Friday, December 31, 2021

A Homer's Travels Look Back At 2021

2021 … From a burning dumpster fire to an epidemic of stupid.  I entered this year with some modicum of hope but it seemed the idiocy got in the way at every turn.  All I could do as the year progressed was shake my head in disbelief and turn off the news.


Let's look back at 2021, shall we:

  • January: The Blue Jays finally found my yard.  They made several appearances in my backyard this year, more than all our years in Omaha combined.  I started a journey of one thousand miles with good intentions.  Cookies welcomed the new administration.  A little hope in poetic form.
  • February: The joy of a frosty morning. I went a little bird nerdy at the beginning of the year as demonstrated by this picture of a Junco. Cold days visited us this month.  A visit to Mars.  A symbol of Q and things to come that finally came down six months later.
  • March: My first COVID-19 vaccination and the start of Spring.  We were so innocent then.  Who knew the vaccination would be so controversial?
  • April: On the second anniversary of starting my Appalachian Trail attempt I decided to go back and finish it.  With the second shot and a couple weeks the end of the tunnel was in view … briefly.
  • May: I was in a funk but travel plans were coming together.  I was two days late commemorating the tenth anniversary of my first Camino.  I had no good excuse for being late.  Another new bird visited our backyard.
  • June: We went on our roadtrip to the southeastern USA.  The first two weeks of the month we drove nearly four thousand miles.  The remainder of the month I documented our trip and we hosted the Wife's brother and niece as they volunteered at the Olympic swim trials.  It felt good to be out of the house even though where we went evoked many mixed feelings.
  • July: I finished documenting our southeast roadtripI aged another year.  The Wife and I watched more Olympic coverage than we usually do (which is a lot) and I suggested a change to how they run the games which I'm certain no one involved took note of.
  • August: I added the multitude of magnets collected during our southeast roadtrip.  We had a wasp visitor bearing gifts.  A storm came through and dumped a lot of water on downtown Omaha.  This storm had followed one that knocked out my Mom's power for nearly five days.  Following the storms and summerly hot and humid weather our air conditioner gave up the ghost and was replaced along with our similar aged furnace.  I admired some street art on a parking garage.
  • September: I finally caught up on on my backlog of podcasts (a result of the Appalachian Trail hike) and read my first book in nearly a year and a half.  I remembered the twentieth anniversary of 9-11 by looking at how I had remembered it the prior years and considering the mess we are in.  My hikes took me back into nature, the first since I left the Appalachian Trail, where I was saddened by what the passing of time had done to a once mighty tree.  I welcomed the cooler weather of the autumnal equinox even though summer hung on a little longer.
  • October: The Wife and a traveling nun had something in common.  My eighth Caminoversary was not forgotten this year.  A couple bird feeder bandits were caught red handed.  The month ended with a ghostly visitation.
  • November: We had our first snow flurries of this unusual winter.  The month went by in a blink so I summarized what I'd done.
  • December: I was surprised by the first bloom of my Christmas cactus.  We finally had our first significant snowfall even tho it didn't last long.  The month was unexpectedly warm until the last week of the month.  I didn't post about it but my Mom's husband passed away this month just short of his one hundredth birthday.  It was a sad note just before Christmas.
  • Walking: I started the one thousand mile challenge thinking it would be easy for me to accomplish.  I did not take into account the heat of summer or the disinterest of the fall that really slowed my progress.  I hike831.12 miles over 79 hikes.  It was the third highest annual mileage since I started keeping track in 2007.  I'm a little disappointed that I couldn't complete the challenge but I still managed to hike quite a few miles.
  • Biking: This year I didn't ride my bike at all.
  • Books: I spent most of the year catching up on podcasts that had accumulated after my Appalachian Trail attempt. Once I'd finally caught up to the present I started back into my reading though this wasn't until September.  I didn't set a goal like I'd done previous years since I wanted to ease back into reading without any pressure.  I did pretty good (for me) reading eight books.  Here are my Goodreads Stats for 2021.
  • Concerts, Shows & Music :  COVID-19 … need I say more...again?  No live shows at all this year.  I almost went to a free Elvis Costello concert but the heat and humidity … and frankly crowds kept me from doing it.  Like last year I did listen to a lot of music on Spotify.  Here is my Spotify 2021 Wrapped if you want to explore what the shuffle button did music-wise this year.
  • I posted 61 times this year.  Like last year I found it hard to get myself motivated to write. The summer roadtrip helped a bit.  I still didn't want to talk about the pandemic.  I still didn't want to post about politics.  There was too much of that out there and everything else was overwhelmed.  I didn't feel like adding to the amount of stupid that inundated us in 2021 so I didn't.
What will 2022 bring?  I have some health issues that will have to be straightened out.  I want to spend more time with Mom.  The Wife is retiring at the end of this school year.  Health permitting I will finish the Appalachian Trail.  We have a big adventure planned for the early fall.  In other words, there will be a lot of change coming this year.  With great change comes great adjustment.

