Homer's Travels: March 2023

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Waves And Waves Of Cranes

Time to recap what we did last weekend.

Our British friends, NH and JH, arrived Thursday morning.  We met on our amazon cruise back in 2016.  The Wife and JH have been playing WordFeud ever since and JH has talked to the Wife's students when they were covering "Lord of the Flies".  NH and JH are also bird nerdy so we invited them to visit us to witness the sandhill crane migration that passes through Nebraska every March.

On Friday afternoon we drove to Kearney, NE.  As we got closer we noticed large groups of cranes in the farm fields eating castoff corn from the previous harvest.  The Wife and I had traveled to see the cranes twice before but I noticed, as we got closer to Kearney, that the cranes were more numerous than when we were there.

Our first stop was the Rowe Sanctuary to learn a bit about the cranes and shop for some souvenirs (We already had a magnet but I added a crane bobblehead to my sugar skull and Alice Cooper bobblehead collection).

The converted railroad bridge over the Platte river.
We then checked into our hotel and I had a short nap before we headed out for our first observation.  During the day the cranes eat in the fields but as the sun goes down they return to roost on the banks of the Platte river.  We went to where we had first viewed them back in 2009, the Fort Kearney State Recreation Area.  This park has a converted railway bridge crossing the Platte river.  We arrived two hours before sunset and claimed a spot on the bridge. (The bridge filled up over the next hour.)

A large flock of cranes moving over the Platte river.
It took a while before the cranes began to arrive.  I was hoping for more cranes near the bridge like they were in 2009 but they never came very close but, unlike in 2009, the number of cranes were orders of magnitude larger than we saw before.  The sights and sounds were spectacular.  JH tweeted a video that shows the birds and you can hear what it sounded like.  We stayed on the bridge until there was not enough light to see the birds anymore.

The gorgeous sunset over the Platte river.
We finished the day with a late dinner at a sports bar so the Wife could watch the Creighton basketball game.

Cranes thinking about the coming day.
On Saturday morning we got up early and headed to the Plautz Crane Viewing Deck south of Gibbon, NE.  When we got there it was already noisy.  The sound of the waking cranes was building.  As the sun rose large flocks of cranes took off and headed to the nearby fields to feed.  We watched some cranes in the nearby fields.  Some were hopping and spreading their wings.  My understanding is this is a mating dance performed by the male cranes.

Cranes in the field ... a couple of them danced the mating dance.
We returned to our hotel for some breakfast where we experienced the marvel of the pancake machine.  The pancakes were surprisingly good.

We drove back to Omaha and spent the afternoon showing NH and JH the city.  Among other things, we walked the pedestrian bridge, saw the pioneer sculpture that runs for several blocks downtown, and saw the marker where the Japanese had bombed Omaha by balloon.

Our weekend full of birds and conversation ended on Sunday.  It snowed overnight and gave our guests a white goodbye.  We ate breakfast at Louie M's Burger Lust before dropping our guests at the airport.

Sometime next year, depending on the Wrexham schedule, we will be visiting NH and JH.  The Wife's list of places to visit in Great Britain is quite long and NH and JH were a bit dubious about us being able to do it all within any reasonable length of time.  Challenge accepted!

Pictures have been added to my 2009-2023 Sandhill Cranes Google Photos album.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Keep Calm And Pardon The Interruption

Our British friends will be arriving soon and we will be busy catching up and watching sandhill cranes so I will most likely miss this week's Weekly Ephemera post.

I will post about our hijinx early next week after our guests have had enough of us and depart.  I may have some pictures to dazzle you with if you behave (and I'm lucky enough to catch some good pictures).

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Book: Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar's "This Is How You Lose The Time War"

The seventh book of the year for me is an interesting take on time travel.  I personally don't believe time travel into the past is possible but I have to admit that time traveling stories are often interesting with a lot of flexibility on how the story is told.

Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar's "This is How You Lose the Time War" is less about time travel than it is about the relationship that develops between two time soldiers.  The world constructed by this book involves two factions: The Agency - their goal is to build and maintain a post-singularity techno paradise - and the Garden - A communal superconscious building and maintaining a universal harmonious hive mind.  The book follows two soldiers, one from the Agency and one from Garden, who move through time making small (and sometimes not so small) changes to the timelines to achieve their respective goals.  

Throughout the timeline the soldiers exchange secret messages encoded over centuries and millennia.  At first you are not sure why the messages are exchanged.  Is one soldier trying to recruit the other?  Are they just curious about their opponent?  In time the messages become more intimate as the exchanges go from curious, to friendly, to amorous.   When the Agency and Garden discover the interaction between the soldiers (but not the content of the actual messages) they plan to use it as a weapon in the time war.

I found this book to be very interesting as it was so different from most of the books I've read before.  It came close to being a romance novel but in a way that didn't bother me too much.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  It was entertaining and felt fresh to me.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Happy Spring Equinox


    Spring Has Sprung!   


Go out there, weather permitting, and welcome the arrival of Spring.  I pre-celebrated by going for a walk.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Weekly Ephemera #49

  • On Monday I just didn't feel like walking.  I think the Daylight Saving Time change really did a number on me.  This is not really normal for me.  I usually adjust quickly but this year it felt like the foggy brain lasted all week.

    I did manage to go for a long walk on Wednesday.  I aimed for around twelve miles and ended up doing 12.95 miles (20.85 km).  This is the longest single walk I've done since April of last year.  It also absolutely killed my legs.  *oof*

    On Friday I decided not to walk which was probably a mistake.  My legs were still feeling the Wednesday walk and my head was still a bit foggy but I should have pushed through it and gone out even if it was for a shorter walk.
  • On Thursday the Wife's niece came down and stayed with us.  She was presenting at a school technology conference in Omaha.  It was nice to have a guest in the house.  It also gave us an excuse to go out to eat.  Now that I think about it, the high carb meal I had on Thursday night might explain some of the sluggishness I felt on Friday.
  • Today I washed my car once the temperature went above freezing.  Some of the dirt I washed off was from Arkansas, Luisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Missouri.  Yeah I don't wash my car very often.
  • The house guest theme continues this coming week when some British friends, who we met on the Amazon back in 2016, will be visiting for a few days so we can go all bird nerdy and witness the Sandhill Crane migration.  This will be fun.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Weekly Ephemera #47

  • On Monday the Wife and I went shopping for Camino gear.  We started at Cabellas and were very disappointed.  Their selection was okay but during our visit no one ever asked us if we needed help. 

    After eating some lunch we went to the 'new' REI outlet (not sure how new it is but I didn't realize it was here) and had an incredible experience.  As we approached the backpack section a representative came up and asked if he could help.  The Wife tried on four backpacks that the rep had filled with our desired weight so she could easily compare how they felt.  She ended up with a Osprey EJA 58L which should work well on the Camino.

    While she walked around the store with a pack on to get the feel, we looked at socks.  Once again a rep asked if he could help and he helped us find some non-wool socks the Wife could wear.

    On the way out we purchased a sleeping bag liner (we will not be carrying sleeping bags on the Camino but the liners are good sheets/covers for the hostel beds and can be treated with permethrin to keep the bugs off).

