Homer's Travels: 2024

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Weekly Ephemera #102

This week has been an exhaustive one though, to be honest, I'm not sure why.  Here was the week that was:

  • The dominant theme this week was my Mom's spinal surgery and the beginning of her recovery.  The surgery went without a hitch.  Mom was a tad worried about how her age would impact the procedure and, it turns out, it didn't affect anything.

    Mom stayed in the hospital three nights to let everything stabilize.  On Thursday she was moved to a live-in rehabilitation center.  The length of her stay will be determined by progress with her physical therapy.  Starting tomorrow she will have physical and occupational therapy daily to help her regain her independence.

    It's still early but Mom says the pain in her lower back seems to be almost gone (Huzzah!) but her sciatic pain in her leg remains  (too soon to determine if it has improved or is the same).  She still has issues with moving her legs smoothly while walking.  This is most likely more of a Parkinson's issue than a back issue.  Her physical therapy will work on that.
  • Our sprinkler system has been fixed ... for a hefty price naturally.
  • Friday I had a minor panic when I discovered all my Google docs/sheets created after 2019 had disappeared.  I was pleasantly surprised to find it easy to contact a Google support person who recovered all my files.  I promptly changed my passwords.  I have to say I am not pleasant to be around when I'm in a panic. 😈
  • I haven't walked for ages it seems.  I hope to restart once again this coming week despite the 100℉ plus (38℃ plus) heat indexes early this week.
  • I haven't really had a chance to nap this week which is probably why I have been feeling grumpy, overwhelmed, and exhausted most of this week.  I'll have to talk about how much I've been napping this year (excluding this last week).  Suffice it to say I have been napping a lot this year.  Makes me feel old.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Happy Solstice!

I hope everyone has a long, safe, summer solstice today.  By all measures, Summer has begun.  Get out and Enjoy it!

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Tampa 2024 - Magnets Edition

I am finally catching up with the magnet posts - just four to eight months late.  The last batch was acquired during our Tampa trip last January.  Here are a few of my favorites from the trip:
A rooster from Ybor City.

This picture really doesn't capture the 3-D effect of this sunset magnet.

Salvador Dali.
Unfortunately the skydiving place did not have magnets (nor any pins or keychains I could have made into magnets). A lost opportunity for the skydiving school.

You can see the Magnets I've posted by clicking on the Travel Magnets tab above or going to my 2006-2024 Travel Magnets Google Photos album.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Weekly Ephemera #101

"May you live in interesting times" ...

 or, in our case, June.

  • In the last Weekly Ephemera post I mentioned we canceled our Camino trip and we would try to move Mom's spinal surgery.  At the time of that post I really doubted we could reschedule the surgery.  We called Monday and to my utter surprise Mom's surgery was rescheduled for ... tomorrow.  On Friday we had a long day full of pre-op examinations and tests.  The next few weeks - starting on Monday at 5:00am - will be interesting to say the least.
  • We continued to deep clean the house in preparation for the Wife's cousin and aunt's visit this week ... until the cousin called to cancel due to unexpected health issues.  The cleaning wasn't a waste but it's probably safe to say we won't be deep cleaning the house again for another decade or so.
  • On Wednesday morning, the day we would have flown to Spain for the Wife's Camino, I noticed the automatic sprinklers did not come on.  Turns out the controller died.  If we'd gone to Spain the grass and gardens would not have been watered during the 80℉ to 90℉ (26℃ to 32℃) temps we are experiencing and we would have returned in three weeksto a dead lawn.  The sprinkler people are coming on Monday.
  • Wednesday evening we had some crazy weather with wind, rain, and hail (pea to quarter sized).  The clouds and lightning was incredible.
    Storm clouds with a peak of blue.

    Sun lit storm clouds.

    A little bit of lightning.
  • I did not walk this week and, frankly, I'm not sure when I will restart my walking.  Depends on my Mom's schedule really.  My body is starting to miss it.
  • As for my entertainment for the week, it was basically the same as last week - "Alone" and "Doctor Who".

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Southeast Asia 2023 - Cambodia Magnet Edition

Finally, after only seven months, here are the last magnets from our southeast Asia trip last fall.  We only had a handful of magnets from Cambodia.

A carved face from Angkor Wat.

A basic photo magnet of monks at a temple. (This is a terrible scan.)

A keychain from our Cambodian balloon ride
which will be converted into a magnet.
I will add photos from our trip to Tampa soon.  You can see the Magnets I've posted by clicking on the Travel Magnets tab above or going to my 2006-2024 Travel Magnets Google Photos album.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Southeast Asia 2023 - Vietnam Magnet Edition

 We collected more magnets in Vietnam.  Here are a few favorites:

Vietnamese man and woman.

An island temple in Hanoi on bamboo.

A boat on HaLong Bay made of coiled paper.

An AO Show performer in Saigon on wood.
You can see the Magnets I've posted by clicking on the Travel Magnets tab above or going to my 2006-2024 Travel Magnets Google Photos album.

