Friday, May 27, 2022

Huzzah!!! The Wife Is Officially Retired!

Today is the Wife's last day at her workplace after a steady wind down of official duties.  Today, after Mass at school, some official speechifying, and a goodbye brunch, the next stage of life begins for the Wife: Retirement.

We are both looking forward to more travel, both planned and spontaneous, for as long as our bodies hold out.

I'm guessing retirement won't sink in until August when She would normally be preparing to return to school.

You have devoted your life to guiding multiple generations into their futures.  It is time you devote the rest of your life to yourself.  I can't wait to be there with you and to see where we go together.

Congratulations Honey Bunny!!!  Happy Retirement!!!  You've earned it!!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Planning: Appalachian Trail Resupply Or ... What The Heck Is A Bounce Box?

When I did my planning for my 2019 attempt I noticed several stops where there were few places to resupply food.  To resupply I had the Wife mail pre-packed food boxes to a few locations along the way.  On the trail I learned about how other people handled this situation using a Bounce Box.

A Bounce Box is a box of resupply that is mailed to yourself farther ahead on the trail.  If you don't use all the supplies in the box you can bounce the box farther ahead where the supplies could be used, the box refilled, and bounced ahead.

I used bounce boxes twice, once in Fontana Dam in Georgia and again Killington, VT.  I met many people using them including one couple using a five gallon bucket as their box.  They told me it was cheaper to ship the bucket than it would a regular box.

I will be using one (or two) this time around since resupply along this sections seems a bit limited and the reduced carbohydrate food I am interested in packing is not that easy to find in smaller stores. 

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #19

  •  I changed up my walking slightly.  I decided to do shorter, more strenuous, hikes up at Hitchcock and other parks with hills.  When I'm on these rural trails I carry a 25 lb (11 kg) pack and hiking poles which strengthen my legs more than flat city walking does.
    Hitchcock flowers.
    This week I hiked twice at Hitchcock and did one city walk for a total of 18.2 miles (29.3 km).  It seems to be doing something since my legs feel like toast.
  • I'm continuing to plan my July-August Appalachian Trail hike.  I suppose that's obvious based on the posts I've written lately.  I have a good handle on the stages and the gear.  I have a weaker grip on the food.  It is not easy to switch out carbohydrates for fat and protein.  This is especially true if you want food that tastes good.
    Hmmm ... Nice pairing.
    I put my tent up in the basement and cleaned it up, inflated my sleeping pad, and generally checked to see what I had and what I needed to replace/refill.
  • I did some spring cleaning and took old paint to the hazardous material disposal place and took old electronics (both mine and my Mom's) to be donated at the Goodwill Goodbytes place.
  • I noticed some white flies on our hibiscus so in a lark I ordered some Ladybugs to combat them.  I spread them on the two plants and ... like the other times I have bought ladybugs to combat insects, they all disappeared in twenty-four hours (the ladybugs that is).  You would think I would learn.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Planning: Appalachian Trail Gear

Most of my major gear that I used during my 2019 Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hike attempt is still in pretty good shape.   Here is the gear I will be using when I return to the AT.

  • I am reusing my Hyperlite Southwest backpack.  There is some wear on the bottom of the bag so I put a layer of tenacious tape on the bottom to reinforce it.  It probably would have lasted the thirty days but it's better to be safe than sorry.
    The before and after of my reinforced backpack bottom.
  • I am reusing my Nemo Hornet 2P tent (including my homemade Tyvek footprint).  I am not a good gear owner since I didn't clean it after my last camp on the AT back on September 11, 2019.  I put it up in the basement and vacuumed the New Hampshire dirt and tree needles out of the tent.  The stuff sack for the tent poles is worn a bit so I contacted the tent manufacturer and they will be sending me a new one.
  • I am reusing my Western Mountaineering Highlite sleeping bag.  It looks as good as new and held up well.  I will also reuse the Reactor sleeping bag liner.  They both will have to be cleaned tho.
  • I am reusing my Thermalite Xlite inflatable sleeping pad.  A lot of people had issues with their inflatable sleeping pads springing leaks.  I was careful to use my tent footprint to protect the sleeping pad from splinters, nail heads, and other sharp items when I used it in a shelter and never had any issues.
  • I purchased a new stove.  I'm using the same cheap no-name brand that I used last time.  I threw my last one away since it was starting to wear out when I quit the AT.

    My titanium pot set is still pristine so it will be reused.

    I did purchase a new long handled spork (I left my other one at a hostel in West Virginia)
  • I purchased a Sawyer Squeeze water filter, the same one I used last time.  It worked great so no need to change it.

    To go with my filter I purchased a CNOC Outdoors VECTO 2L Water bladder to use as a dirty bag.  Last time I used this bottle and twice the bottle sprung a leak and had to be replaced.  The convenience of being able to open the bottom of the bottle to fill it easier outways the potential issues.  Just in case I also purchased a Sawyer soft side bottle with a large mouth cap at one end and a small mouth cap at the other that can be used with the filter.  This bottle is not as convenient as the CNOC so it will be in my bounce box in case I need it (More about the bounce box - including what a bounce box is - in a future post).

    To round out my water purification gear I purchased a mesh bag to hold the filter and dirty water bottle.  The mesh allows them to dry between uses to prevent mildew.
  • I purchased a new Ferrino Trekker Hiking Rain Coat.  I left my other one at the last hostel I stayed at and didn't realize it until I'd been home several months.  It was still in perfect shape so the quality of this rain coat is not in doubt.
  • I purchased new hiking clothes including a couple pairs of quick dry, zip off, cargo hiking pants.  Usually I wear North Face but they didn't have what I wanted so I'm trying another brand.

