Homer's Travels: February 2023

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Photograph: "Sun Beam"

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

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Weekly Ephemera #45

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

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

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

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Photograph: "Faux Black & White"

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

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Oscar Shorts 2023

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Book: Emily St. John Mandel's "Sea Of Tranquility"

After two mediocre books I finally found a good one.  Like "How High We Go in the Dark" I found this book in the Goodreads' best science fiction books of 2022.  Emily St. John Mandel's "Sea of Tranquility" was voted the best science fiction book of 2022 and, this time, Goodreads users were right.

This is the second Emily St. John Mandel book I've read.  The first, "Station Eleven", got a rare five stars from me so I had high hopes for her latest work.  Like "Station Eleven" this book is simple and understated and an interesting read.  The book weaves time travel and simulation theory together to create a really interesting read.

Now, I should note that I do not believe in the possibility of time travel.  I believe we will eventually discover that time travel into the past is not allowed by the laws of physics that govern our existence.  Having said this I always am able to suspend disbelief when I read a good time travel story.  Frankly, if you are a reader of any science fiction, suspension of disbelief is a mandatory skill.

The only fault I can find with this book is the use of simulation theory - the idea that we are living in a simulation.  After finishing the book I am still not sure why it was included in the story.  It seemed superfluous and unnecessary.

I gave the book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  I sometimes wish I could give half-stars since this one could have gotten four and a half stars.  It was nice to read something I actually enjoyed again.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Weekly Ephemera #44

  • I was going to walk three times this week but only managed one.  On Monday, when I would have walked, I decided I just didn't want to.  I headed to the She-Shed, put on some music, and proceeded to take a two and a half hour nap.  For a person who rarely naps for more than a half hour this was odd - I guess I was tired for some still unknown reason.

    On Wednesday I actually walked.  I picked a route closer to home but along streets I rarely walk and managed to hike 8.1 miles (13.0 km).  It was a nice walk but I think I need to start pushing myself and go longer.  I've been stuck in the 8 mile rut for the last month.  This week I'll try to push up to the mid nine mile range.
  • On Thursday morning the snow that was going to miss us to the South didn't.  By early afternoon we had 6 - 7 inches (15 - 18 cm) of relatively fluffy snow.  It was our first 'real' snow we've had this winter and came quite a bit later than usual.  I used the neighbor's snow blower to clear out our driveways and sidewalks.

    On Friday I went over to Mom's house and shovelled her driveway and sidewalks.  She has a snowblower but I'd never used it and I didn't want to wake her so I cleared it by hand.  While I probably would have walked that day I got plenty of exercise moving the snow.  I was concerned my back would bother me after all the exertion but to my pleasant surprise I felt fine this weekend.
  • Friday afternoon I went to the early IMAX showing of "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania".  This is the start of Marvel's phase five and a good start it was.  I enjoyed it.
  • I got a new pair of glasses a week or so ago.  I have to say it's been a long time since I got a well fitting pair of glasses.  These fit like a glove.

    The past few times I've gotten the color changing lenses (sometimes called Transition lenses) that darken in the sun.  (I had Transition lenses in high school but stopped getting them when I became an adult.)  I got them again before I went on the Appalachian Trail hike and I liked them.  The new pair added polarisation to the color changing.  The change is amazing.  The old ones always had glare issues but the new polarized lenses cut the glare and reduce my squinting and glare induced headaches.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Travel Magnets - Key West Roadtrip 2023 Edition

What?!?  You thought we wouldn't get more travel magnets on our recent roadtrip?  Of course we did.  We did keep it more under control limiting the number to sixteen new magnets.  Actually, we could have bought more.  We never got a Florida, Tennessee, or Missouri magnet (we did get an Arkansas one).  We didn't get any in Mobile or Birmingham (we did get a few in Memphis).  But we did get a few cool magnets this time around.

Hemingway House.
My favorites include the Hemingway House, Key West, and the Lorraine Motel.

A nice piece of Key West art.
The semi-3D Lorraine Motel magnet.
You can find these and other travel magnets in the Travel Magnets tab at the top of the blog.

P.S. You can also find a magnet from the Historic Park Inn Hotel where we stayed last December.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Weekly Ephemera #43

  • I did my taxes this week.  This was a weird return since the Wife retired this year and our health insurance is from the affordable care act now.  One of the easiest returns I've done in years.  Turns out we are getting a larger than expected refund this year.  It's large enough to pay for our Key West Roadtrip so that's something.  I usually hate giving the Government a free loan but I'll get over it when the money is in the bank.
  • I decided to skip the State of the Union speech on Tuesday.  Probably the first one I've missed it in several years ... possibly decades.  I felt a bit guilty as I read my book instead but the feeling passed.  Things have changed a lot as you pretty much can get summaries and relevant pictures and clips any time you want.  Ain't technological progress wonderful.
  • Speaking of technology  I deleted the "Tweet to me" button from my sidebar.  I suspect it was never used and I also suspect it will likely stop functioning as Elno monitizes Twitter into the ground.  I'm not leaving Twitter yet.  I have read rumors that the IFTTT service I use to repost Homer's Travels to Twitter may stop working too.  If it does then my Twitter presence may become read-only.
  • I walked three times this week for a total of 25.7 miles (41.3 km).  The two weeks off due to our Key West Roadtrip didn't help much.  My legs were a bit sore but by the end of the week I'd recovered the progress I had before the trip.

Thursday, February 09, 2023

Book: Erin K. Wagner's "An Unnatural Life"

Two disappointing books in a row.  What are the odds?  This was a novella I received for free so it's not much of a loss except for my time.