Sunday, June 09, 2024

Weekly Ephemera #100

This probably shouldn't be an ephemera post as it's pretty significant but I'm afraid if I dedicate a whole post to it, it would become a rambling 'poor me' screed.  Anyway, here is the week that was:

  • My mom's back and sciatic leg pain is progressively getting worse and it is getting harder for her to get around.  She is scheduled for surgery on the 8th of July but tomorrow we are going to contact the neurosurgeon to see if it can be moved up.  The surgery may help ... or it may not.  The only way to know is to have it done.
  • Due to Mom's worsening condition, I decided that I would not be going on the Wife's Camino.  After consideration she too decided to cancel the Camino for this year.  We are both, to say it mildly, a bit bummed but neither of us would have enjoyed it if we were continuously worrying about how Mom was.  I also think me being close by gives Mom a sense of comfort.  The Camino has been around over one thousand two hundred years.  It will still be around next year.  We just need to hold our aging bodies at bay a little longer.
  • Before we postponed the Wife's Camino we deep cleaned the house.  The Wife's Aunt and Cousins were/are going to use our house while we were away but now we will be hosting them.  They will be going to the College World Series and visiting old friends in Omaha next week.  I have never seen the Wife clean so deeply.  Three plus hours for just one room.  I did my part but my piddly attempts at deep cleaning paled in comparison.
  • One of the things I did was clean the windows.  A day or so afterwards a robin flew into the window so hard it left a splat of ... something disgusting ... before dropping dead to the patio. When I removed the carcass it left a bloodstain on the concrete.  I will have to rewash that window.
  • Between cleanings I watch some more "Doctor Who" which, after a very sloppy start, has gotten better.

    In the evening the Wife and I have started watching "Alone".  There are ten seasons (the eleventh season starts this week).  I'm pretty sure I would tap out before I even got on the boat.

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Southeast Asia 2023 - Thailand Magnet Edition

I am soooo behind in my magnet scanning and posting.  This is likely driven by the fact that we have run out of wall space to display them all.

We purchased twenty-five magnets in Thailand.  Here are a few of my favorites:

One of the seven Hilltribe magnets we bought.
A cloth elephant magnet from the elephant sanctuary we visited.
What is Thailand without some Thai Boxing?
I will try to get the Vietnam and Cambodia magnets up soon. You can see the Magnets I've posted by clicking on the Travel Magnets tab above or going to my 2006-2024 Travel Magnets Google Photos album.

Monday, June 03, 2024

Book: Adrian Tchaikovsky's "Children Of Memory"

Continuing my slow 2024 reading, my fourth ebook of the year was book three of the Children of Time series.

Adrian Tchaikovsky's "Children of Memory" continues where "Children of Time" and "Children of Ruin" left off.  The humans, joined by the Portiids, the Octopuses, and the Corvids, continue exploring the worlds terraformed by the ancient humans - in this case the planet Imir.

This book takes a very different approach than the other books.  The story jumps around and is a bit confusing with contradictions.  As you reach the end of the book things begin making sense and you begin to appreciate the author's story telling.

The only thing I didn't like was how the book ended without explaining a major plot point, the author choosing to leave it shrouded in mystery.  Apparently the author has promised that there will not be any more sequels so we may never know the true nature of what happened on the planet Imir.  I hope the author changes his mind and writes a fourth book to the series to explain the ending.  Or, on second thought, maybe he shouldn't and just let the reader's imagination run wild.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  Tchaikovsky is a talented storyteller and I may have to dip my toe into his collection of fifty-ish books.

Sunday, June 02, 2024

Weekly Ephemera #99

  • Yesterday was a busy day for the Wife and I.  Her ex-student, who was ordained a Deacon in Rome last year, was ordained into the priesthood and Saint Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha.  We dressed up and attended the very long ordination ceremony in the morning.  In the evening we attended a reception for the newly ordained Father Matthew at Lauritzen Gardens.  The evening was fun, full of laughter, reminiscing from the Father's family, and a multitude of toasting. 
  • We paid off the last of our bathroom remodel.  We are now poorer than we were but we have a bathroom we really like. 🤣
  • I had my semi-annual blood tests on Wednesday. I had to fast for them which meant I couldn't eat anything during a time when I normally wouldn't eat anything anyway.  You would think this would be easy but just knowing I was fasting made me more hungry.

    The results were better than six months ago but not as good as twelve months ago.  I attribute this to not walking as much this spring.  I'm still pre-diabetic but my cholesterol numbers are in a good range.  The one really good number is my PSA which went from 10.3 pre-prostate surgery to 1.4 (normal range is between 0 and 4).
  • Cleared out the last of the overgrown shrubbery under our deck.  We now have room for more shade tolerant flowers.
  • I finished "Star Wars: Bad Batch".  It was a fitting end for the show though it could have gone on for a few more seasons.

    I also finished "Star Trek: Discovery".  While the season finished filming before they announced the ending of the series, they did take the time to go back and tie up a few loose ends so that the series had an appropriate ending.  I was happy how they ended it and a bit sad to see it go.

    I started watching the latest "Doctor Who".  Doctor Who has always been a bit hit and miss with its storytelling but the first two episodes of this season are very underwhelming.  I hope it gets better.

    Lastly we watched the semi-finals for the Scripps National Spelling Bee.  Kind of disappointed that ESPN dropped it.  I'm guessing they lost a lot of their audience this year because of that.  We missed the finals of the Bee due to some guy getting thirty-four felony convictions in New York. 😜
  • I only walked once this week for 7.2 miles (11.6 km).  Since our Camino is only ten days away I will probably not walk this week.  Not exactly wise but it's how it's going to be.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Happy .... mmm mmm Birthday!