Here's to a Happy, Prosperous, and Healthy New Year for all.  May all your dreams come true in 2022.
(That last line rhymes!)

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Book: John Green's "The Anthropocene Reviewed"

My last book of 2021 was John Green's "The Anthropocene Reviewed".  Author John Green, before writing his novels, reviewed books.  He was instructed not to include his personal feelings in his reviews.  This book is a departure from those instructions.

The book is a collection of topics ... music, art, feelings, place, events ... reviewed by Green intertwining personal events and beliefs with the topic reviewed.  The topics are eclectic and full of meaning.  The anecdotes are interesting and fun to read.

This book, as a whole, was a pleasure to read.  If you look at your own life and take stock of all the meaningful things that make you you, you would end up with a strange mix of topics just like this book.  Seeing someone else's list reminds you that we are all similar under the surface.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  Green is a good writer and his life, like many others, is delightfully ordinary.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas To All (Except COVID)

 Hope everyone was treated nicely by Santa Claus (and 
 COVID the Grinch). 

Our house decorated in red and green laser light.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

OK Winter Is Finally Here ...

... how about some snow and cold weather? We had a really cold day last Saturday but temperatures are back above average.

                                             

  Happy Winter Solstice Everyone !!!  

                                             

 

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Book: Andy Weir's "Project Hail Mary"

This is the third book by the author of "The Martian", an excellent book that I gave five stars on Goodreads.  Andy Weir's second book "Artemis" did not live up to the first book.  I gave it four stars but looking back I probably should have given it three.  His third book, "Project Hail Mary" almost gets there.  Not as good as "The Martian" but definitely better then "Artemis".

In his latest book the author gets back to his science roots that showed in "The Martian".  Some of the math is overdone and inserted in odd places.  Sometimes I was tempted to skip over the math paragraphs. Fortunately the story of a global disaster, a  long shot attempt to save humanity, and first contact held my attention and I looked forward to crawling in bed to read every night.

I gave this book four of five on Goodreads because it did overcompensate on the math but, if I could, I would have give it four and a half stars.  After enjoying "The Martian" so much I am happy Weir is getting back on track and producing truly original and interesting science fiction.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Book: J.S. Dewes' "The Last Watch"

J.S. Dewes' "The Last Watch" is the first book of a two book series.  It is an odd book where the characters and the fictional history are very interesting but the major scientific premise of the book is just too out there to be believable.  This made it hard to suspend disbelief at times.

The book follows a military outpost on the frontier.  Hundreds of years have passed since a war was fought and won against a powerful enemy.  Where the story goes from there is off the rails.  And from there it gets worse.

Having said all this, I liked the characters enough that I was able to wrestle my disbelief  into submission enough that I could ignore it's whining.

Despite its scientific implausibility I gave the book four out of five stars on Goodreads.  The characters interested me enough that I will likely read the second book.  I just hope the scientific malarkey is reined in in the second book.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Finally … The First Snow

We finally got our first real snow overnight.  We got maybe one inch.  The driveway and sidewalks were mostly clear as most of the snow melted on contact leaving only the snow on the grass as evidence that it really happened.  The temperatures later today and tomorrow guarantee that it will be all gone by the end of the weekend.

The first snow of winter 2021.

This winter (I know … winter doesn't officially start until the 21st) has been odd.  We usually get our first significant snow in November.  We've even had a couple first snows in mid-October.  This year the temperatures have been warmer than normal and there've only been two or three really cold days so far.  The winter is feeling more like an extended fall.

To make it all worse, it is supposed to set a record by going above 70℉ (21℃) this Wednesday with record high temperatures on Tuesday as well.  Crazy.  Just crazy.