Erin K. Wagner's "An Unnatural Life" is a typical 'robot commits a crime and an idealistic lawyer defends them' story.  There are some new facets - the robots are all considered sentient and humans are bigoted against them.

The issue is the story ends abruptly.  Yes it's a novella but even a short novella needs a proper ending.  If this was part one of a series that would make sense but it's not.  It felt like the author either lost interest or got distracted and threw on a crappy ending.  Very disappointing.

I gave this book three stars out of five on Goodreads.  It needed more.  The new facets were a jump off point with lots of potential that was tossed in the trash.

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Book: Sequoia Nagamatsu's "How High We Go In The Dark"

I found this book on Goodreads.  It was nominated for the best science fiction book of 2022 and came in fourth.  I figured I couldn't go wrong.

Sequoia Nagamatsu's "How High We Go in the Dark" starts with an archeological discovery in the melting permafrost of Siberia.  An ancient pathogen is released.  The following chapters are each independent, but interconnected, stories of how the world deals with the death of children followed shortly by adult deaths after the pathogen mutates.  The early chapters deal with death ... a lot.  At first I wondered if it would all be about death but eventually it started to move away from death.  Some of the chapters really go off the rails going on strange tangents.

Each chapter shares some characters.  A baby in one chapter appears as an adult in a later chapter.  In books like this I expect to find clues in each chapter that all come together in some elegant manner in the last chapter or two.  If done well you will be surprised but will see how everything comes together.  This book was not done correctly.  The last chapter takes a hard turn introducing something that is totally unexpected.  It's like reading a murder mystery and finding out the killer is a character introduced in the last chapter of the book.

I gave this book three stars out of five on Goodreads.  The off the rails chapters and the totally crazy last chapter did not sit well with me.  There was potential here but it was wasted.

Sunday, February 05, 2023

Key West Roadtrip 2023 - Epilogue

I enjoyed our roadtrip but it was tough, emotionally and physically.  There is no way to visit three Civil Rights Museums without being torn up emotionally.  These are not happy places.  The rest of what we did - Key West, manatees, NASA, diamond digs, visiting family - didn't quite balance it all out.  It's hard to balance so much injustice.

Our roadtrip felt a lot harder physically than other roadtrips we've done in the past.  This one was 4,360 miles (7,016 km).  The longest, probably our Route 66 trip, was longer but not by much ... 300 miles or so longer.  That one went from Omaha to Chicago to Santa Monica, CA to San Francisco and back to Omaha.  I don't remember it feeling as hard as this latest roadtrip did (this could be selective memory's doing).  Part of it may have been age ... Route 66 was almost twelve years ago ... but I think how we arranged activities and driving was a major part.

On this trip we arranged the activities for the mornings and saved all the driving for the afternoons.  I think this made the driving portions too long.  If we did it again, planning the activities for the early afternoon would work better as it would split the driving into morning and afternoon legs.  The activities, be they digging for diamonds or visiting a museum, would break up the long and tedious driving.

There is evidence for this.  The days between Birmingham, Memphis, and St. Louis were all shorter than four hours driving and none of them felt terrible.  It was the ten, eight, and seven hour driving days that exhausted us.

Things don't stay the same.  We are getting older.  What was once easy may not be so easy anymore.  Live, learn, and adapt.

I've gone back and updated the Roadtrip posts.  I added pictures to a couple and altered the text a little bit on a few more. I added pictures of the mangrove kayak and the manatee snorkeling to my 2023-01 Key West Roadtrip Google Photos album.

Friday, February 03, 2023

Key West Roadtrip 2023 - Day Thirteen - The Gateway And The Way Home

UPDATE 02-04-2023

The Gateway Arch looking east.
On our last day we had breakfast at the hotel and then headed to downtown St. Louis to visit the Gateway Arch.  We'd both been there before but we were both kids. I think I was there in the 1968 - 1971 time frame only a few years after it was finished in 1965.

We went through the museum portion fairly quickly before watching a movie documenting the construction of the arch.  The movie felt like the cheesy films we used to watch in school in the pre-VCR days which is probably when it was made.

After the movie we got in line to go up the arch.  Getting here early on a Tuesday morning has its advantages as the line was only eight people long.  The elevator/tram that takes you up 620 feet (189 m) to the top consists of five tiny cars that hold five people each.  The Wife and I had a car to ourselves.  The door is glass but, since the tram runs on the inside of the concrete and steel arch you only see the interior staircase on the way up.  Apparently before 1967 walking up the one thousand and seventy-six stairs was the only way to the top.  The tram is described as a combination of an elevator, escalator, and a Ferris wheel.  You can feel the cars rock a little as they follow the curve of the arch.

St. Louis, Missouri looking west from the top of the Gateway Arch.
At the top you have ten minutes to take in the sights (a COVID restriction).  We were lucky and we had mostly clear skies this day and could see all the way to the horizon.  The view of the city is pretty cool.

After coming back down we raided the gift shop for shirts and magnets before heading back to the road.  The Wife had developed a wicked cold over the past day so I would be doing all the driving today.  The sixish hour drive back home was uneventful as the ice storm that had been forecast went south of our route.

This roadtrip felt very long and I will confess that I was ready to go home somewhere around day nine.  Not sure why it felt so long.  I may have some thoughts about that in a later post.  Suffice it to say the Wife and I learned some things this trip.

Photos can be found in my 2023-01 Key West Roadtrip Google Photos album.