I want to wish my Mom a wonderful CENSORED birthday.  I hope she enjoys the pink orchid I bought her.  I can't think about you without thinking about the color pink.

May you have many more.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Weekly Ephemera #98

Things are kind of coasting here in Homer's Travels land.  We are a few weeks from our return to the Camino.  There really isn't much to do to prepare so we are just getting the house in order.
  • We've been having crazy Spring weather this month.  Rain, hail, tornadoes.  There were a few nights this week the weather radio woke us up multiple times in the middle of the night.  On Friday morning I woke up at 2am to the sounds of tornado sirens.  It's disconcerting when you're watching the weather coverage in the middle of an alert and you lose the Internet.  Definitely not an ideal situation.

    At the suggestion of the Wife I cleaned out the tornado room this week.  The tornado room is a room in our basement away from windows where we can go if the unspeakable happens.  While all the rain is doing marvels for the yards and gardens in our area everyone is getting tired of having to watch the sky.
  • The bathroom people returned on Friday and finished the bathroom.  It's really nice to have all that behind us.  The only thing to do now is to pay for it all ... oof.
  • I walked only once this week.   A short 6.9 miles (11.2 km).  This is where I could really be preparing for the Camino ... but I'm not.
  • My semi-annual blood draw is coming this week.  As always I don't expect my test numbers will be that great but they shouldn't be bad either.  I'll know soon enough.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Weekly Ephemera #97

  • Took Mom to the neurosurgeon on Monday and we set a date for her surgery to correct stenosis in her neck.  The surgery will be after the Wife and I return from Spain.  If all goes well she will have more spinal surgery in six to twelve months to correct stenosis in her lower back.  The goal of all of this is to reduce the pain in her lower back and legs and, hopefully, improve her balance, gait, and quality of life.
  • The Tile Guy put in the tile floor in our bathroom this week.  It looks nice.  The lighter tile and wall color makes the bathroom feel bigger and brighter.  This coming Friday the bathroom people will come back to install the toilet, medicine cabinet, and other small details.  Yesterday I took my first shower in our new, larger shower.  It is very roomy now and doesn't feel like you are showering in a phone booth (For the too young this is a phone booth.).  Looking forward for it being completely finished.
Photograph: "Cotton Stars on a Puddle Sky"
By Bruce H.

  • I went walking twice this week.  I managed 16.6 miles (26.7 km) which is a bit short for two hikes.  During one of the hikes I walked through a park full of cottonwood trees shedding their fluffy seeds to the whims of the wind.  I took the picture above - slightly out of focus as usual - of cottonwood seeds on the surface of a rain puddle.
  • I watched season two of "Halo" this week.  I really liked it.  I started the final season of Star Trek: Discovery this weekend.  The last episode is in a couple weeks.  Interesting so far in a very Star Trek way.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Weekly Ephemera #96

Happy Mother's day to all the mothers out there, especially my Mom!!!

This week was not full of much activity.  I only have a few things to mention.
  • Yesterday we went to the combined birthday party for the niece's four year old son and two year old daughter.  Their kids are awesome and, after this party, they will need a bigger house to store all the toys these kids got.  The one gift we are all jealous of is a battery powered bubble gun.  Is it normal for a sixty year old man to want a bubble gun?
  • I watched "Star Trek: Lower Decks" this week.  I love all the easter eggs they can wedge into a Star Trek cartoon.  This week I'll take a Trek break and will watch the second season of "Halo".
  • The Wife went out to see the Aurora Borealis on Friday night.  I didn't join her as I was really tired.  She saw some good displays near Hitchcock Nature Reserve.  I was asleep before she even arrived there.  This is unlike me really since seeing the northern lights is on my informal bucket list.  Not sure why I couldn't find the energy to join the Wife.
  • One possible explanation for my tiredness is that I did a long walk Friday morning and really didn't nap afterwards like I usually do.  This week I walked twice for a total of 18.67 miles (30.0 km) with most of those miles being on Friday.
  • This week the tile guy is coming to tile our bathroom floor.  The end of our bathroom remodel is in sight.

Tuesday, May 07, 2024

Book: Robert M. Sapolsky's "Determined: A Science Of Life Without Free Will"

The latest read in my very slow progression through my reading list is Robert M. Sapolsky's "Determined: A Science of Life without Free Will".  The book explores the concept of Free Will and determinism.

Sapolsky comes from the school of thought that Free Will does not exist.  Basically, since everything we do and every decision we make are influenced/determined by history and events beyond our control, we cannot have Free Will.

Half of the book covers the arguments for the existence of Free Will and basically shoots each one down.  The second half of the book touches on how a world with no Free Will would work.  For example, Should you punish a person for doing a crime if he had no real choice but to do it?  Would a world where no one thinks they have Free Will be chaotic?

The book is very interesting since I lean towards agreeing with Sapolsky even though, frankly, I still live as though I do have Free Will.

I gave the book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  It's well written, though a bit repetitive at times, and I tended to agree with the author.