Saturday, December 04, 2021

Christmas Season Has Started!

I currently have four Christmas Cactuses.  Three of them are beginning to bloom.  The fourth is taking its time.  I missed the first bloom.  It was on a cactus I thought was not blooming but there turned out to be two blooms tucked away behind some branches.  I discovered the blooms yesterday.

The first bloom of the 2021 holiday season.

Christmas season has officially started!!!

Monday, November 29, 2021

Where Has This Month Gone?

November is almost over.  It feels like this month and year have gone by in a blink.  After posting nine times in October, my creative juices dried up and this is only the fourth post of the month.  So, what did I do this month?

I continued to walk towards my now seemingly unachievable goal of walking one thousand miles in 2021.  The heat of the summer shortened my walks and while I've tried to make up for that by doing more and longer hikes this fall, I'm pretty sure the thousand miles are out of reach.  In November I didn't help the situation when I took several days off from walking for various reasons.

The Olympic Curling Trials were in Omaha this month.  I managed to go to only a couple matches.  In the past I have been a lot more enthusiastic about going to see the curling live and in person but this year the interest wasn't really there for me.  I did manage to see both men's and women's qualifying teams compete.

The same week as the curling trials I received my Covid-19 booster shot.  I decided to switch it up a bit and got the Moderna booster to compliment my first two Pfizer vaccinations.  I was a bit tired after the booster but it lasted only twenty-four hours.  Just in time for the Omicron variant.

We spent Thanksgiving day at my Mom's house.  The Wife prepared the turkey, stuffing, and bread.  Mom and Ernie's kids provided the rest of the feast.  The food was great and the company even better.  It felt nice to feel comfortable in a group setting again.

Finally, today is the fifth anniversary of GV's passing.  Sometimes it feels like it was aeons ago.  Other times it feels like it was yesterday.  The flow of time, especially the last two years, has a weird way of changing day to day and emotion to emotion.

The holiday season has now started.  I put the tree up on Saturday and most of the exterior lights and the oversized Christmas balls in our oak tree on Sunday.  While I feel the season it feels somewhat subdued.  Maybe it's the warm weather we've been having and the lack of snow.  Maybe it's that I've really been feeling my age lately.  I'm sure things will improve once the ground is covered in the first blanket of snow. 

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope y'all aren't tired of all the Christmas commercials that are already filling the airwaves.  If I were King they wouldn't be aired until after Thanksgiving.  Now that Thanksgiving if finally here, let the holiday season officially begin.

Wishing everyone a happy, bountiful, gut stuffing, and safe Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Book: Nicholas Thomas' "Voyagers: The Settlement Of The Pacific"

One of the greatest exploration and colonization events in world history is the settlement of the pacific islands by people in relatively small watercraft and little or no navigational technology.  Men and women boarded craft and headed out onto the vast pacific ocean not knowing what, if anything, lay over the horizon.  No greater leap of faith has humanity ever made.

Nicholas Thomas' "Voyagers: The Settlement of the Pacific" gives a cursory account of how this magnificent feat was achieved.  The book did not go into the depth that I hoped but I suspect that is because primary source material is limited.  Most of the book is based on western explorers and islanders who traveled with them.  There is rarely mention of local histories but I suspect that is because these histories were oral and thus many have been lost to time.

As I read this book my thoughts went to those intrepid people who embarked on one way trips to places unknown.  I imagine, for every expedition that found and settled a new island, uncountable others perish from hunger, thirst, and the power of the sea.

I gave this book four out of five stars on Goodreads.  I wish it had more depth and detail but if it had it would be more a work of speculation than history.

Friday, November 12, 2021

The First Snow Flurries Of The Season

I went for my first cold walk for the season.  Today the temperatures never topped 40℉ (4.4℃) but the wind chills were well below freezing.  I think this is nearly the perfect weather to walk in.  I didn't sweat even tho I dressed warm.  To top it off we had our first snowfall.  Well, to be honest, it was our first snow flurries of the season with nothing sticking once it hit the warm ground.
A couple snow flakes on my fleece glove.
The flurries were light with short bursts of light snow blown by the unending wind.  It gave my nearly fifteen mile walk an almost magical feeling.