    I purchased a couple Merino Wool t-shirts.  Again, these are not Icebreakers but they seem to be of the same quality.  Merino wool dries fast and the lanolin in the cloth is antibacterial and reduces the funk that accumulates while you hike.

    I bought new merino wool blend socks and toe liner socks.  This two sock combo resulted in an extremely low number of blisters.  I am sticking with the same brands as last time: Omniwool and Injinji.
  • During my 2019 attempt I wore two different models of shoes from Salomon.  I wore the X Crest and the Odyssey Triple Crowns.  (The X Crests were not available at the time so I bought the Triple Crowns.)  Of the two, the X Crest were the best despite the Odyssey Triple Crowns being specifically designed for long hikes like the AT.  The Triple Crowns' uppers were so thin (to reduce shoe weight) that four of my toes wore through the fabric on both feet.  This may explain why the Odyssey Triple Crowns are no longer listed on the Salomon website.

    When it was time to replace my shoes I was delighted to see that the X Crests were back in Salomon's inventory.  The shoes are heavier than the Triple Crowns but they are also more durable.  I ordered a pair for the AT and one for everyday.  Unfortunately I accidentally bought the goretex versions.  Goretex is a waterproofing system that essentially turns the shoe into a plastic bag.  This is great when dealing with small puddles or wet mud but in heavy rain or deep water the shoes will fill up with water that does not drain away.  I discovered this the hard way on my second Camino when I walked several miles with bags of water attached to my feet during a particularly rainy day. 

    I was going to just ignore the goretex issue and hope for little rain but, during my stage planning, I saw that at least once I will be fording a river at least knee deep.  I ordered a pair of non-goretex X Crest shoes.  My experience from the 2019 attempt shows these shoes drain water quickly and dry quickly which is exactly what you want.
  • Finally I purchased a few odds and ends such as a new camp towel (I got some juice on it in Shenandoah National Park, was careless, and gave a mouse a tasty snack).
I will probably have to buy a few more things but most of them will be small things like mini-lighters, first aid supplies, and other things like that.  The fact that I don't have to replace any major gear tells me that I chose well last time.  Proud of that.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Planning: Updated Appalachian Trail Stages

Before I can work out what resupply I need to complete my Appalachian Trail (AT) hike, I need to figure out how long I'll be on the trail and how long the stages will be.

I sat down with the 2022 A.T. Guide, the updated version of the guide I used to plan my original thru-hike attempt.  I changed things up a little from last time.  I originally started out short and increased the miles per day over several months.  It turns out I will be doing this over thirty days which doesn't give me time to build up the distance.  I decided to aim for a 10 mile (16 km) average per day to complete the 298 miles (480 km) I have left of the AT.

I'm starting at the same hostel where I quit last time near Gorham, NH.  It is located across the street from the AT.  It turns out that, walking ten miles a day, you pass near a town every four days (more or less).  By 'pass near' I mean within a shuttle ride (only one or two of the towns are actually within walking distance from the trail).  These towns will be my supply points.  Not all of these towns look great for resupply but they all have post offices.  A lot of my resupply will thus be done by mail.  More about this in a later post.

Speaking of towns, during my 2019 attempt I took a lot of zero days (days in towns when I walked zero miles).  I will not be doing this as often this time.  Of the five towns I will be visiting, two will be Nearo-Zero combinations and three will be Nearos.  A 'Nearo' is a day when you walk nearly zero miles into a town and stay one night in a hotel or hostel.  The Nearo-Zero combos are a short hike into town with a  two night stay in a hotel or hostel.  In hindsight I should have done a mix of Nearo and Nearo-Zero stops on my first attempt.  It would have saved time and money.

Another lesson I learned during my 2019 attempt was that I was fixated on staying in shelters.  I talked about this here.  When I set up these new stages I also aimed for shelters but I hope I will apply my lessons learned and let these shelters just be brief stops before I continue a bit farther each day.

Now, I said each stage was going to be around four days long.  This is good since it means I don't have to carry as much food.  There is one caveat tho.  The northernmost part of the AT is known as the 100 Mile Wilderness (it is actually 110 miles ... details, details).  There are no close towns or main roads in this long stretch.  In the old days most hikers had to carry enough food to do all 110 miles.  In more recent times there are services which will do food drops on some of the back roads.  I am waiting for one such service to confirm they can do this.  If this can be done, I will be able to do the wilderness in two four day stages.  If not, I would have to do six very long days.  'Six' because that is the maximum number of days worth of food I can fit in my pack.  'Very long' because I would have to hike 18+ miles (29+ km) per day.

I have updated the Appalachian Trail tab above with the new, updated stages.  You will have to scroll down to the last thirty days to see the new stages.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #18

  • On Friday the Wife's seniors were done making her one step closer to being retired.  Her school has a tradition of having the senior class stampede out of the school on their last day.  The Wife joined them by sitting in a wheeled bin and being pushed out with the running seniors (The Twitter link to the video can be found here).

