next step was at the end of July.  We subscribed to Hulu with Live TV.  We decided to try this service out for a month or two to see if it could replace the cable TV.  Hulu has a mediocre library of TV and movies but it did cover things that were not included in Netflix and Amazon Prime, services we already had.  What Hulu has that the other services didn't was around fifty channels of live TV.  It has most of the channels the Wife and I watch the most and it had more sports channels than we had with our cable provider.  Most of the shows I can't watch on Hulu are available not-live on Netflix  (or even Hulu).  Our main concern was video quality.  We'd tested Hulu once before but it was a bit jittery and buffered often.  This time the experience was completely different.  Buffering was infrequent and the experience was much improved from January.

The final test was in September when college Football started.  After a month of watching without any major issues, including not reaching the terabyte data limit of our cable provider, we cancelled the cable TV. Our cable provider is now only our internet service provider.

When we cancelled our cable TV the cost of the internet went up by about $9 but this was balanced by a dramatic drop overall.  The final number, which includes cable internet, cell phone service, Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu with Live TV, is $220 a month.  This is a savings of $65 a month or $780 of savings a year.  Not too bad.

I am happy with our setup (The Wife appears to be happy too).  My viewing habits are changing as I am binging more than watching stuff live.  I'm especially reliving my childhood by catching up on old cult classics I didn't have a chance to watch when I was a kid.

Now excuse me, I have a few more seasons of Monty Python to catch up on.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Feliz Día De Los Muertos

It is the Day of the Dead.  Take some time today to remember those who we cared about and have passed on.

A pile of the Wife's skull bracelets.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy All Hallows' Eve

A hay bale skeleton on display at Indian Cave SP.
Happy Halloween everyone!

This year the Wife and I will skip the giving of candy.  Not enough kids came by last year and we couldn't, and shouldn't, eat it all the candy ourselves.

Flamingos disguised as buzzards at Indian Cave SP.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Book: Charlie Jane Anders' "All The Birds In The Sky"

I received this book as a free ebook.  It won the 2017 Nebula Award for Best Novel.   I'm not sure who is choosing these winners.  The book is OK but not great in my opinion.

Charlie Jane Anders' "All the Birds in the Sky" follows two children as they grow up to be leaders in their two factions: Technology vs Witchcraft.  Civilization and the environment are breaking down and the world is moving towards armageddon.  The two factions are working to save the world though they are mostly opposing each other.  In the end the two protagonists bring their considerable skills together to halt the decay.

The book was OK.  It was well written.  The issue I had was the shallow feeling of the story.  It misses some depth.  The opposition between the two factions should have been more pronounced.

I also have issues with the rather stereotypical portrayal of the protagonists.  The tech-centric geek is a guy.  The nature loving witch is a woman.  The witch was a little goth when she was young.  The geek hated to go outside in nature and was awkward.

The ending was abrupt and wrapping up in too quickly.  There was no discussion of the aftermath of it all.

In the end I gave the book three stars out of five on Goodreads.  It could have been better.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Swish - Crunch

I returned to Indian Cave SP yesterday and saw that the colors had faded to shades of brown.  This is the time of year when the visual delight of fall colors gives way to the auditory one of the swish - crunch, the sound made as my feet move through the carpet of fallen leaves covering the hiking trail.

A ladybug on my hairy arm.
I exited the trail on the way back to my car when I was surprised to see a thin cloud of swarming insect.  I sat on a bench to rest and was immediately joined by four or five ladybugs landing on me and my cell phone screen as I was taking pictures.  I don't think I have ever seen so many ladybugs at once - the closest was in 1996 on the ladybug trail in Sequoia NP though those were huddled on the ground warming themselves in the sun.  These were buzzing around me as I sat on the bench and as I walked the miles or so back to my car.  A few even joined me on the drive back to Omaha.

A ladybug on my pants leg.
The ladybugs were a nice ending to a rather tough 8+ mile (12.8+ km) hike.

Friday, October 19, 2018

The Fifth Anniversary Of A Wonderful Ending

This is the fifth anniversary of the end of my second Camino.  Five years ago Gv and I arrived in Fisterra and left our footprints in the sand before watching the Sun set over the Atlantic Ocean.  A day of wonderful, and melancholy, memories.