    Our experience was so good that I bought an REI lifetime membership for $30 and was pleasantly surprised to get a $30 gift card so ... free membership.
  • Continuing on the Camino gear topic, I purchased a set of trekking poles for the Wife.  She's never walked with poles and I hope she finds them as helpful as I do.  They came this week and they looked so nice and shiny that I ordered a new set for myself.  I feel a bit guilty since my old poles are still working but they are all scratched up and there is some corrosion and cracking on some of the quick locks - the Appalachian Trail was tough on them.  When they arrive I'm sure the guilt will quickly evaporate.
  • After the Robins returned over the last few weeks, the Red Wing Blackbirds (along with other types of blackbirds) started to show up.  When they get here in force they will empty our bird feeder double speed.  Of course, that's what the bird feeder is for ... to feed the birds.
  • I contacted the Government Office of Personnel Management this week to confirm my eligibility for my retirement annuity.  I remember thinking when I chose a deferred retirement annuity back in 2008 how far my sixtieth birthday was.  Now it's just a few months away and I wonder where the time went.  The form I need to fill out is pretty straight forward but I had questions on when I could submit it.  The ideal time will come while we are on the Camino but it looks like sending it in a few weeks early is no big deal.  I'm not sure exactly how much this annuity will be but it should cover some of our travel expenses and help extend our savings.
  • I walked two times this week for a total of 21.6 miles (34.8 km).  I am now easily covering ten plus miles per hike and I feel surprisingly well.  This is making me feel optimistic (is that what this feeling is?  I think so) that my third Camino will go well for me.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Book: Nikki Erlick's "The Measure"

This book, Nikki Erlick's "The Measure", begins with a truly novel premise.  On an ordinary day in March, everyone twenty-two years and older wakes up to find a small box outside their doors.  On the outside of the box it says "The measure of your life lies within."  Inside the box is an inscription of the recipient's name and a length of string.  No one sees the boxes appear.  Each day thereafter, when someone turns twenty-two, their box mysteriously appears at their door.

It is soon discovered that the length of the string is proportional to the length of a person's life.  A long string means a long life.  A short string means a short one.  The strings turn out to be accurate no matter the cause of death ... accident, illness, murder ... the strings are always right.

The book then follows several people whose lives become intertwined like pieces of string, one could say, as they try to cope with the world changing events that result from the appearance of the strings.  Laws are passed to prevent short-stringers from working in services like police, fire, and the armed forces in the belief that long stringers would not die on the job (being maimed or put into a coma is still a possibility of course).  Some short stringers become violent.  A Presidential candidate wins an election when his string is shown to be longer than his better opponent.  Relationships breakup once people discover their lives will not be the same length.

This premise fascinated me but as I read on I realized the author really didn't know how to end the book.  It just sort of faded away near the end.  Some things get better.  Society adjusts.  We never learn who or what was delivering the boxes.  I found the end anti-climatic.

When I started this book I thought it may be a five star book but I ended up giving it only four stars out of five on Goodreads because the five star premise was held back by the four star ending.

Sunday, March 05, 2023

Weekly Ephemera #46

It was a slow week.  Not much happened worth noting except for a couple things like:
  • The Wife and I started our Camino shopping this week.  I recommended some Salomon hiking shoes that I like.  She's been wearing them for a few days and she likes them so far.  We ordered some toe socks as well.  A short test proved that the Wife is still allergic to wool.  She tried on a pair of my merino wool blend socks but started itching in only a few minutes.  We will have to find a non-wool (probably polyester) option for her hiking socks.  We will be going sock and backpack shopping on Monday.

    I did something that I thought I would never do.  I ordered the Brierley Camino Guidebook.  Brierley has lots of good information including history about what you are passing along the Camino de Santiago but, since it also includes suggested stages and a lot of pilgrims treat Brierley's guide as the bible, you end up with traffic jams at the suggested Brierley stops.  We cursed Brierley during my first two Caminos but here I am buying his guide.  We will not be following the stops suggested by the book but will use the information about the places along the way.
  • I walked three times this week and managed to do a decent distance.  I walked a total of 31.8 miles (51.2 km).  Two of the walks were over eleven miles and they both wore me out but I felt better than I expected so that is a good thing.  I also, somehow, knocked 4 lbs (1.8 kg) off my weight this week which makes me happy.  I'm not overweight by any measure but I am much closer to what I think is a healthy weight for someone my height and age.  I've been this weight before and my cholesterol numbers are always better.

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Photograph: "Under The Railroad Bridge"

"Under the Railroad Bridge"
Bruce H.
During my walk today, under a beautiful clear blue sky, I went under a railroad bridge.  I've taken pictures of the bridge before and I decided to take another one.  I am a fan of rusty metal.