    The Wife has started to take her class apart in anticipation of retirement.  From her desk drawer she brought a bag of weird junk that she thought I would like.  The Wife has assigned students to make games to play to help them with vocabulary or literature study.  The stuff appears to be game pieces the students used for the games.  By the way, I love it.
Desk drawer accumulation of junk.
  • While the Wife was celebrating the end of the seniors, I was cleaning out the tornado room.  This room, located in the basement, is a combination workshop/storage area which is also, probably, the safest place to be during a tornado ... hence the name.  On Friday morning the room lived up to its name as it looked like a tornado had blown through it.  I spent a few hours Friday afternoon pulling stuff out of the room, cleaning up messes on the floor, rearranging stored stuff more efficiently, and making it useful as a tornado shelter once more.

    As I was cleaning the tornado room I removed all my hiking and camping gear and piled it in the she-shed.  I will be going through everything and replacing/replenishing anything I need when I go back to finish the Appalachian Trail this July.
  • On Tuesday Mom and I went plant shopping.  We went to a local nursery (Mulhalls - which I picked due to its big selection of plants and because of its size so Mom would get needed exercise) to peruse the plants.  I was looking for flowering plants to go between the mums planted in my corner of the backyard.  I was going to buy four or five identical plants but there were too many good choices so I ended up with five different ones.  Nothing wrong with variety.
  • I didn't walk this week due to the high temperature and humidity we had last week ... and because I am a wimp.  The temperatures will be lower this week so I will be back out walking.
  • I went to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in IMAX on Monday.  I swear I'm still having nightmares about how Black Bolt died.

My Eleventh Caminoversary

Today marks the eleventh anniversary of the start of my first Camino de Santiago.  This journey was the first long hike for me and the inspiration for doing the Appalachian Trail.  I started the journey thinking I would never make it but perseverance proved me wrong and I am better for it.

Along the Camino on the first day.
The Wife has suggested she would like to walk the Camino.  The jury is still out if we walk it together.  I would love to see the Camino through new eyes but I know I may be a drag on her experience.  If I don't walk with her I will likely walk another route, perhaps the Camino del Norte.  That way I won't ruin her experience, I will have my own new adventure, and we will reunite a few days before Santiago de Compostela and we can enter the city together.

Monday, May 09, 2022

Book: Colin Thubron's "The Amur River: Between Russia And China"

I have always been a fan of travel logs.  I have read two other travel logs written by Colin Thubron - one I really liked, one not so much.  My latest read, Colin Thubron's "The Amur River: Between Russia and China" falls somewhere in between.

The book follows the author's travels along the Amur river that separates Russia and China.  The river has changes names a few times before becoming the Amur.  The journey starts in Mongolia where swampy water comes together to form the headwaters of the river. The travels continues to the Russian side, to the Chinese side, before returning to the Russian side.

On the Russian side life is bleak, stuck between Stalinist Soviet Union, Putin's modern Russia, and national neglect.  On the Chinese side life seems full of progress and hope for the future.  On both sides mistrust for the other side abounds.  Several times he thought his travels would end when encountering Russian police.  Frankly, it seemed he was constantly on edge while travelling in Russia.

I am used to travel writing full of awe and respect for what the travel sees and the people they meet.  Thubron's writing is a bit dreary which I think is a result of traveling in Russia (he has traveled there many times).  Other people I know who have traveled to Russia have commented to me about how rough and dower the people feel.  This explains a lot about the atmosphere of the book.

The Wife and I once wanted to take the Trans-Siberian train across Russia.  I'm not sure how likely that will ever be.  With the war and the condition Russia is in, it is very unlikely we will ever see it.

Despite the dreariness of it all, I liked the book.  The people of Siberia have been neglected by Russia but they still scrape by and there is still some looking to make something of themselves.  I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  I might have given it a three and a half if it let me.  Thubron came across tired but he still brought the people he met on his travels to life.

Sunday, May 08, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #17

  • I took mom out to lunch on Thursday and did a little shopping while we were out.  It appears the Social Security ordeal is over.  We will know for sure later this month.  Next week we are going plant shopping at the local nurseries.
  • I hiked twice this week.  I ended up doing 24.9 miles (40.1 km).  It is going to be warm this coming week so we'll see how I do.

    One thing to mention.  On my Friday walk I saw a fire truck turn into a grocery store parking lot.  Before they turned they ran their siren briefly.  I passed the truck and not far ahead I passed a guy laying half on the sidewalk.  He was using a small bag/backpack as a pillow.  He appeared to be asleep.  The siren had been sounded to try to wake him up.  I crossed the street and looked back to see the firemen around the man trying to see if he was ok.  He never sat up but I think I may have seen him lift an arm up.  I continued on my walk once an ambulance showed up.
  • I also started to purchase gear for my Appalachian Trail (AT) completion hike I am planning for July/August.  Most of my gear from my 2019 attempt is still usable but a few things need to be replaced.  I will talk about the gear in a future post.

    Included with the gear, I ordered the 2022 edition of the AT Guide.  I will be using this to plan the hiking stages between Gorham, NH (where I quit last time) and the end of the AT at Mt Katahdin, ME.  While I had stages planned in my 2019 plan, they turned out to be too aggressive so I will be redoing the stage planning.  When I finish I will be updating the Appalachian Trail tab of Homer's Travels.

Happy Mother's Day!

 Happy Mother's Day to my wonderful Mom !!!

Don't forget to wish the mothers in your life a happy day!

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Happy Star Wars Day

 May the 4th be with you.

P.S. Happy Anniversary to the Wife's niece and her husband!

Monday, May 02, 2022

The Last Poetry Out Loud ... Regional Finals Edition

The Wife has been involved in the Poetry Out Loud recitation competition for over a decade.  She started in her last California school, assisted in her first Nebraska school, and introduced and ran competitions for the last eleven years at her current school.  This year is her last year before she retires.