Sunday, May 05, 2024

Weekly Ephemera #95

  • The bathroom is ... almost finished.  In a week our tile guy will be putting down the tile floor.  After that the bathroom folks will be back to install the toilet and finish a few minor things.  If all goes well it should be done by the end of the month.  The Wife has started to take showers in the new, larger shower.  I am still using the guest shower.  I want to wait for it to be completely done before I use it.  Of course this could change at any time.
  • Work on our sprinkler system was completed this week before the rain moved in.  A blockage was bypassed and a couple sprinkler heads were relocated.  So far this spring has been wet and we have had no need for the sprinkler.  This will change soon enough.
  • I watched "Fallout" on Prime.  It was pretty good for a video game adaptation.  This weekend we reupped our Paramount+ subscription and I had started to work my way through the second season of "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds".  It's some of the best 'new' Trek.  (New Trek is all Trek television starting with "Star Trek: Discovery".)
  • I didn't hike this week.  I just didn't.

Friday, May 03, 2024

Music: Joe Satriani w/ Steve Vai at The Astro

On Sunday I went to The Astro, a relatively new music venue just five minutes from our home.  I was there to see Joe Satriani, a guitarist introduced to me by one of my coworkers, who I used to listen to back in the 90s.  It brought back a lot of memories.

The warm up was Steve Vai.  Vai, at the age of twelve or thirteen, knocked on Joe Satriani's door and asked him to teach him how to play guitar.  I'd never heard him play and his skill on the guitar was incredible.

Steve Vai playing a three neck guitar.
Vai's style is a bit chaotic, jamming, and improvisational.  Some people like this style.  I'm not a big fan but I have to acknowledge the skill he displayed.

Joe Satriani and his band.
Joe Satriani came on and I immediately recognized his style and I was pulled back to time when I listened to his CDs and rocked out.  His style is more 'orderly' and is infused with virtuoso guitar play. I really enjoyed it.

Joe Satriani and Steve Vai side by side jamming on their guitars.
Near the end Steve Vai joined Satriani on stage to play together and it was mind blowing.  They really did compliment each other and Satriani brought some order to vai's playing.  The only rough spot was when they did two covers - "You really got me" by the Kinks and "Enter Sandman" by Metallica.  The keyboardist sang the lyrics and he didn't quite get there vocally.  The guitar playing was incredible on both though.

This was my first concert in The Astro which opened up a year ago.  It's a medium sized venue with an attached outdoor amphitheater.  There were a few quirks like being able to enter a row of seats from only one end instead of both and only some of the seats are padded theater style seats with the rest being unpadded folding chairs.   A little more interior design planning would have been helpful.

Photos of the concert can be found in my "2024-04-28 Joe Satriani w/ Steve Vai, The Astro, La Vista, NE" Google Photos album.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Weekly Ephemera #94

  • This week was dominated by the start of our bathroom remodel. The workers came in Monday to demolish the existing bathroom, the drywallers came in on Tuesday and Wednesday, the painter showed up on Thursday, and the installers started on Friday.  Most of the work will be done early this coming week.  A week later our tile guy will come in to tile the floor.  After that's done the plumber will come in to install the toilet.  So, by the end of May we should be using our new bathroom.  Until the bathroom is finished we are sleeping in our guest bedroom and using our guest bathroom both of which feel a bit cramped.  I can't wait for it to all be over.
  • On Friday we spent our time looking out the window at the weather and watching the progress of the storm on TV.  We received nearly 2 inches (5 cm) of rain and a mix of pea-sized to quarter-sized hail.  Fortunately for us, we were missed by the tennis ball sized hail and the tornados that did so much damage northwest of Omaha and in Iowa.
  • I did not walk this week as I was babysitting the bathroom remodelers.
  • I watched "Peacemaker" on Max.  It was a fun comic book romp.  I also watched the "Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour" movie.  While I respect her talent and business acumen, I have to admit that most of the music sounded the same to me.  It didn't help that I recognized only one song.  Having said this, the concert looked like an awesome experience for the Swifties.
  • Speaking of concerts, tonight I am going to a concert.  I will post more about that later this week.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Weekly Ephemera #93

  • I had my post-surgery check with my doctor.  Everything is going well.  There is evidence of another kidney stone and I will be getting a CT scan in October to see if it is staying put.
  • The Wife and I went to Minneapolis at the end of the week.  We visited with the MoH and the BM  and attended a charity gala for the Godson's school.

    We arrived and in Minneapolis Thursday evening and, like we always do, we talked until 2:00am Friday morning.  We slept in a bit, went out for a very good brunch, before we napped before the gala.  We got all dressed up and attended the school gala and had a fun time.  The exceeded their fund raising goals and, I believe, broke a new record.  After the gala we stayed up talking until 3:15am.

    We stopped by the Godson's to see his family, new house, and new puppy.  The puppy is a rascal.
  • I walked 11 miles (18 km) last week.  Not sure if I will be walking or not this week.
  • This week is a busy one.  We got the air conditioner checked out and serviced last week.  This week we are getting our bathroom remodeled starting Monday (it will take seven business days to finish).  On Tuesday we are having the sprinkler guys showing up to run some new pipe to bypass a suspected leak/blockage in our backyard sprinkler system.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Weekly Ephemera #92

  • Travel season is approaching and we started money in motion in preparation for two adventures later this year.

    The first is a return to Spain for the second part of the Wife's Camino.  I purchased tickets to Madrid, train tickets from Madrid to Burgos (where we ended the first part of her Camino), and reserved a room near the Cathedral.  We will be flying the middle of June and returning sometime the first week of July.