The end of our second Camino on the beach near Fisterra.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Crisp Air

What a difference a few days make.  After a fairly substantial 3 inches (7.6 cm) of snow on Sunday, the temperatures finally stabilized at a comfortable and slightly crisp fall-like 60℉ (15.5℃).  Combine these temperatures with the changing of the foliage and I'm finally getting into the Fall spirit.

A red tinged leaf with morning dew on the trail in Indian Cave S.P.
Over the past three or four weeks I have been going to Hitchcock Nature Center and Indian Cave State Park and over this period I have watched the trees turn gold, yellow,orange, and red.

Indian Cave has the most colorful foliage.
In the past I have always been either too early or too late to see the Fall colors in 'full bloom'.  Hiking a couple times a week has given me the opportunity to admire the change.  Hitchcock's colors are predominantly gold and yellow.  Small bushes add pops of dark red and parasitic vines added orange.

Orange leaves of a parasitic vine.
I wish the colors would stay all winter but the leaves will soon be falling.  On a walk earlier this week I walked on some sidewalks covered in green leaves that fell after the Sunday freeze, never getting the chance to turn colors.

A pop of yellow at Hitchcock Nature Center.
Fall has always been one of my favorite seasons.  This year has been a bit strange with the higher than normal temps and rain.  The Fall has also taken on some melancholy hues with the memories of 2016.  Nevertheless, I still have a warm place in my heart for this change-filled time of the year.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

First Snow !?!

The weather this fall has been weird.  Record high temperatures followed by record low temperatures.  I always look forward to the crisp fall days but this year we haven't had them yet.

A late fall flower wondering what this white stuff is falling from the sky.
Today we had our first snow of the season.  It was supposed to be a light dusting but it turned out to be a bit more substantial triggering a Winter Weather Advisory.

Our oak tree's leaves haven't changed color yet but they are covered in heavy snow.
It's a bit early for snow here.  I do remember a snowfall this early sometime in the last ten years but I don't remember which year.  Usually the first snow is in November or December.  Like the last time it snowed this early, it won't last long.  This week - a month late in my opinion - the crisp fall air will finally arrive bringing the temperatures back to normal and melting all the snow.

Visibility is a bit limited by the falling snow.
I wonder if this is a preview of the winter to come.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Book: Jon Meacham's "The Soul Of America: The Battle For Our Better Angels

I needed a pick me up so I checked out Jon Meacham's "The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels" from the library.  I hoped it would give me some perspective on what's happening in our world today.  I don't think it did what I expected.

Meacham wrote this book to show that America has seen the current problems before and the country has always made it out the other side of each crisis.  Racism, misogyny, fascism - our country has seen them all over and over throughout our history and each time we made it through.

This should have been encouraging to me but it wasn't.  What I read was that racism, misogyny, fascism, and all the other evils have been beaten down over and over again and they just come back.  We have never, truly defeated them.  I finished this book a little bit more pessimistic.  Sigh.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  You can't knock a well written book because it exacerbated my pessimism.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

E*A*R*L*Y *** V*O*T*I*N*G Is Here!!!

If you live in Nebraska you are allowed to vote up to thirty days before election day.  Today I exercised my right and my duty and voted in the 2018 midterm elections 


In the past I have posted about my voting urging other people to get out and vote no matter who you vote for.  This year I feel different.  I still think everyone has the duty to vote.  Voting is important.  What has changed is who you will be voting for.  I cannot vote for any candidate from the Republican party.  No matter how flawed the Democratic party and their candidates are, they will never sink as low as the current hypocritical, anti-science, racist, homophobic, misogynistic, 45 rubber-stamping Republican party.

The electorate has to take a deep breath, carefully consider the choices in front of us, look at the facts, and choose the non-Republican candidates.

VOTE

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Happy Birthday to the Wife!!!

Happy
Birthday
To My
Wonderful
Wife!!!

It is an honor and a privilege
to be married to her.

I can't wait to see where our
lives take us next.

Monday, October 01, 2018

A Different Side Of Bill Murray

On Saturday the Brother-in-Law told us that Bill Murray was going to be in town at the Holland Center.  Turns out it was Sunday night so we bought tickets.  This was a bit short notice for us but we'd done things with shorter notice before.