Can't wait for our first real snowfall, yet to appear in the forecast, so for the briefest moment the world can be clean and quiet.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

BOO!!! ... Part Two

The Wife was looking out our very dirty deck sliding door when she noticed what looked like children's hand prints.  She took a picture and I tried to enhance it a bit to make the prints stand out better.

Picture taken by the Wife and edited by me.

We haven't had any children in our house for ages.  Haven't seen any children in our yard.  Maybe a ghost child paid us a visit on Halloween?

Or maybe there is a more ... natural ... explanation. Last week I raised the bird feeder from four foot high off the fence to around seven foot in the hope that I could keep the racoons from eating all the food.  I suspect that this may have pissed off the racoons and the strange, childlike prints on our glass door were in fact racoon prints.  The front paws of racoons are similar to human hands but you usually can see their claws in the prints.  The screen on the glass may explain the lack of claw prints.

Were you a racoon or were you a ...

Ghost Child?

BOO!!!

Wishing everyone a happy and safe Halloween.  The Wife and I don't really do anything on Halloween except turn off the lights and ignore the knocks on the door.  If I were to participate and I had to pick a costume I would go as a 'Vaccine Mandate' since, apparently, millions of Americans are scared to death of them.


  Happy Halloween Everybody!!!  

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Book: Randall Monroe's "How To"

I've read other books by Randall Monroe and I read his cartoons almost daily.  Any nerd out there should be familiar with XKCD.  Monroe produces humor with a scientific slant that I enjoy and this book, "How To", does not disappoint.

The book is similar the the first one I've read, "What If?", in that each chapter posits a problem which Monroe then solves using science taking it to absurd, and often funny, limits.  In short it's a book full of solutions if you happen to not believe in the K.I.S.S. principle.

I enjoyed this book.  It was hard not to smile about some of the shenanigans explained in the book with scientific precision.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  Worth your time if you have a nerdy, science-based, sense of humor. 

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Trash Panda Bandits

Every Saturday I fill the birdfeeders.  The main feeder holds six pounds of bird seed that I mix by hand to attract the biggest variety of birds.  The feeder is attached to a cord that I can raise or lower for easy filling.  I did it this way to prevent squirrels from eating the seed.

Despite my efforts, inevitably the feeder is empty by Monday morning.  I have always thought this was weird since the small birds in our yard could not possibly eat that much food in two days.  The only time this would be believable would be in the Spring when the blackbirds migrate through and swarm the feeders.  Another strange fact was that the feeders were being emptied out at night … hmmmm.

Birds visiting the feeder.
So I decided to solve the mystery once and for all and I purchased a hunting camera.  The camera is made to be attached to a tree or post and is triggered by motion.  It works at day or night.  I filled up the feeder, placed the camera where it had a good view of the feeder, and waited a week.

Two racoons burgling the feeder.
It really didn't take long.  I was expecting to see a racoon, sometimes referred to a trash panda since they like trash and they are related to pandas, but I was a bit surprised to see two.  I also learned it takes two visits to totally empty the feeder (Note the top picture with the birds - the feeder is half full after the racoon's first visit).

A Trash Panda taking a selfie.
I am considering adding another section of pipe to raise the feed out of the racoon's reach.  I would rather feed the birds instead of the racoons and the food would last a lot longer if only the birds are visiting.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Book: C.M. Kosemen's "All Tomorrows: A Billion Year Chronicle Of The Myriad Species And Varying Fortunes Of Man"

This was a book recommended by the Wife's students.  I have read similar books before.  They fit in a genre of their own.  They are science fiction written as non-fiction.  They are often written as histories but cover speculative future events.  Books like "After Man", "Man after Man", and "Expedition" are examples of the genre.  Since I am fond of this type of fiction I decided that this would be my next read.

C.M. Koseman's "All Tomorrows" turned out to be a hard book to find since it isn't sold at Amazon.  I eventually found a PDF of the book on some server which I believe was in Russia (yikes).

The books covers the rise, fall, and rise again of the human race(s).  It covers a huge amount of time.  But for the scope of the book, it s very short.  A page of text is followed by an illustration of the evolved … or genetically modified … human descendant.  I found the text to be too brief and superficial and the illustrations to be amateurish.  The three books I linked to above are much better examples of this type of fiction with detailed texts and gorgeous illustrations.  "All Tomorrows" pales in comparison.