    The second is a trip to the United Kingdom between mid September and early October.  We met with our travel agent and she made most of the flight, train, and hotel reservations.  The ones she couldn't do the Wife did.  During this trip we will be meeting with our friends we met on the Amazon - they visited us last year for the crane migration - and we will see the sights in England, Wales, and the southern part of Scotland.  (The Northern parts will have to be done on another trip due to time and money constraints.)  If the the gods of luck and fortune smile on us we will be attending a Wrexham game but it's a long shot now that they moved up a league and are more popular than ever.
  • On Thursday and Saturday the sprinkler people came to fix some issues in our aging inground sprinkler system.  A third visit will be needed to bypass a suspected blockage in one of the sprinkler zones.  We turned on the sprinklers this weekend due the hot weather - twenty-some degrees Fahrenheit above normal for three days - we are having at the moment.  We even turned on the air conditioner though the temperatures are going back down to normal which means switching back to heat.  Both of these things are a few weeks earlier than 'normal'.
  • I finished "True Detective" this week.  Liked all four seasons though seasons one and four are the best I think.  Now to look for something else to watch.
Color or Black & White - Seen on one of my walks.
  • I walked twice this week.  My hardest hurdle to jump is my laziness.  The two hikes I did totaled 13 miles (21 km).
  • Next week we are going to Minneapolis for the Godson's schools charity gala.  The ol' suit will have to be dusted off.

Sunday, April 07, 2024

Weekly Ephemera #91

  • The Wife got me on April Fools day.  She said she was having second thoughts about redoing the bathroom and she wanted me to cancel the job with the contractor.  I totally fell for it as you could tell by the hybrid confused and panicked face I made.
  • We went to our local home improvement store and bought the tile, toilet mechanisms, lights, and mirrors for our bathroom remodel - the one we are not canceling.
  • Mom had several doctors appointments ... most of them not really necessary but required by a doctor or insurance company policy.
  • We went to see Peter Frampton on Wednesday as I posted about here.
  • On Thursday night we went to see the Omaha Supernovas, our local women's pro volleyball team.  We got tickets from one of the Wife's friends and we had a good time seeing them win against the Columbus, OH Fury three sets to one.  A few crappy pictures can be seen in my 2024-04-04 Supernovas Volleyball Google Photos album.

    The Supernovas are in white and blue.
  • I did not walk this week due to all the appointments this week.  I had an opportunity to walk on Wednesday but instead I went down to the she-shed and took a nap.  I expected it to last an hour but I woke up nearly three hours later.  I guess I was tired.

Friday, April 05, 2024

Music: Peter Frampton at the Orpheum Theater

On Wednesday the Wife and I went to our second concert of the year.  Like our first (The Eagles) this one was also someone we'd seen before, Peter Frampton.   We saw him perform back in 2013 at the Stir Cove.

There was no warmup and the show started with Peter Frampton coming on stage with a cane.  He sat done on a swivel chair and started an awesome show.  As a matter of fact everyone in the band were sitting down during the performance.  A couple times he mentioned he would be playing as long as it would let him.  It turns out he has Inclusion Body Myositis (IBM) a form of non-fatal ALS.  Over time IBM suffered lose control of their legs, Arma, and hands.  It turns out Frampton is a special case because he still has control of his fingers.

Peter Frampton and his band.
The show was nearly three hours long and he covered a lot of his music.  He stopped a few times to talk to the audience and to give out signed copies of records (including an IBM sufferer in a wheelchair in the audience).  He was in good spirits and in good form.  His guitar skills have not diminished as far as I could tell.

His cover of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun", which he performed both this and the other time we saw him, was amazing.

It was a great time, we had great seats, and I'm glad we went.

Photos can be found in my "2024-04-03 Peter Frampton, Orpheum Theater, Omaha, NE" Google Photos album.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Weekly Ephemera #90

 Happy Easter to everyone who celebrates!

  • A cute minion seen during
    one of my walks.
    We celebrated Easter first at the Niece's house near Sioux City and second at my Mom's house.  It was a nice time at both dinners and we now have full bellies.
  • We had a lawn service over to fix a leaking backflow valve.  Unfortunately this small repair is going to turn into a large replacement of valves and manifolds next month.  When it rains it pours being a homeowner.
  • I started watching "True Detective" this week.  The first season was interesting in a strange way.  The second season (each season is an independent storyline) is not as weird but still interesting.  There are four seasons.
  • I hiked three times this week and pushed my distance to the longest since the Wife's Camino last May,  I walked 29.4 miles (47.3 km) over the three walks.  My legs felt the extra distance but it felt good getting out and pushing it.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Weekly Ephemera #89

  • On Tuesday the Wife and I met with our travel agent to go over our fall trip to England and Wales.  Originally we were going to include Scotland but after going over the transportation options our agent pointed out Scotland could be three to four weeks on its own.  Since we wanted to limit it to only three to four weeks for the whole trip we decided to postpone Scotland, possibly combining it with Ireland.

