Homer's Travels: April 2023

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Weekly Ephemera #54

  • I went through my camping gear and started a Camino packing pile.   The pile is fairly small since you don't need very much.  You don't need a tent, sleeping bag, food preparation, water purification, or other common camping gear.  You just need clothing, toiletries, and first aid supplies.  You only carry enough food and water for the day's walk.  Different from my other Caminos I will be carrying my phone and tablet.

    Petals from the flowering trees blanketing the park like snow.
  • I walked 26.3 miles (42.3 km) this week.  On Friday it drizzled for about two thirds of the walk.  The wind didn't work well with the umbrella I was carrying but I stayed reasonably dry.  Hiking with an umbrella while using trekking poles is impossible so, on the Camino, the Wife and I will be carrying Ferrino Trekker backpacker coats for those rainy days.
  • A few homeowner issues:
    • The painter/drywaller failed to call to schedule the ceiling repair last week.  This job should have been completed a week ago.  Getting this work finished before we leave for the Camino is looking unlikely.
    • We had our air conditioning inspected this week and everything is hunky dory.  The tech showed up early and did a quick and good job.  Why can't all of these household chores be that easy?
    • I turned on the sprinklers.  The anti-siphon valve that prevents sprinkler water from backing up  into the house plumbing is leaking.  In the past the leaking usually stops in a few days.  I may have to have it replaced when we get home.  We also have a pop up sprinkler head that is sticking so it should be replaced too.
  • I filled out my application for my Government Annuity (part of my retirement benefits).  I will be mailing it this week so that we will start getting monthly checks in August (the month after I turn sixty).  It will be nice to get some regular income even if it won't be that much.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Book: Marcel Theroux's "The Sorcerer Of Pyongyang"

I think I heard about this book either on Mastodon or in a TWiT (This Week in Tech) podcast - I can't remember.  Since Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) plays a role in the book and I considered (and turned down) an offer to join friends in an online D&D game, I picked it for my next read.

Marcel Theroux's novel "The Sorcerer of Pyongyang" follows a boy from Pyongyang, North Korea.  His father, who works in an international hotel, finds a 1979 Dungeon Master's Guide that had been left behind by a visitor's son.  His son discovers it and, with the help of a subversive teacher, begins translating it into Korean and starts playing.

The boy grows up and goes to college where he teaches the game to his friends (and his privileged hacker girlfriend) until the secret police arrest him and send him to reeducation camp for nine years.  His girlfriend, now married to one of the royal Kim family, gets him released.

The journey of the boy from a peasant during a famine, to the subhuman treatment in the prison colony, to the hobnobbing with the elite in Pyongyang is fascinating.  The contrasts of how he lives in each stage of his life are stark.  You see all the contradictions in North Korean society.

The only part I didn't like when the author changes narrators.  The first part is narrated by the boy mostly but the last section is narrated by the author.  This last section also ties up the end very quickly and in too nice of a package for my taste.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  I really liked this read except for the unfortunate wrap up at the end.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Book: Anthony Sattin's "Nomads: The Wanderers Who Shaped Our World"

Last year I read three books that covered nomadic empires: The Ottomans, the Mongols, and the Mughals.  When I checked out my latest read, then, I was taking a risk that it would be potentially redundant.

Anthony Sattin's "Nomads: The Wanderers Who Shaped Our World" looks at how nomadic peoples and empires have shaped the 'settled' communities.  The book does give an overview of the three empires I read about last year but it also includes other nomadic peoples and went into more depth on how these nomads created the world we live in today.  I wish it had gone into a little more depth.