I gave this three stars out of five on Goodreads because there was a spark of something interesting there but it didn't quite deliver.  It could have been so much better.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Eighth Caminoversary Of The End Of My Second Camino

Today marks eight years since I sat on the rocks and watched the sun set on my second, and most likely last, Camino.  I remember the strong sense of completion.  You would think this would have been accompanied by a feeling of accomplishment but it was kind of sad.  GV told me, years after that day, that she cried as she sat with me there in the waning light of the day.  I think I understand how she felt.  Our Camino was over.  Something important was coming to an end.

Fisterra.
When I hiked the Appalachian Trail I really wanted to have the same feeling but it never came, at least not with the intensity of the end of the Camino.  This just proves how important the Camino was to my life.  Some things can only be experienced once and doing them again is just a faded copy and this is why I commemorate the end of my Camino and the growth it brought.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

A Round About Way To A Similar Destination

 A couple things reached the same destination this year.  Both took different routes … both had different reasons … but both got to the same place.

The first started as a pandemic lockdown project for the Wife.  Over the past year or so the Wife has pursued a dual citizenship.  The first is American, naturally, and the other is through genealogy.  The Wife has ancestors from Luxembourg and for the past year she has collected birth certificates, wedding records, death records, and other genealogical proof of her Luxembourgian ancestry.  She had filled out requests and forms, often multiple times, and submitted her application for Luxembourgian citizenship.  She reached her goal in August when she was granted citizenship.

A blurry picture of the original
Walking Sister travel bug.
The second has been talked about before in Homer's Travels.  In 2007 I sent out a geocaching travel bug called the Walking Sister.  It travelled around the United States for almost four years before it turned up missing.  I had a duplicate of the travel bug tag so I made a new Walking Sister.  This time I dropped her off in Santiago de Compostela, Spain on my first Camino.  It was soon picked up and started travelling around Europe.  Starting from Spain it went to Portugal, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and even took a side trip to Cyprus.  Combined the two versions of the Walking Sister have visited one thousand six hundred and eighty two geocaches and have travelled 40,189.9 miles (64679.2 km).

So how are these two things connected?  Last week I received an update.  The Walking Sister's latest stop is in … Luxembourg.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Book: Becky Chambers' "The Galaxy, And The Ground Within"

My next book was the fourth in a loosely tied together series set in the same universe.  Each of the four books can be read stand alone.

Becky Chambers' "The Galaxy, and the Ground Within" is an odd book.  It is the story of a group of people from various races stuck together and having to interact.  This book feels more like universe development.  There is only a small amount to conflict and action.

I found the book interesting because I'm interested in different social structures and how members of each would interact with each other but it probably not everyone's cup of tea.  I have to admit that a little more conflict and jeopardy would have been welcome.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  It kept me interested but it may not be for everyone. 

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Happy Birthday To The Wife!!!

I want to wish the Wife, the love of my life and my most wonderful travel companion, an awesome birthday.  I can't wait to see where we will travel once we have the freedom to just 'go that way.'

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

My Favorite Season Arrives Once Again

The fall equinox has arrived and Autumn has arrived once again.  Cool air.  Colorful leaves. Shortening days.  The Harvest moon (a few days early).  What's not to love.

A few days ago the sun gave us a preview of some of the colors coming soon.

The reds, oranges, and yellows of the approaching fall.

Happy Autumnal Equinox Everybody!!!

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Book: Martha Wells' "All Systems Red"

The first book of 2021 - I am, admittingly, having a very late start to the reading year - is the first book of the Murderbot Diaries series.  This novella,  only one hundred-sixty pages, is Martha Wells' "All Systems Red".

A lot of people I know recommended these books to me and I can understand why.  The writing is good and the protagonist, a defective security robot, is interesting and has an interesting personality.

The story follows the bot who is providing security to a planetary survey team.  Competition between teams results in violence.  The rogue nature of the bot helps you explore motivations, free will, and the idea of being human.

The first four books of this series are novellas with the fifth book being a full length novel.  I can't wait to dig deeper into the psych of a rogue murderbot.

I gave this book five stars out of five on Goodreads mostly because of its potential going forward.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Things Come, Things Go, And There Is Always Room For More

Nearly thirteen years ago I took my first hike at Hitchcock Nature Center.  It was one of the first hikes I did after moving to Nebraska. During that hike I stopped to admire an American Elm Tree in a clearing on the Wildwood trail.