On Sunday the regional finals were held virtually and her student came in second for the region (there are three regions).  She will be one of nine who compete in the national finals in June.  Congratulations!!!

The regional and national competition used to be in Washington DC and held over several days.  This year everything is virtual and spread out over several days.  It's unfortunate that for her last competition the Wife won't be going to DC in person.  It would have been a nice cherry on top of her retirement cake.

Heiku time:

Graduating student - Their last competition
Streaming poetry recitation nationwide via iPhone
The Wife and her poet - Approaching success

If you are interested in watching talented kids reciting poetry, the finals will be on Sunday, 5 June at

Sunday, May 01, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #16

  • It was a good walking week with a return to the Wabash Trace.  Back in 2009 - 2010 I section hiked the sixty-two mile Wabash Trace over 10 stages.  I returned there once again in 2013 for a Camino training hike.  I was surprised it took nine years for me to return to the repurposed railroad trace.  The Wabash hike was an attempt to get out of the urban walks I've been doing and it felt good to be out among the trees (even if the trees only lined the trail one or two rows deep on each side).  The trace is very flat. so, on the way back to the car, I switched over to the horse/mountain bike trail that parallels the walking/biking trail.  This narrower trail reminded me of the Appalachian Trail (AT) and there was some up and down on the horse trail but they were very little hills.  I guess that is an exact match for my AT trail name ... Little Hill.
A return to the Wabash Trace.
For the week I hiked three times - twice in the city and once in nature - totalling 33.8 miles (54.4 km).  The rain this coming week will make walking a challenge.
Seen on a city walk:  A hearse with a "Never Give Up" sign in the window.
  • On Saturday we drove up to Sioux City to attend the Wife's Niece's son's second birthday.  The Wife's brother took the opportunity to give her an awesome retirement gift - nun stuff from the Late Nite Catechism Sisters (including a crucifix whistle!), letters of congratulation from schools she taught at, and a framed mounting of the school varsity letters from each of her schools including one earned by her father in high school.  Not sure I've ever seen the Wife so moved.

    We both ate too much at the party.  It will take a few days to get my blood sugar back down to where I want it.
  • I fertilized the lawn this week just in time for the rain to soak it into the ground.  Today I overseeded the lawn just before the rain returns tomorrow.  The Wife is taking over mowing the whole lawn - we used to split the work, me doing the backyard and the Wife doing the front.  Now that she is retiring she will be in charge of the lawns and gardens.  This is fine with me.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #15

What have I been up to?
  • On Tuesday I got my blood drawn (I posted about the results here) and while I was at the doctor's office I got my second COVID booster (Pfizer this time).  I feel a lot safer ... I really do.
  • On Wednesday I stopped by Mom's place and we called Social Security ... again ... but this time we got good news.  Things were moving.  On Friday she received her death benefit so she is now waiting for all the back benefits they owe her.

    I went home with some Central American treasures Mom wanted to get out of her house (It's all cool stuff)
  • On Thursday the Wife's niece spent the night with us while she was doing work stuff in Omaha.  It was a good reason to go out to eat at Village Inn.

    The niece, mother of a nearly two year old boy and a soon to be 0 year old girl, went home with one of the non-Guatemalan treasures Mom gave us.  We gave her my childhood rocking chair.  It's missing a lot of the varnish it once had having been stripped over time as I sat in the chair, eating chocolate ice cream and drinking Pepsi, in my wet swimsuit.  I am sure it will be put to good use.
  • I walked twice this week for a total of 21.2 miles (34.2 km).  Friday's walk was warm and a bit humid which reminded me of July and August on the Appalachian Trail.  Fortunately the wind that seems to have settled in for good helped make it feel less disgusting.

    My walking has been a bit erratic and I need to be more consistent in frequency and distance if I want to get my blood test numbers down.  I will have to try harder.  At least this week I met the 20 mile goal.

    I discovered the hiking distance mile counter in the blog sidebar was not updating properly.  I fixed it.
  • And finally, on Saturday, as I left to get some dinner, I saw the glove I lost months ago propped up on a little garden fence not far from our house.  This made me happy since they were great lightweight gloves.  I bought them originally for the early, still chilly, Appalachian Trail.  I've driven and walked by that spot multiple times since I lost the glove and never saw it there.  Today, with the wind blowing, it was like it was waving me down.


Thursday, April 21, 2022

And The Results Are ...

 I mentioned in my last ephemera post that I was getting my semiannual blood tests.  I got some results on Tuesday.  Here they are:

  • My A1C which was 6.2 back in October is now 5.7.  This is still pre-diabetic but it is literally at the lower end of the pre-diabetic range.  This was an improvement.
  • My Glucose level was 131.2 in October.  It is now 112.  This is still high.  It should be under 100.  Nevertheless, this was an improvement as well.
  • My PSA was 4.82 in October dropped to 4.06.  It should be below 4 so I'm still in the wrong range.  My urologist wants me to retest in June and do a biopsy if it is still over 4.

The Doctor's office called yesterday and they were happy with my numbers so I'm not going back or making any major changes for the next six months.  I will continue to try to drop my glucose and A1C numbers.

I know this is not a rational thought but I don't want this to interfere with my Appalachian Trail hike in July or our upcoming travels in September-October.  It appears that it can take four to six weeks to recover from a prostate biopsy.  If the urologist confirms this then I'll have to ask about the impact of postponing the biopsy until we return from our fall travels.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Book: Kelly Weill's "Off The Edge"

Book number six was a suggestion I heard about in a podcast.  Kelly's Weill's "Off the Edge" explores the world of Flat Earth conspiracy theorists, its twisted history, and the interconnections between the conspiracy worlds.