I wasn't fond of the author's writing style.  It felt a bit scattered and lacked focus at times in my opinion.  There was a lot of potential left on the table.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  I didn't want to punish it just because I'd read other books that covered the same subjects from a different perspective.  As an introduction to nomadic people and their influence on civilization it is quite acceptable.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Weekly Ephemera #53

This was another slow week full of not much of anything.  When I wasn't watching stuff on Paramount+ (it's Paramount+ binge month here) the following was happening:
  • Over the last eight or nine days we've had 4 inches (10.2 cm) of rain.  Our ground is pretty saturated.  On Thursday the Wife called me out to the garage to show me something:

    Earthworms fleeing the flood waters.
    (Photo taken by the Wife)
    We live on a local high spot of our street and, apparently, the earthworms headed for the high ground during the rain on Thursday morning.  I take this as a sign that we have a healthy lawn.
  • Caught up on my chores including cleaning the dryer vent - something I often neglect.  I replaced the crappy vent flex pipe with a rigid/quality flex pipe combo a few years back and, when I do take the time to clean it, I find there really isn't much accumulated lint. [Yes ... I am proud of my dryer vent.  I have such a rich life.]
  • We are still waiting for the painters/drywallers to show up.  Their excuse is some of their crew called in sick last week.  Sounds like the new excuse for these 'post-pandemic' times.
  • As I mentioned Friday, I walked three times this week.  I totaled 29.4 miles (47.4 km) ... a good week.

Friday, April 21, 2023

X̅ (Miles)

I have been keeping track of my walking/hiking mileage since February 2007 when I printed out a list of hikes in the Ventura County area of California where I lived at the time.  I worked my way through that list over the next year and a half.  Over the years since I added two Caminos, three Appalachian Trail attempts, and innumerable shorter walks/hikes to the tally.  This week I walked three times and, during my third walk, I passed the 10,000 mile (16,093 km) mark.

Onward to the next 10,000!

P.S. For those not understanding the post title, the roman numeral representation for 10,000 is X̅.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Book: S. B. Divya's "Meru"

I had difficulty getting through this book.  For the first time in a long time I interrupted reading a book to read another or, in this case, read three other books.  Part of the reason for the interruption was that the three other books became available for checkout at my library and I didn't want to lose my place in my library queue.  The other part was that I just couldn't get into the book.

S. B. Divya's "Meru" is set in a world I did not like centered around a character I was not interested in.  I am sure there are many people who will like this book but I just couldn't put my differences aside and just accept how this world was built and how the characters behaved.

The book was well written - no complaints there.  My issues were with the story itself.  It sometimes read like a romance novel set in a strange future that felt unlikely to me.  I'm not a fan of romance novels ... no matter what their setting.

I gave this book three stars out of five on Goodreads.  I will not be reading the second book of this series.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Weekly Ephemera #52

  • The MoH and BM visited this week.  We really didn't have anything planned to do with them but we filled the time with conversation that touched on family, AI, politics, religion, movies, TV, books, history, and, of course, travel.   We don't always see eye to eye on things but that just makes our talks more interesting.  We always have a good time when we visit.
  • That hole should not be there.
    The roofers came on Thursday to finish the work started a month or so ago.  Parts of the roof were torn off, baffles were installed, insulation was added in places it was missing, and attic ventilation was improved to prevent the condensation issues we have been fighting.

    Unfortunately, it was a windy day and a piece of plywood got away from the workers and it punched a hole in our living room ceiling. *sigh* A drywall/painting company came on Friday to see the damage and they should be here this coming week to do the repairs and paint the ceilings.
  • Last week gave us a taste of summer with temperatures in the 80s (above 26℃).  I switched on the AC for a few days before rain and colder temperatures returned and the Heat was turned back on.   A typical midwest spring.

    The rain we got (around 2 inches  or 5 cm) was enough to get all the green things to pop.  The wife mowed the lawn for the first time this year.  I spread 'weed n feed' today.  Later this week I will turn on the sprinkler system though I may wait until the next week since we have more rain in the forecast. 
  • The Wife and I watched "Everything, Everywhere, All At Once"  This was my second viewing (the first was the less than ideal viewing on an airplane) and it was much better the second time.  Mind bending and uplifting.

    I finished watching "Twin Peaks: The Return" often described as season three of Twin Peaks.  I think some of my brain cells melted. 
  • Due to our guests and the work that was done I didn't go walking last week.  I hope to resume this week depending on when the painters plan to come in and do their stuff.