An American Elm and its companion in a clearing on the Wildwood trail.

I remember thinking, as I admired the tree and the filtered sunlit clearing surround it, how peaceful it felt.  The tree stood there rather regally like it was the center of the forest.

This last week I went back to Hitchcock.  I came upon the Elm tree.  It was a sad sight. Time and nature had not been kind to the once majestic tree and his companion.  Not sure if this is the result of Dutch Elm Disease or something else.  Either way, it was not kind to this poor tree.  The amount of undergrowth that now fills the clearing contributes to the shabbiness and decay that is felt there now.  So sad but the world moves on.  Things die and others are born to take their place.

Time has not been kind.

The return to Hitchcock was the first hike in nature since I left the Appalachian Trail in September 2019.  All my other hikes and walks since my return had been city walks on concrete and asphalt, the only nature being the groomed lawns and parks of Omaha.  It felt good to be back out amongst the trees and feeling the packed dirt under my feet.  I didn't realize how much I missed this.  I thought six months on the Appalachian Trail had given me my fill of nature but this week I learned that there is always room for more.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Twenty Long Years

When I considered what I was going to write about the anniversary of 9-11, I thought I would look at the other 9-11 posts I'd written throughout the years.  I was kind of surprised that I hadn't written about it every year.  It seems the Obama years had put me in a state of delusion.  I thought things would be okay and I was distracted by my 2011 Camino and Route 66 vacation (The best summer of my life so far), our China vacation in 2012 distracted me some more.  I was on the Camino for a second time during September in 2013. I thought all was going to be ok so I kind of forgot about 9-11.  Boy, was I wrong.

Here are links to the other 9-11 posts:

  • 2006 - R*E*M*E*M*B*E*R:  Only five years after 9-11 and I was already lamenting the sacrifice of liberty for security.
  • 2007 - Book: Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn's 102 Minutes:  I remembered by reviewing a book on 9-11 and thinking of the sacrifice of those who lost their lives.
  • 2015 - Remember The Fallen:  It took eight years but the disappointment began to show itself as the Obama era ended and the decline of our society began in earnest.
  • 2016 - A Line Of Fear:  It took a while but I finally realized that Osama Bin Laden had actually won.
  • 2017 - A Couple Words Regarding 9-11: What more was there to say?  So sad.
  • 2018 - Seventeen Years Ago Today …:  Despair … that is what I hear when I read this post.
  • 2020 - Another Year Of 'Winning':  Sixty-four 9-11s, and a few more since then.  From the crumbling of the towers to the potential crumbling of Democracy … 2020 was a crappy year

During the Obama years I forgot about 9-11. A lot of us did. The younger generation has no memories of the circling of the wagons that happened right after the attacks. That feeling of we are in this together faded too quickly and it was replaced with a fear stoked by political entities for their own power hungry motivations.

Look at us now. Our democracy and our liberties are fading like the memories of the falling towers. We are in the dumbest of timelines and we can't even come together to save ourselves. All I can do is bow my head in sorrow and lament all that has been lost.

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Nearly Two Years Of Listening To The World On Delay

I've mentioned before that I like to listen to podcasts.  I listen to them mostly when I'm doing chores around the house.  I usually keep up with the new episodes but when I hiked the Appalachian Trail the episodes piled up (I don't like listening to music/podcasts when I hike in nature since I want to hear the forest around me but many hikers listened to podcasts as they hiked the trail).

When I got home I looked at my podcast list and saw I had over one hundred twenty hours worth of podcasts.  I had a choice.  I could delete the episodes and start listening with the current episodes or I could listen to the accumulated episodes and catch up to the present.  I decided to listen to them all.

I found the best time to listen for me was before I went to bed.  This was also the time when I usually read.  Reading was put on indefinite hold while I tried to catch up.  It would take more than a hundred and twenty hours since new episodes where being downloaded every week.  From October 2019 through last week I worked my way through All the episodes only taking a short break in 2020 to read the "Testaments", the only book I read in 2020.

Last week I finally caught up to the present.  It was strange reliving the nearly two years of the pandemic on a delay.  It was interesting to see the optimism early on when people figured we would beat this quickly.  Few people anticipated just how stupid of a timeline we live in.