The show was Bill Murray on vocals with Jan Vogler on cello, Mira Wang on violin, and Vanessa Perez on piano.  It was a combination of storytelling, poetry, spoken word, and classical music.  It was a semi-sophisticated Bill Murray.

Our view of Bill Murray - mostly in profile with emphasis on his bald spot.
When I realised what it was going to be I wondered what I'd gotten myself into but it turned out to be entertaining and, while no Sinatra, Murray can carry a tune when he needs to ... and he does a mean tango too.  The readings were interesting and often humorous.  Murray was a bit self-deprecating and didn't shy away from some minor political commentary.  His reading from "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" was considered by the Wife (an English teacher) to be one of the best she's ever heard.

After the encore Murray was given a bundle of roses which he began to throw out to the woman in the audience.  He spotted the Wife.  We were in a second tier box seat to the right of the stage.  He threw a rose up but didn't make it.  To his credit he didn't give up.  He threw a couple more until the Wife, perilously close to going over the rail, caught the rose to the cheer of the crowd.  The last rose went to the unnamed piano music page turner after she got the loudest cheer from the audience.

In the end, we had a great time with our new friend, Bill Murray.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Hiking Hitchcock In The Rain

When it comes to hiking in the rain I'm a chicken.  You would think that I thought I would melt.  I am trying to change.  Today I went hiking at Hitchcock with a 34 lb pack in the light drizzle.

It wasn't raining too hard but I think a drizzle is a good start at changing my feelings about walking in the rain.  I was wearing my Ferrino Trekker backpacking rain coat so I was fairly dry.  I love that coat.  It keeps me nice and dry from the knees up and I didn't overheat like I did with my old rain jacket.

Cool Fungi (???).
There is one secret to keeping cool in rain gear.  If you push your sleeves up to your elbows, exposing your forearms, you will cool down.  Yes, your forearms will be wet but you won't sweat like you are in a sauna.  I figured this out on my last Camino and it worked well on my hike today.

There is more rain in the forecast this week and I'm sure I will be doing more hiking in the rain.

Monday, September 24, 2018

I Have That Rising Water Feeling

I went for a bike ride today heading south and east along the Papio Creek and Missouri river.  The rivers are high with the Missouri river approaching flood stage which, I believe, is unusual for this time of year.

The Keystone and Bellevue Loop bike trails run on top of or beside the levees along the two rivers.  The trails dip down to pass under road overpasses.  The last dip under was along the Papio creek where it feeds into the Missouri river.  The river was backing up into the creek raising the water levels.  This is what that underpass looked like this morning:

A flooded Bellevue Loop bike trail.

I ended up going over the road to get around the water.  The trail ends at Haworth park which is closed due to flooding.  There is a farm field between the trail and the Missouri river along part of the trail.  Today this field was a lake that was being enjoyed by three pelicans, a rather rare sight near Omaha.

In the end, I ended up riding 41.5 miles (66.7 km) which is the longest I've ridden since RAGBRAI back in 2015.  My thighs are still screaming.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Happy First Day Of Autumn!!!

It is the fall equinox today and I went out to celebrate with a hike at Hitchcock Nature Center.  I've been going to Hitchcock once or twice a week for a while now to train myself for hill climbing.  I've been training with a 35 lb (15.8 kg) backpack to give myself a good workout.

We've had a hot August and the past few weeks have been tough hikes.  Between the heat, humidity, and clouds of starving mosquitoes, it's been a struggle to meet my distance goals.  Fortunately fall has arrived and with the changing of the seasons the temperatures have dropped nearly thirty degrees.  The lower temperatures and the blue skies made today's 6 mile (9.6 km) hike much more enjoyable.

Over the past few weeks I've seen the Monarch Butterfly migration come through.  Soon birds will start migrating through the area and the leaves will start changing.  I think I seen something different every time I visit Hitchcock.  I even saw some Iowan Hemp this hike - might explain why Iowans are so happy.

A little Iowan Hemp along the side of the trail.
I think Autumn may just be my favorite season.  I hope you all have a great first day of Autumn!!!