The belief that the Earth is flat is an old one.  The only belief older is the belief the Earth is round.  Flat Earth came out of strange interpretations of biblical verse and people who decided that what they see is more important than what science tells us.  Over the decades the belief became a conspiracy when believers became convinced that nefarious powers were hiding the truth  of the true shape of the Earth to eradicate God and Religion.

Over time flat earthers mixed with various other conspiracy groups such as antisemites, neo-nazi, secret society believers, and believers in our reptilian overlords.  All of this craziness eventually led to QAnon and the Trumpers.

The author made a lot of friends with flat Earth proponents and she has obviously tried to argue against their beliefs.   Sometimes you can hear her frustration in some of her writing.   Changing some people's minds is nearly impossible if they don't want to change.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads even tho it gave me very little hope in humanity's future.  

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #14

  • An Easter Bunny sighting on the AT.
    I hope you all had a Happy Easter.  The Wife and I spent it at Mom's place with her late husband's family.  We had some good conversations and we came home with ham for my breakfasts and plants for our garden.
  • Our house exterior got prepped and painted this week.  We now have an Evergreen Fog (sort of a green-grey) house with white trim.  They did the work in four days.  The Wife, who picked the color, was nervous about her color choice but she had nothing to fear as the house looks great.  Our painting guy and his crew (Spino Surface Solutions) did a very good job with the painting.  The only thing missing are the house numbers.  I ordered some metal numbers from Etsy (painted white to match our trim) which should be delivered by the end of the month.

    While talking to the painter we mentioned our fence needs some major repair/rebuilding.  Turns out he does fences too so he will be dropping by to give us an estimate.
  • Speaking of Home Improvement, I got two estimates for replacing out tanked water heater with a tankless.  The estimates were over three times the price of installing a tanked on.  If it had been twice as expensive it would have been reasonable (tankless water heaters last twice as long as tanked ones).  Since it's not an affordable option we will be replacing our fourteen year old tank water heater with a new tanked one.
  • This week I only walked once for a total of 13.7 miles (22 km) but that was a single walk and I felt pretty good afterwards which is a win in my book.
  • This week I'm getting my semi-annual blood test to see how my blood sugar, A1C, lipids, and PSA are faring.  Since my last blood test in October I dropped my weight by ten to fifteen pounds and reduced my carb/sugar intake.  This week we'll see if I've done anything to improve my numbers🀞

Monday, April 11, 2022

Music: Santana At The CHI Health Center

Three ... that's how many concerts I went to in the last nine days.  The last of these, Saturday night, was Santana.  It was a great end to a busy week.  I sat in the same section as the Bon Jovi concert.  That one had blockage issues.  For Santana the sound and mixer boards were pushed up away from the seating section so my view was completely unobstructed.

Carlos Santana.
To the chagrin of all those who showed up late to the show (not me), there was no warm up act.  Carlos Santana and his band came on stage fashionably late (only a few minutes really) and proceeded to set the place ablaze.

Santana below ... Cindy Blackman Santana's drum set above.
They started with a long string of most of his most popular hits.  Their first set went on forever it seemed ... in a good way. This moved on to solos from various members of the band including drummer Cindy Blackman Santana (his wife).  The drum solo was massive and extraordinary.

I love me a good jumbotron.
The music was a mixture of Latin, Brazilian, Reggae, Afro-Caribbean, and many other influences.  I loved the variety of it all.  Between sets Santana talked about wanting to bring healing to the people.  Hard to listen to this and his music without being moved.

Having said all this, I am tired.  I wish these three concerts had been spread out a bit.  My next concert isn't until June and that makes me happy.

I brought my small camera this time and the pictures are better than my cell phone camera.  I wish I'd brought it for the other two shows.  Photos can be found in my 2022-04-09 Santana, CHI Center, Omaha, NE Google Photos album.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #13

Due to the very busy weekend we had last week, there was no Weekly Ephemera post so this one is covering the last two weeks.

  • The third of April marked the third anniversary of my second Appalachian Trail (AT) attempt.  I nearly forgot until Google Photos reminded me of what happened five years ago when I started my first attempt.  I still plan to go back and complete it in July but my head really isn't in it yet.  I still need to buy some gear that wore out during my last attempt and make a new more conservative plan to complete the last part of the AT.
  • Last weekend, between two concerts, the Wife and I went to Minneapolis to celebrate the wedding of the Wife's niece.  The wedding was nice, matching the niece's personality well, and the reception was fun with good food, drink, and music. Congratulations to Laura and Tony!

    I overdid things that weekend either not eating enough or eating too many carbs depending on the day.  Unfortunately something else overindulged that weekend too ... COVID.  At least four cases that I know of so far.  The wife and I haven't got it yet. 🀞
  • Last Sunday we had brunch at the MoH and BM's place with a lot of the Wife's family.  It was a fun time with lots of interesting talk.
  • Called the Social Security office ... again ... and asked to make an appointment so we could deliver the Marriage Certificate they needed for my Mom's survivor benefits (The first certificate she mailed to them got lost in the mail).  Once again they said appointments were only for emergencies.  *sigh* We explained that my Mom can't live on her current social security check and bill collectors are not patient people.  The nice representative, after hearing about the lost certificate suggested we drive down to the Social Security office and "Slip an envelope with the certificate and a posted note with my Mom's social security number on it under the door".  SMH.  So, we drove down to the office and I slipped an envelope under the door.  I feel so confident with this procedure 🌡.