So today I reupped my library card.  I am reading again.  I've enjoyed all the podcast episodes I've listened to and have enjoyed the experience but I have missed reading a good book.  Old friends ... I'm back ... take me away to places of wonder.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Photographs: Faces

These faces are on, of all things, a parking structure in the Benson area of Omaha:


Faces.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Chillin' ... Once Again.

Well, it was bound to happen and it isn't like we didn't see it coming.  For the past few years in the spring, either during a regular spring inspection or a loss of cold air coming out of our registers, we have had to add two pounds of coolant to our air conditioner (AC).  Last May two pounds were added like clockwork.  The technician would always say that it was a slow leak and it would cost too much to fix it.

Just over two weeks ago we lost our cold air again.  The technician added another pound of coolant.  This lasted until this week.  We lost cold air again and this time the technician has to add three pounds.  The writing was on the wall.  The small leak had become a large leak.

The same day of this diagnosis I contacted an AC dealer (a graduate of the school the Wife teaches at) and got an estimate for replacing not only our AC but also our furnace.  Both were original to the house and the serial numbers of the units said it all - 1997.  Twenty-four years is a long time for a furnace and AC.  To our surprise the installers came the next day (less than twenty-four hours after getting the estimate) and replaced both units.

Now we have a quiet and more efficient running AC, a more efficient multi-stage furnace with a better humidifier, and a WiFi enabled thermostat.  While the AC and furnace will have a bigger impact on our comfort, being able to ask my phone what the temperature is in the house and being able to set it simply by talking to my phone makes my inner-geek so happy.

We replaced our garage door in the spring.  The next thing to change are the windows ... they've been on order since February-March but, you know, COVID-19.  Hoping to have them installed in October.  Our wallet weeps ... but that is the burden of a homeowner.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Waterline

Last weekend we had storms come through and for the first time in my memory the downtown area of Omaha was subject to flash flooding.  Some of you may have heard about the flooded elevator that made the national news.  Today I walked downtown in the area that was flooding.  Clean up is continuing including at an art gallery in the area.  There was mud everywhere.  Then I saw just how deep the water had been:

The water and mud line from last weekend's storm.
I knew there was water in basements (where the elevator flooded).  I never realized the water was that deep on the streets outside.  Crazy weather we're having.

Sunday, August 08, 2021

A Visitor At Our Window

 Noticed this the other day:

A wasp holding ... something.

A different view.

Not sure what it has in it's mouth.  It was round and green.  Looked like a part of a plant but I have no idea what it is.  Maybe a larva?

Monday, August 02, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Magnet Edition

As usual the Wife and I went overboard on the travel magnets on this vacation.  Our pent up demand resulted in the acquisition of twenty-nine magnets during our travels of the Southeastern United States.  A couple of the magnets were late additions to my Appalachian Trail magnets.  I've added all the magnets to the Travel Magnets tab above.

Here are a few of my favorites:

The Biltmore Estate.

The Hunley ... the explosive booming the lower left should be on the upper left.

Love the colors of this Charleston Magnet.

A famous icon of Savannah.

The Memorial to Peace and Justice.

An Art Deco Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald museum magnet.

My favorite is the three dimensional model of the Appalachian Trail I bought in Shenandoah national park:

A three dimensional model of the Appalachian Trail.

Friday, July 23, 2021

How To Fix The Olympic Games

Every two years, more or less, I plant myself in front of the television and watch the best of world athletic competition.  The Olympics is one of the few sporting events I watch.  I guess I enjoy the individual triumphs more than the team successes more commonly seen in sports.  But the Olympics have problems.  The primary problem is they are so expensive to host.

Hosting the Olympic games is expensive.  Billions of dollars are spent building venues, housing the athletes and the spectators.  Infrastructure has to be improved and the area around the games are often beautified at the expense of the local residents.  The cost is getting so high that some bids to host have been withdrawn after public outcry.  The games are becoming an economic superpowers only club in terms of hosting the events.  I think this hurts the spirit of the games.

This is just my two cents and I doubt it will be seen by more than a handful of people but here is my solution: Divide up the games  amongst several nations.  The Olympic games are already sort of divided up: Swimming, gymnastics, track & field, field games like soccer.  I propose dividing up the games by these event categories and have nations bid to host a category.  This would make it much more affordable to smaller countries to host part of the games.  An example, South Africa could never host the entire Olympic games without going into massive soul crushing debt but they could host the soccer portion since they already successfully hosted a World Cup in 2010.