    For those who are curious, the only thing we are interested in doing in Wales is going to see a Wrexham Match.  If you are asking why take some time to watch "Welcome to Wrexham".
  • I walked three times this week which was what I was hoping to do.  I managed a respectable 20.3 miles (32.7 km).  My individual hikes are still too short and increasing the distance is my new goal.
  • I watched "Harley Quinn" this week.  It's a raunchy, irreverent, and very funny animated series centered on a Batman Villain. Not recommended for young children.  I'm enjoying it.  I have one more season to go.
  • The Wife, after returning from the Big East basketball tournament on Sunday has been submerged fully in the Madness of March.  It's been quiet upstairs ... and intermittently noisy in the She-Shed.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Astronomical Spring!

 I hope everyone is celebrating the Spring Equinox.  Nothing like the first day of Spring to lift one's mood.  To make it better it's a little earlier than normal since it's a Leap Year.

🌼Happy First Day of Spring Everyone!🌷

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Weekly Ephemera #88

I hope you all had an irrational 𝝅 day and an inebriated, but safe, Saint Patrick's Day!
  • Another ordinary week for me and an exciting one for the Wife.  The only thing I did was take my Mom to, what both my Mom and I agree was, a totally worthless and a bit weird appointment with a neurologist.  It was an appointment that could easily have been an email or phone call.
  • While Mom and I were wasting time the Wife was going to the airport to fly to New York.  She is there until later tonight.  She is there to attend the Big East basketball tournament.  Unfortunately the Wife's team, the Creighton Bluejays, got knocked out in their first game.  But there was more basketball to watch and a bit of New York sightseeing along the way.
  • I finished the Doom Patrol.  It was a well written series finale. You were both happy and sad for the characters and the ending scene and music was near perfect.  I will now move on to something else once I figure out what that thing is.
  • I only walked once this week.  No reason I didn't do more.  I have just have a massive deficit of motivation.  I only walked 6.6 miles (10.65 km).  So far I'm walking less than any of the eighteen years I've been keeping track.  Not good.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Book: Adrian Tchaikovsky's "Children Of Ruin"

The second book of 2024 - I can't believe I've only read two books in two and a half months - was the second book of the Children of Time series.  The book continues a few years after the events of "Children of Time".

In Adrian Tchaikovsky's "Children of Ruin" the Humans and their allies the spider-like Portiids set out to investigate a signal they were receiving from a distant star system.  The book flashes between two time periods, one when the Human terraformers first arrive into the system and the other when the Humans and the Portiids arrive.  They find two planets, one terraformed by the Humans and another hiding a terrible secret released centuries ago.

I liked the first book and I liked the second book too.  The life forms introduced in this series are interesting with varied societies and adaptations.

It took me a month and a half to read this book, not because it was long (it was) or uninteresting (it was interesting).  I read when I go to bed.  It's my unwinding time.  Unfortunately I have had the urge to stay up later lately and this means when I start reading I am already a bit tired.  The result is I only read a chapter or two (usually around one or two percent of the book) per day.  At this rate I will not get anywhere close to the twenty books I set as a goal for myself this year.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  I am looking forward to reading the third book in the series someday. 

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Weekly Ephemera #87

  • On Monday we met with our tile guy who took measurements and gave us an estimate.  It will be up to us to buy the tile.  This guy did the stone on our fireplace while I was hiking the Appalachian trail.  He did a great job then (even though I had reservations about doing this job but the Wife won that one) and I expect he will go another great job in our bathroom.
  • I hiked twice this week.  I was hoping for three times but the will petered out by the end of the week.  In total I hiked 16 miles (25.9 km).  I think the brief snow we had overnight Friday just made me want to hunker down even though it was all gone by the end of the day.
  • While I hunkered I decided to start watching stuff on HBO/MAX.  The Wife had been binging shows for a week or so already and I figured I needed to watch my stuff before the month ended.  I started with "The Last of Us".  I liked this post-apocalyptic series but I didn't like it as much as I expected.  I think this is because I watcher thirteen seasons of The Walking Dead (and several seasons of one of its spinoffs).  As I watched "The Last of Us" I couldn't help to notice the parallels between the two shows.  This made "The Last of Us" feel less original and more like a copy.

    Next I started on seasons three and four of "Doom Patrol".  I look forward to these.

    Now a minor rant.  I was going to watch "Titans", a live action version of the Teen Titans comics.  It is an HBO/MAX exclusive.  When I looked it up it said it had four seasons.  When I dug deeper I realized that only season one was available on HBO/MAX.  WTF?!?!  Either you show all four seasons of the show that you own and created or you do not show any of it.  I do not understand what HBO/MAX is thinking.  This continued with "Westworld".  I wanted to watch season four but the entire show was gone.  Another show, only available to HBO/MAX, taken away from us.  (Both of these series can be purchased on DVD or Digital but they really should be included in the relatively expense HBO/MAX subscription.)
  • If you live in the United States (or other daylight saving time followers) I hope you've turned you clocks ahead an hour.  Can't wait when this crappy practice ends ... hopefully in my lifetime.
  • This coming week is an exciting one for the Wife.  She is flying to New York with some of her ex-students' family to attend the Big East Men's basketball tournament.  She is soooo excited.  I am so happy for her.  She will have a fun time.  Having Saint Patrick's day happen when she's there is the cherry on the sundae.

Tuesday, March 05, 2024

Rome 2023 - Magnet Addition

This post is a bit late since our Rome trip was last September but I am a bit behind in scanning our travel magnets.  Hopefully I will catch up over the next few weeks.