    Fortunately for Mom, she has received acknowledgment of receipt of the certificate so things are moving forward.
  • Woke up Thursday to surprise snow.  It wasn't much and it melted off the sidewalks and streets before I got up.  It was all gone by the end of the day.  What was that about March coming in like a lion out as a lamb?  I guess this lamb was cranky.  It wasn't the only weird weather we're having.  This week I walked in sleet.  We are having a real rollercoaster of a spring.
  • Talking about walking in sleet, I ended up walking three times over the last two weeks.  I should have done more but my schedule and weather got in the way (I'm starting to run out of excuses for not walking).  I ended up doing 34 miles (54.8 km).

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Photograph: "Nothing Butt Art"

I saw this painting propped up on a light pole outside of a convenience store.  I'm sure there is a story there but I have no idea what it is.

"Nothing Butt Art"
by BWOWW.❤
Photo by Bruce H.

Friday, April 08, 2022

Music: Alice Cooper With Buckcherry At The Liberty First Arena

Bookending the crazy weekend we had last week was a second concert.  This one was in the newly renamed Liberty First Arena only a few minutes from where we live.  I was concerned about being too tired since I drove back from Minneapolis the morning of the concert but I ended up getting a second wind.

Alice Cooper and his teenage frankenstein.


The warm up act was Buckcherry.  I'd heard the name but wasn't familiar at all with their music.  Can't say it was of my taste but the energy of the band definitely woke me up.  It was the lead singer's birthday so the entire band and audience sang happy birthday to him before they rapped up their set. 

Alice Cooper came on with a bang and the drop of a curtain.  From there it was a non-stop rockfest.  Special effects, giant figures, incredible playing, fun songs.

Alice, Tommy Henriksen, and Nita Strauss
The highlight, right after Alice Cooper himself, was lead guitarist Nita Strauss.  She was awesome.  They all were frankly.  Everyone had a solo and they all took advantage of the spotlight.

Double decker stage.
I really enjoyed the show.  It ended with a medley of "School's Out" and Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" which was incredible.

I ended up with some good swag too.  A t-shirt with a type-o:

Ralston is in Nebraska (NE) not Iowa (IA).
and this:

Pictures can be found in my 2022-04-04 Alice Cooper w/ Buckcherry, Liberty First Arena, Ralston, NE Google Photos album.

Thursday, April 07, 2022

Book: Nnedi Okorafor's "Binti: The Complete Trilogy"

While I have read books from non-American/European writers, it is rare.  This is a shortcoming on my part.  It seems that most of the books I've read are by white English speaking males with a smattering of white English speaking women.  So when looking at a book to read next I chose a book - a trilogy of novellas actually - written by Nnedi Okorafor, a Nigerian-American who specializes in Africanfuturism.

"Binti: The complete Trilogy" is a collection of four novellas (the trilogy plus a bonus story) that follows a young African girl who travels offworld to go to a prestigious university.  Along the way the ship she is travelling on is attacked by an alien race that has been warring with Earth for a long time.  How she negotiates peace and how her life changes spans all four of the novellas.

I wish the book's world was fleshed out more.  I wish the book explored Binti and her culture in greater depth.  At times I was confused by words or concepts that I had only a glancing perspective of.  This is probably more of a personal shortcoming than an omission by the author.

I gave this three stars out of five on Goodreads.  I almost gave it four but I was a bit disappointed on how nothing really changed over the course of the book.  Nothing was truly resolved and I felt like it didn't know where it was trying to go.

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Music: Bon Jovi And Ione At The CHI Health Center

We had a busy long weekend bookended with concerts and I'm still trying to catch up here on Homer's Travels.

Last Friday I went to see Bon Jovi at the CHI Health Center in downtown Omaha.  The tickets said the show started at 8:00pm which is usually when the warm up band comes out.  Being the guy I am I showed up an hour and a half early knowing that the lines would be long.  I was right, all four lines were long (The security line, the line to the stairs/escalator, the line through the ticket check, and the line to the merch table).  I was lucky that I was early since the warm up act came on at 7:30pm.

Bon Jovi's tribute to Ukraine.
I found my seat and realized it was not as great as I thought it was.  It was smack dab behind the sound tables.  This would have been too much of an issue except for the raised platform with a camera and operator on it blocking my view of half the stage.  Fortunately a lot of people in my row never showed up and I was able to shift over so my view was relatively unobstructed.

Ione: a local act from Sioux City, IA
For this short, 30 day, 15 show tour, Bon Jovi had interviewed local bands to join them as warm up bands.  In Omaha, the first stop of the tour, the warm up act was a singer named Ione (sorry for the facebook link - she only has Facebook and Instagram accounts).

She was really good.  She had a great voice and interesting songs.  I rarely enjoy warm up acts but she was entertaining.  It's unfortunate that they gave the wrong show time so she performed to a half filled hall.

Bon Jovi came out and the band sounded awesome.  Bon Jovi, on the other hand, sounded flat and missed some notes.  The fact that this was the first stop on the tour and his first tour in two and a half years may explain the rustiness of his voice (Thank you Covid 🌡).  As the evening progressed his voice got better but never really reached the sound I expected.

At one point he recorded a song for a Ukrainian benefit and, with the yellow and blue graphics (see top photo of this post), did a great job and his voice finally arrived full force.