Dividing the games up over several nations would bring more internationalism back into the game.  More nations would be invested in seeing a successful Olympic games and they would do it without incurring much hardship.  Also, in the age of COVID, if the games were divided up the chance of the entire Olympic games having to be cancelled due to disease or disaster would be reduced and the risk more spread out.

The only downside would be the lack of opening and closing ceremonies involving all the athletes.  Perhaps another way to open and close the games that would include all participating nations could be worked out.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Monday, July 19, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Day 13 And Epilogue

Our last day of our summer travels was a combination of civil rights and literature.  We got up early, checked out of our hotel, and headed up Highway 80 to Selma, AL.  This is the route taken by Civil Rights marchers in 1965.  The route is designated the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail.  Along the route there were camp markers where the marchers spent the night on the way to Montgomery.  The National Historic Trail visitor's center was unfortunately closed due to COVID when we stopped.

The Edmund Pettus bridge.
We reached Selma where we went to a Mr. Waffle for breakfast.  From there we were pleasantly surprised to see the Edmund Pettus Bridge visitor's center was open.  We walked through the modest but moving museum and bought magnets before we walked across the bridge named for a senior officer of the Confederate Army who would become a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.  It is where Civil Rights marchers, including John Lewis, were beaten as they tried to march over the bridge on the way to Montgomery.

The plaque on the bridge.
We stopped at a gift shop on the other side of the bridge to purchase magnets.  There is a National Voting Rights museum across the street but it appeared closed and a bit run down … which seems a bit symbolic of of how our country's voting rights are heading at the moment.

The Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum.
(Picture taken by the Wife.)
We returned to Montgomery and stopped at the Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum and house.  The Fitzgerald's moved around seasonally and this house was one they lived in in 1931-1932.  The museum was well done and showcased their writing, Zelda's art, and their lives and correspondence.  The really cool part is that the top floor house is an airbnb and we spent the night in the house for our last night in Montgomery.

The sitting room in the F. Scott Fitzgerald room.
The next two days were just driving through Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky (Where we saw the largest Confederate flag flying in a public area), Missouri, on the way home.  Our roadtrip was 15 days long and covered around three thousand and nine hundred miles.  It did not come close to covering all the history in the area but I think there is only so much of the sordid southern history one can take at a time.  We will probably go back someday to visit a few more spots we skipped this time but I'm not sure it will be anytime soon.  This was a good trip but it was taxing emotionally and it just proved that this country has a long ways to go.

Monday, July 12, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Day 12

Today was going to be a somber day.  We were going to visit three places connected to civil rights struggles and the systemic racism the black people have endured over too many years.

Jars of soil collected at sites of racial terrorism.
The first stop was the Legacy Museum.  The museum covers the injustices starting with enslavement, through Jim Crow and lynchings, to mass incarcerations.  Most of the displays were based on first hand experience and testament of those who suffered.  It was a moving and sadly depressing history that too many are trying to erase.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice.
From there we visited the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.  This memorial, opened in 2018, is often deferred to as the lynching museum.  A good memorial should stir feeling in those who see it and this one does just that.  Metal boxes engraved with the names of people lynched are suspended from the roof.  Rows upon rows of rusting boxes, thousands of victims of racial terrorism.  It is hard to visit this place and not feel emotional.  Sadly the amount of security I noticed around the memorial suggests the the emotions stirred by the memorial are mixed in our divided nation.

The hanging boxes engraved with the names of the dead.
Duplicates of the six-footer boxes are laid out beside the memorial in order of state and county allowing for a closer look at the names and numbers. The sides of the memorial are open to the weather so the hanging boxes along the edges will get wet when it rains.  Over time the runoff will leave red rust stains running down the concrete like blood.  The memorial will just become more compelling over time.

The rather modest Civil Rights Memorial.
Our last stop of the day was the Civil Rights Memorial.  The center connected to the memorial is temporarily closed but the memorial itself is outside and accessible.  It is a rather modest memorial displaying highlights of the civil Rights struggle.  Across the street was a simple painted memorial to Congressman John Lewis.

This was a tough day but it was also another highlight for this year's travels.

Photos can be found in my 2021-06 Southeast USA Google Photos album.