Our trip was a week long but we still managed to return with nineteen magnets.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Seen on many public infrastructure.

A nice stained glass like magnet.

Everyone needs a Pope magnet.

We have run out of space to display our magnets.  We are currently brainstorming ideas for expanding our display capacity.  If you have any ideas, please leave a comment.

You can check out the magnets I've posted either by clicking on the Travel Magnets tab at the top of the blog or by clicking on my 2006-2023 Travel Magnets Google Photos album link.

Sunday, March 03, 2024

Weekly Ephemera #86

  • I had a dentist appointment on Monday.  The pain I was experiencing turned out to be an infection caused by a bone fragment in my gum.  The antibiotics prescribed worked and I am pain free.
  • We met with a bathroom remodeler three times this week.  The first was to find out what we wanted.  The second was a visit by their plumber to verify that there was nothing behind the wall that we wanted to take out so we could expand the shower.  The third was to pick out materials, colors, patterns, and other things to finalize the redesign.  We were also left with a firm price for the remodel.  It looks like next year our travels will have to be short and local as the price was the cost of a typical trip for us.  The bathroom will be really nice once the work is complete sometime in late April/early May.
  • I took my car in for routine service on Thursday.  I came out of there paying five times what I usually pay.  And the extra cost was just routine maintenance.
  • We received our IRS tax refund this week.  Not sure this means it's all done or if I will still be receiving an email in the future.
  • The weather was really wacky this week.  On Monday it was 80℉ (27℃) - an all time high for a February in Nebraska.  By Wednesday morning it was 9℉ (-13℃).  This weekend it's back around 70℉ (21℃).  The variability is kind of normal for Nebraska this time of year but not by these magnitudes.
  • With my appointments, and a couple of my Mom's, I ended up not walking this week.  Next week looks much more promising in the walking department.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Weekly Ephemera #85

  • I called my investment company about my 1099-Rs (I mentioned them in my last Weekly Ephemera post).  Turns out they are not mislabeled or at least they label all Roth IRA withdrawals this way even if it causes problems for tax filers.  So I called a tax filing company (I use their software to file my taxes) and asked how to properly file.  I expected to be pointed to an IRS form I would have to file.  No.  This is how I need to fix it:
- First, I should edit the 1099-R to "correct" them.  
- Second, file my claim.
- Third, wait for the IRS to email about the edited 1099-R.
- Fourth, explain to the IRS why I did what I did and hope they agree.

I took a deep breath and did what they suggested.  This could go well or lead me into a deep dark hole.  Wish me luck. 

  •  On Thursday the Wife and I went to our local home store and set up an appointment for a bathroom remodeler to come by the house.  We are planning to gut our master bathroom and we hope to get ideas and an estimate for what it will cost.  Expensive, I'm sure.
  • Thursday afternoon I went to see the Oscar nominated animated and live action shorts.  This has become an annual ritual for me. Over the years I've noticed that the animation is becoming more serious and tackle hard subjects.  This year was no different.  The live action entries have always had a hard edge but this year there were a couple uplifting and/or humorous entries.  I enjoyed my little two movie marathon.
  • I'd hoped I would walk farther this week and I managed to meet that goal.  I walked three times for a total of 21.9 miles (35.25 km).  Unfortunately this coming week is full of appointments and walking time may be limited.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Weekly Ephemera #84

  • This week I went to the Oral Surgeon.  He suspects the pain in my gum is a bone fragment.  The fragment has irritated my gum and got infected.  I am on antibiotics and will go back to the surgeon to reevaluate.
  • On Tuesday I went to get an ultrasound to check on my kidney.  Things are looking good though there is at least one stone that they missed.  It is non-obstructive and the Doctor wants to check it out in six to nine months.
  • Met with our insurance guy on Thursday.  As usual we made a change in one place and saved $80 but made changes in another place that will cost us $80.  We do have better coverage so it's all ok.
  • I started doing our taxes on Saturday.  For some reason our investment company marked some IRA withdrawals as taxable income.  I will have to contact them this coming week, clear up the errors, and get a new 1099-R issued.  I would have been done this weekend if they hadn't done that.  What a pain.
  • I walked twice this week.  I started pushing slightly longer distances and ended up doing a total of 15.5 miles (24.9 km).  These hikes are still quite short compared to what I used to do but I will continue to push for longer and more frequent hikes.
A rather mundane week.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Skydiving ... ✔

While we were in Tampa we did something we'd always wanted to do, Skydive.  I don't have a written bucket list or even one in my head but the idea of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane has been in the back of my head for a while.  Turns out the Wife has had the same desire.

We arrived at the airfield mid-morning and checked in.  We watched an orientation video about the safety, and lack of safety, of skydiving.  After the video we signed waivers, measured our weight, and were assigned instructors.

Our skydives would be tandem meaning we would be attached by harnesses to our instructor who would be in charge of deploying the chute and steering our descent.  While the instructor was in jumpsuits and helmets, the Wife and I were just in our normal clothes.  This felt ... odd ... but I figured they knew what they were doing.  As our instructors put on our harness they explained the basics like what position our body should be in when we are in freefall.  The instructors would also be the photographers.

