Homer's Travels: September 2023

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Happy Autumn!!!

Today is the autumnal equinox ... the first day of fall.  Fall is my favorite season.  Daylight and nighttime are roughly equal.  A very balanced day.

I hope you all have a balanced day and a pumpkin spiced fall season!

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Goodbye To My Favorite Uncle

Early yesterday evening my Uncle Jimmy passed away.  Mom and I visited him in the hospital just a few hours before.  He wasn't vocal at the time but he was aware and I am happy we had a chance to say our goodbyes.

Jimmy was, without a shadow of a doubt, my favorite Uncle.  While this was often said as a joke, in his case it was true.  My regret is not spending more time with him and my cousins.  As one of my cousins said, it seems we only get together when bad things happen.  That has got to change.

May he Rest in Peace.

Rome 2023 - Why We're Going ... What We Will Be Doing

Our next adventure, starting tomorrow, is a week in Rome, Italy.  This trip is a bit different for us in that it was not a long term planned event as most of our travel is.  This started in July (I think) when the Wife received an invitation to a former student's ordination as a deacon at the Vatican.  Within a month of receiving the invitation we'd decided to attend, booked flights and a hotel (a B&B actually), and put together an itinerary of things to do prior to attending the ordination.  We're both retired so why wouldn't we?

That is why we are going.  What will we be doing?  We have an itinerary which starts late in the afternoon on the day we arrive (we arrive in Rome at 8:00am) and continues all the way until it's time to go home.  We will see/do the following in roughly this order:

The last two days will be ordination events, Mass, and dinner with the family.

We will be getting around on foot or mass transit (bus or train).  Our hotel is a block from the Vatican Museum, half a mile from the entrance of Saint Peter's Square, and a couple of blocks from train and bus stops.  Our hotel will provide travel to and from the airport.  This is the first time we are travelling internationally just for one city.  Hopefully navigating the rather compact area of central Rome will not be too difficult.

I'm not sure when I will post about this trip.  When we get back it will be less than two weeks before we go to southeast asia.  I will have everything I'll need to post while in Rome but experience has shown this to be a hard thing to do.  I hope I get something posted before November rolls around.

On an aside, I was hoping to meet with one of my gamer friends who lives in Italy but, unfortunately, real life got in the way and our meeting will have to be on some future trip.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Book: Adrian Tchaikovsky's "Children Of Time"

My fifteenth book of the year was a return to the space opera genre.   Adrian Tchaikovsky's "Children of Time" was one of the better books I've read this year so far.

The book is hard to summarize as it doesn't follow a standard path but I'll give it a go.  At the height of humanities technological progress they are terraforming planets to make new homes for humans and, in this case, to create new humans.  Soon after, a massive attack by luddite, non-expansionists start a war that nearly destroys the human race.  During the first shots of the war, an attempt to introduce primates onto a newly terraformed planet goes wrong.  The primates do not make it to the planet but the nano-viruses, made to rapidly evolve the primates, do make it to the surface.

Jump ahead several hundred years and the remnants of humanity leave a dying Earth in an ark ship carrying thousands of humans in stasis.  Following terraforming maps discovered in the wreckage of the old empire the ark ship arrives at the terraformed planet.

There they discover that the nano-virus has evolved spiders and ants to sentience.  The rest of the book is a  struggle between the survival of humanity and the survival of the spiders.  The book comes to an interesting and unexpected conclusion which felt satisfying.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  There are two more books ... more sequels I believe ... that continue the story.  I enjoyed this book enough I expect I will be reading these books too. 

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Weekly Ephemera #70

 We are less than a week from our Rome trip and things are getting real.

  • Yesterday we went to the Wife's Nieces place to celebrate the birthday of their one year old.   Lots of kids ... lots of chaos ... lots of fun.  Happy Birthday!
  • I walked three times this week.  I would have walked four times but the weather got in the way on Friday.  The three walks I did do were fairly long totalling 25.6 miles (41.2 km).  I even did my first hike over ten miles since our Camino section in May.  That ten miles wore the heck out of me.  The spotty  rain on Friday probably saved me by giving me a day of rest.
  • I started the paperwork for our Vietnam Visa.  I have come to the conclusion that about 80% of all online forms are confusing and ambiguous.  The Vietnam Visa website would fail to display buttons or refuse to download PDF versions of the forms.  It took multiple tries to get our application forms completed with, I assume, the proper information.
  • While filling out the Visa paperwork I have come to the conclusion the next time I see my doctor I should ask about an anti-anxiety treatment.  I get spun up way too easily and it is getting harder for me to just relax.
  • Continuing on the health front I got my Flu shot yesterday.  I was hoping to get my COVID booster but Sam's Club didn't have them yet.  Hopefully I will be able to get it before we leave for southeast asia.
  • My new junk TV show is "UFO", a British show that aired for one season in 1970-71.  It's trippy and a bit psychedelic.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Weekly Ephemera #69

  • This week I had lots of opportunities to walk but ended up only taking two.  On Labor Day I hoped to get a longer walk in but I decided the holiday would be a good time to clean the kitchen and bathrooms.  On Wednesday when I had another chance for a longer walk I stayed home due to the smoke from the canadian wildfires that made going outside hazardous to my allergies.  I stayed home and streamed some shows instead.  I finally went for walks on Thursday and Friday doing a total of 14.1 miles (22.6 km).  The smoke had diminished greatly and the temperatures were approaching fall-like so the walking was delightful.
  • This week I caught up on some shows and watched a few movies.  I started with Marvel's "Secret invasion".  It was ok but they obviously tried to do this on the cheap and it felt a bit like a throw away filler.