Bon Jovi - Rough vocals, good light show.
The show hit all the right songs which should have been an 'A' but the rough vocals brought the performance down to maybe a 'C+'.

A few pictures can be found in my 2022-04-01 Bon Jovi w/ Ione, CHI Center, Omaha, NE Google Photos Album.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Photograph: "Not Creepy At All"

 Saw IT hanging from a tree in Council Bluffs on my last walk.  Nothing creepy about this at all.

"Not Creepy at all"
by Bruce H.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #12

  •  It was chilly, rainy, and windy most of the week.  It was dreary.  I ended up walking the two better days - Monday and Friday - and skipping my midweek walk.  I spent Wednesday hunkered down inside watching Disney movies and a documentary about pro-nuclear environmentalists.

    Friday the sun came back out and it was glorious.  It was still windy but the sun kept me warm on my longest walk of the week.   This week I ended up walking 22.6 miles (36.4 km).

Seen on my Monday walk:
I won't vote for Don Bacon but Don Taco ...

  • On Tuesday I went to Mom's to once again try to get her Social Security survivor's benefits.  After being on hold multiple times we finally got a hold of someone who was actually able to help us.  Unfortunately all we found out was (a) the paperwork my Mom mailed to the Social Security office (using the envelope they provided) never arrived and (b) the representative blamed tRump for budget cuts, staff reductions, and reduction of hours that is resulting in an overworked staff doing too much work constrained by too few hours to do the work in a timely fashion.

    I drove down to the county courthouse and got new copies of certified documents.  We are now waiting for the Social Security rep to return our call so we can get an appointment so we can hand deliver the documents.  It shouldn't be this hard.
  • I finally called someone about getting a tankless water heater installed.  Waiting on a person to stop by to provide an estimate.  That only took me ... fifty-five days.  So hard to dial a phone.
Next weekend is going to be a full one with two concerts and a family wedding so not sure if I will have a Weekly Ephemera post next Sunday.  I will try to catch up once things start settling down - that, by the way, is a good problem to have πŸ˜„

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Book: Anthony Doerr's "Cloud Cuckoo Land"

Back in March of 2015 I read "All the Light We Cannot See" and it was one of those books that I liked but I couldn't say why.  I liked it enough to give it a weak five stars on Goodreads.  When I saw that author Anthony Doerr had a new book out I added it to my reading list.

Doerr's "Cloud Cuckoo Land" is very different from his previous book.  It follows five characters through three periods of history (and future).  The order the story is told in is jumbled.  It jumps from one time period to another, from one character to another.  It jumps forward and backward for each of the characters.  The result is a difficult first half until you have have learned enough about the characters to help fit the narrative together in a coherent story.

The Characters are all tied together by a fictional piece of fiction by Greek author Diogenes.  The first pair of characters, tied together by the Ottoman siege on Constantinople, secure the damaged and out of order Diogenes manuscript.  The second pair, a Korean War vet and a disturbed young environmentalist, translate the work, places most of it in the correct order, filling in some gaps with speculation, and ensures its survival.  The last character is a girl in a spaceship who receives knowledge about the book from her father and, while researching it, discovers the truth about her world.

The jumble of the story runs parallel to the jumble of the Diogenes manuscript and the full story and the true meaning all come together in the end.  It is a case of the telling of the story matching the story being told.  Once you realize what the author is doing the latter half of the book moves quickly.  Unfortunately the pay off of the book, like the ending of the Diogenes manuscript, is unclear, subject to speculation, and thus a bit unsatisfying.

One side note.  It was a strange coincidence but I'd read about the Ottoman siege of Constantinople in one of the other books I read this year, "The Ottomans".  It was interesting reading place names that were familiar to me.  Also, we will be travelling to Turkey later this year so there was even more of a connection for me.

I gave his last book a weak five stars.  This book I gave a strong four stars out of five on Goodreads.  If the ending had been better developed it could have been a five but it didn't quite get there for me.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #11

  • Happy Spring Equinox! Today at 10:33 AM CST (UTC-5:00) Spring arrived.  Temperatures are rising and the threat of snow is changing to the threat of rain.  Soon flowers will be blooming and lawns will have to be mowed once again.
  • The Wife has been under the weather most of the week.  The free COVID test was negative so she's probably just battling a bad cold.  I haven't caught it … yet.
  • I only walked once this week.  While I had an excuse for not walking Monday, there was no reason for not walking Friday.  I wanted to blame it on the rain but the rain was over before I would have started to walk anyway.  So I only walked 9.4 miles (15.2 km) well below my weekly goal.  So far this year I'm 73 miles (117.5 km) short of my goal.  Hopefully I'll make up for that when I finish the Appalachian Trail.
  • On Monday our new windows were finally finished when they replaced one of the new windows that had arrived with a cracked frame.  It took a year from when we signed on the dotted line to when the job was completed.  That's just insane.  I blame the pandemic and supply chain issues.  The next project, hopefully started soon, will be to have the exterior of our house painted.  All we need to do is settle on a color.
  • On Thursday I went over to mom's to help her with her Social Security.  It shouldn't be this hard to set up survivor's benefits … but it is.  We made progress but our job is not complete yet.
  • I am a Star Trek Fan and this week I watched the season finale of Star Trek: Discovery.  It was fun to see Stacey Abrams cast as the President of United Earth.  I can hear all the right-wing wack jobs' heads exploding all over the Federation.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Happy Pi Day