Sunday, April 09, 2023

Weekly Ephemera #51

I hope everyone had a good Easter weekend.
  • On Monday I introduced the Wife to hiking with poles with a hike at Hitchcock Nature Center.  I taught her how to use her poles to reduce stress on the knees when going down and up hills.  She did very well and between now and when we leave for the Camino we will likely do a few more strenuous hikes as part of our Camino preparations. 
  • Speaking of Camino preparations, this week I made our airline reservations (Omaha to Paris), train reservations (Paris to Bayonne to St Jean Pied de Port), hotel/hostel reservations (in St Jean Pied de Port and at our first pilgrim hostel in Orrison).

    The hotel in St Jean Pied de Port was not my original choice.  I was hoping to stay in the hotel I stayed in during my first Camino - a very nice hotel in an old historic building - but it didn't have any openings.  Instead I found a place just around the corner from that hotel appropriately called Plan B.

    During my first Camino I walked from St Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalle in one day.  This time we will be breaking up the long and hard day into two parts.  The first day will be a short 4.7 miles (7.5 km) to the Albergue (pilgrim hostel) of Orrison.  The second day will be 10.4 miles (16.7 km). up and over the Pyrenees mountains to Roncesvalles, Spain.
  • Besides the hike at Hitchcock I did a couple more longer hikes.  All three hikes totaled 27 miles (43.5 km).  Next week will probably not include any hikes.
  • On Saturday we celebrated Easter at the Wife's Niece's new home.  Their home has a lot of space - a good house for a family to grow into.

    Today we celebrated Easter again at my Mom's place.  More good food. More good conversation.  I am now officially full of ham.
  •  This coming week the MoH and BM are visiting for a few days of fun times and interesting conversation.

Sunday, April 02, 2023

Weekly Ephemera #50

This was a fairly slow post-visitation week.  Here are a few things that happened this week:

  • Another month came to an end.  We are, once again, in the month of April.  Time has sure felt like it is flying lately.
  • I walked two times this week for a total of 21.2 miles (34.3 km).  I'm having trouble getting over twelve miles ... mostly because I'm not planning my routes properly and coming up short.  The week before I walked 11.9 miles (19.2 km).

    I am rapidly approaching the ten thousand mile mark.  I started keeping records of my hikes back in February 2007.  I found a list of hikes around our home in Oxnard, CA in the local newspaper, ordered them from short to long, then started doing weekly hikes.  I got through most of them by the time we moved out of California.  I have added quite a few more hikes to my list since then.  The Camino (twice).  Most of the Appalachian Trail (AT).  Several more in local Nebraska parks.  Innumerable city hikes around Omaha and Council Bluffs.  I've recorded nine hundred and forty hikes in those twenty-six years.  I think I should be hitting the ten thousand mile mark sometime in the next three weeks depending on my schedule.
  • I took my car in for an oil change and they promptly suggested a thousand dollars worth of work that needs to be done.  I'm planning to prioritize and spread out the work over the next year or two because I really don't drive my car very much.
  • The rest of my time was filled mostly with television.  I watched "Poker Face" on Peacock and found it funny and refreshing.  It felt kinda old school which appealed to me.

    We resubscribed to Paramount+ and I've spent the last couple days catching up on all my Star Trek.  This included the season one finale of Strange New Worlds that I missed during my failed AT attempt, the second half of Prodigy season one, and the third season of Lower Decks.  This afternoon I started the third and final season of Picard and will probably catch up early this week (there are still three episodes that have not 'aired' yet).

    For the rest of the month I plan to watch "Everything, Everywhere, All at Once", The sequel to Twin Peaks, possibly Yellowjackets season one, and anything else I find interesting.

    This is how we watch TV these days.  We make lists of shows we watch and subscribe to a service for a month and binge everything before cancelling the subscription.  I don't understand people who carry a half dozen subscriptions at once and complain about how expensive it is.  If they just subscribed for a month and binge then you really only need two or three full time subscriptions and three or four that you jump in and out of when needed.