    Yesterday, while the Wife watched football, I watched a few movies.  The first was "The Menu".  It was an interesting horror, thriller, comedy that didn't quite hit the mark.  Next was "Dungeon & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves".  This was a perfectly fine action, adventure, comedy.  Not great but about what I'd expected.  Finally I went towards the weird.  "Three Thousand Years of Longing" is a modern fairy tale where a literary scholar, specializing in how science is supplanting mythology, encounters a Djinn.  The movie is a commentary on storytelling and the modern world.  In the end you have to decide if what she encountered was real or if it was all a story told in a hallucination.  It was interestingly quirky in an understated way.  All in all, the movies I watched yesterday were ... ok.
  • Tomorrow is September 11th.  In the past I would often dedicate a whole post on remembering the day.  I am done with that.  The events on that day could have been the catalyst for positive change in the world.  We could have turned an act of hate into an act of global unity.  Instead that act of hate has metastasized into division, bigotry, and idiocy.  I will not dedicate a whole post to September 11th until this world of ours has regained its sanity.  I just hope to be alive to see it.

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

Book: TJ Klune's "In The Lives Of Puppets"

Happy National Read A Book Day! Unfortunately my latest book, number fourteen of the year, was not the greatest book I've read.  TJ Klune's "In the Lives of Puppets" starts with a lot of potential that is squandered by the end of the book.

In many stories about lone robots trying to survive in a world of humans, this book turns the story on its head.  The story takes place over a hundred years after the last human has been killed by the robots and a robot civilization flourishes.  In this world a robot designed to be creative - creative in ways to kill humans - has a change of heart and creates a living human child who he raises in the isolation of the forest.

There are so many possibilities in this flipped storyline but they are wasted.  What happens is not interesting and is often mired in emotional histrionics.  The robot civilization is too ... human.  This makes no sense since the robots had determined that the humans were destroying the environment.  Why, after destroying the humans, would the robots parrot the civilization they destroyed?  It didn't make sense to me.

I gave this book three stars out of five on Goodreads.  It ranked this high because of the potential in the book, not on its execution.  I was disappointed.

Sunday, September 03, 2023

Weekly Ephemera #68

I used to enjoy writing posts.  It wasn't always easy to come up with something to write about.  Back in the early years of Homer's Travels I think it was easier for some reason.  I liked what I wrote and I had a small audience of semi-loyal readers (primarily family).  Over the years  my audience has moved on to other things and at times it feels like I am talking to the void.  I wonder why I still do this.  I think these Weekly Ephemera posts have become my excuse not to write more while at the same time they keep me writing ... something.

With that said, here is what I've been up to the past week:

  • A temporary statue
    at Memorial Park.
    On Monday the Wife and I took my Mom to Nebraska Furniture Mart and picked out a lift chair.  It will be delivered this week.  Mom got a good deal on a close out chair that will make it easier for her to get into and out of her chair.  It will be delivered this coming week.
  • I went to the dentist this week to get a crown fitted on the root canaled tooth.  I left the office with a temporary crown which lasted a whopping twenty-four hours before it cracked in half.  Fortunately the root canal completely deadens the tooth so it is totally pain free.  I could go back and get another temporary but I don't think it's worth it.  The permanent crown will be put in on 11 September.  I think I'll just wait for that.
  • I went for four walks this week for a total distance of 24.8 miles (39.9 km).  After a week of not walking it felt good to get out.

    On one of the walks I explored the newly reopened Heartland of America Park and Lewis and Clark Landing.  The small lake/large pond that was there has been reduced in size opening up space for more green space, a bocce ball field, sand volleyball courts, playgrounds, and a roller skate rink.  This last one is a mystery for me.  There are only one or two roller rinks in the Omaha area.  It really isn't that popular of an activity here so I don't understand who this is for?  If it had an attached skate board park it would make sense since these are popular in Omaha but a roller skate park?  Not sure about that.

    A heron and some ducks in the smaller Heartland of America lake/pond.
    The playgrounds are beyond description.  If I were a kid I would be in paradise.  I didn't take any pictures which I should have done since they are hard to describe and I won't even attempt to.  They are just really cool.

    On a longer walk later in the week I walked around Memorial Park where the 'sailor kissing a nurse' statue is being displayed.  It is a temporary installation that will be in Omaha for six months.  It's pretty cool and fits in with all the war monuments in Memorial Park.
  • This week Nebraska broke a record for the highest attendance at a women's sporting event.  92,003 spectators went to Lincoln, Nebraska to watch a volleyball match between University of Nebraska - Lincoln and University of Nebraska - Omaha.  The Wife taught two of the players - one on each team.  One of them will be playing on the US team at the Paris Olympics.  For a brief period we considered attending the Olympics to watch her play (along with a bronze medal wrestler who is also a graduate of the Wife's school).  The planning ended when we saw the hotel prices ($500 to well over $1,000 a day).  Talk about price gouging.
  • Speaking of travel, we finally finalized our Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia trip.  We had to convert the Vietnam portion into a private tour when our travel company canceled the small group tour (due to lack of interest I guess).  I prefer the small group tours as you have people to share experiences with and you always get different perspectives.  On the other hand private tours are more flexible and you can often fit in a few more things that can't be done with a group.
  • My first retirement annuity payment (i.e. government pension) was deposited on Friday.  It's nice to have some steady, though modest, income again.
  • This weekend, while the Wife reveled in the return of college football, I caught up on "Doctor Who" specials.  Apparently I missed several from fifteen years ago.
Happy Labor Day everyone!!!