Sunday, March 13, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #10

  • Ralston shows solidarity with Ukraine.
    This week I walked twice.  I skipped walking Monday just because.   On wednesday I did 14 miles (22.5 km), the longest I've done since November of last year.  In total I met my weekly goal and walked 22.8 miles (36.7 km).  These walks may be the last cold walks as Spring temps seem to be finally settling in.
  • This week was a bit lossy too.  I lost my left glove during my Wednesday walk.  I lost the extra key fob to the Wife's car sometime probably on Tuesday.  The rest of the week I was waiting for the third shoe to drop but I managed to keep everything else found.  I will be checking a few lost and founds next week looking for the key fob.  If I don't find it it will be $200 to replace.
  • The Wife's school's basketball teams went to the championships this week.  For the past six days the Wife rode the bus down to Lincoln to watch the teams play.  The Men's team sadly came up short on Friday as did the Women's team on Saturday. 
  • Also on Friday the Wife's student won the Poetry Out Loud state competition.  Sadly the state and national events are being done online this year again (thanks COVID) so there will be no trip to Washington D.C. for the Wife's last year of Poetry Out Loud.
  • Verified and finished our taxes.  We are going to owe a small amount.  Easy Peasy.
  • Hope you remembered to spring forward today.  If not, you are going to be off an hour all day.  (Wish they would just get rid of all these clock shenanigans.)

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Music: Enter The Haggis At The Holland Center

Enter the Haggis.
Just five days after our last concert, the Wife and I went to another.  On Friday we went to the Holland Center, made our way through the symphony crowd who were heading to the main hall, and went to the smaller Scott Recital Hall to enjoy the music of Enter the Haggis.  We've seen them before back in 2010 and we really liked them.  Twelve years later they were just as good as we remembered.

Amplified bagpipes ...
Need I say more?

A newer addition.
Unlike in 2010 there was no warm up band so Enter the Haggis did two complete sets.  Like most bands the membership changes over time.  Since our first time when the band consisted of five guys, a female violinist/vocalist has been added and a female bass player was substituted in for the original who was taking a break from the tour. The substitute bass player was found on Facebook - her mother-in-law contacted the band.  She was pretty good on the bass and the vocals.

The music was just as good as we remembered.  They performed old songs which I was somewhat familiar with along with music from the newer album that was sadly issued in March 2020.  Most of their stuff was original material, the only exception was a cover of Crosby, Stills, and Nash's "Helplessly Hoping" with the two women and the lead guy doing the three part harmony.

My only critique is that this is the wrong venue for the band.  They need a younger audience and the Holland Center attracts older music lovers, the Wife and I included.  I would love to see them at the Slowdown or the Waiting room where the band could feed off the energy.  They would rock the place with an audience who would really appreciate them.

I got myself a t-shirt from their rather meager merch table.  A few photos can be found here.

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

Book: Annalee Newitz' "Autonomous: A Novel"

I followed the fact of "The Ottomans" with the fiction of Annalee Newitz' "Autonomous: A Novel". 

The book takes place in some nearby but indistinct future where Pharmaceutical companies, armed with patent law, control most of society.  They control everything from cures and treatments of disease, to entertainment narcotics, and workplace productivity enhancers.  The main characters in this rather bleak world is a phrma pirate, an indentured servant, a patent enforcement agent, and his semi-autonomous android.

The world and the characters were introduced in a jerky way that sometimes confused me.  I eventually got used to the writing style but I felt there was a lack of depth in the world where the action takes place.  The book would have benefitted from a slower more methodical building of the characters and their backgrounds.

The characters moved through the book in groups of two that didn't interact much even near the end when they were in the same room.  Their stories felt disjointed and disconnected.  It was as if two different stories were woven together without creating any useful pattern.  The agent and his robot companion went in odd directions that may have been interesting on their own but felt out of place in this book.

I gave this book three stars out of five on Goodreads.  I don't think I can recommend this one.  A little massaging and polishing would make it a worthy read but it wasn't quite there for me.

Monday, March 07, 2022

Music: Marshall Tucker Band At The Whiskey Roadhouse

On Sunday the Wife and I went to her first concert in a long time and my second concert of the year.  We saw the Marshall Tucker Band (MTB) at the Whiskey Roadhouse (in the Horseshoe Casino) in Council Bluffs, IA.

The Marshall Tucker Band.
This was the second concert we've been to at the Roadhouse, the last time being Joan Osborne in 2008.  The venue had changed a lot in the last twelve and a half years.  Back in 2008 the venue was filled with tables and chairs.  Then the venue owners discovered that they could fit more people in, and thus sell more tickets, if they got rid of the tables and chairs.  The idea of standing the entire time was not a good one.  The venue owners should have taken the audience into account as most people in the crowded room were in their 50s-60s.  Fortunately the Wife was there to do her thing.  She started talking up the venue employee who was guarding the dozen tables reserved for the sponsors and high rollers.  Just before the band came out we asked about a table and she pointed us to a table which a sponsor had not claimed so we were comfortable during the awesome performance.

Flute Solo.
There was no warm up and MTB, currently on their fiftieth anniversary tour, came up and, after a few mike feedback issues were cleared up, gave one hell of a performance.  I'm far from being an MTB expert.  I liked some of their songs but I only had a cursory idea of their music.  Having said that, as the Wife said, those guys can play!  With songs like "Can't You See", "Heard it in a Love Song", and "Fire on the Mountain" you couldn't help returning to the 70s and 80s and getting lost in the music.

Up close with the band.
We had a great time.  A few pictures can be found here.  Our next concert is just four days away with Enter the Haggis.