We got on the airplane.  There were two benches parallel to the length of the plane.  We sat straddling the benches.  There were six or seven solo skydivers who would jump ahead of us.

The pilot took off and reached 13,500 ft (4,115 m).  At this point the solo skydivers opened the door on the side of the airplane (similar to a garage door) and jumped out.  Our instructors attached our harnesses, checked all the straps, then told me to just let him 'carry' me to the door. 

The Wife jumped first.  I followed soon after.  I was expecting the instructor to ask if I was ready but he just told me to put my head back and he jumped out of the airplane.  I guess they don't want you to think about it too much.

All strapped together ready to jump.
Falling out of the plane was an odd feeling.  I'd expected to feel my stomach coming up my throat like the feeling on a rollercoaster dropping down a steep hill but there was no discomfort at all.  All I felt was the rushing air.  The view was magnificent.

Free falling ...Yeah I'm Free falling ...
After falling for a minute or so the instructor deployed the chute.  The deployment was less violent than I'd expected.  The instructor explained how he could steer the parachute.  We floated down around the airport for about six minutes.  Before we landed the instructor explained what I needed to do when we landed.  I held my legs up until the instructor said stand.  He applied the brakes and the chute lifted us to our feet.  Easy Peesy.

Chute deployed ... just hanging around.
While there were several things I didn't expect, the biggest thing was how I felt.  I felt nothing.  Before the jump I was not nervous, scared, anticipatory, or excited.  During the fall I felt very detached.  I was there but it didn't feel out of the ordinary.  I had to remind myself to smile at the camera.  After landing it was "OK, we're done."   This made me feel weird.  I think I should have felt something but I didn't.  Last December I started taking anti-anxiety medication to control some heightened anxiety I've been experiencing since last summer.  I wonder if the medication is working too well.

Despite my lack of emotion I'm glad I did it and I did enjoy the experience.  Not sure I need to do it again but it is something everyone should do at least once in their lives.  ✔

Pictures can be found in my 2024 Tampa (Skydiving) Google Photos album.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Music: The Eagles With Steely Dan At The CHI Health Center

On Saturday night the Wife and I went to an Eagles concert.  It had been a year and a half since our last concert and it felt good to join the full venue to enjoy some great music.  We've been to an Eagles concert before and I have seen the warm up band, Steely Dan, before.  Repeat performances will be a mini trend this year.

As I said, the warm up was Steely Dan who I'd seen in August 2013.  Unlike most warm ups that are often limited to a few songs, Steely Dan did a fairly long set of their best music.  It's been a while since I've experienced such a long, and good, opening act.  They were as good as I remembered.

Near the end of the Eagles performance.
After a short switch over the Eagles took the stage.  The band has changed a lot since we last saw them in October 2007.  Glenn Frey passed away and has been replaced by Deacon Frey (Glenn Frey's son) and Vince Gill.  The original members have all aged seventeen years and, frankly, it is starting to affect their music.  While I liked the performances, it was not up to what I heard in 2007.  The fact that this is their farewell tour is probably a good thing.  I mean, the Wife and I both thought Joe Walsh was singing without his teeth (he had his teeth) and it was hard to understand when he sang.  We are all getting older.

The last time we saw the Eagles they were promoting a new album.  This time they were saying thank you and goodbye to their fans.  Both Steely Dan and the Eagles had lost founding members over the past few years and now they were leaving the touring life.  You could sense the feelings coming off the band members and there was an amount of sadness behind all the great music filling the CHI Health center. 

It was an incredible evening.  The long Steely Dan opener followed by two full hours of Eagles hits was an incredible way to spend a Saturday evening.

A few photos can be found in my 2024-02-10 Eagles w/ Steely Dan, CHI Health Center, Omaha, NE Google Photos album.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Weekly Ephemera #83

  • The highlight of last week was a concert at the CHI Health Center.  It was an awesome performance of two great bands.  I will be posting about this tomorrow.
The John Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge from the CHI Health Center parking lot.
The bridge crosses the Missouri River.
  • I walked twice this week. I ended up doing 11.4 miles (18.3 km) which is less than I want but I am having a hard time getting started this year.
  • We are watching the Super Bowl tonight.  The Wife will watch the game and I will watch the commercials ... And the Taylor Swift sightings.  This assumes that I pay attention.
  • In health news, next week I will be going to the oral surgeon to see if they can remove this unwanted tooth.  Not sure they will do it during this visit or if the procedure will be scheduled for later.  We shall see.

    I will also have an ultrasound follow up of my kidney stone situation.  Hopefully they will say that there is no longer a kidney stone situation.

Friday, February 09, 2024

Book: Mustafa Suleyman's "The Coming Wave"

I set a goal of twenty books in 2024.  It's February and I am only on my second book.  I am not optimistic about meeting my goal.

My first book of 2024 - started in 2023 actually - is Mustafa Suleyman's "The Coming Wave: Technology, Power, and the Twenty-first Century's Greatest Dilemma".  The book describes the coming technological wave centering around artificial intelligence (AI) and synthetic biology.  He compares this wave with past waves and tries to explain how this wave will be different.

The author is worried about the coming wave.  He suggests that the technology must be contained while he goes on to explain that containment of technology has never been successfully contained.

I am not sure I agree with the doom and gloom about AI.  When talking about AI the author, and most people today, are talking about large language models and machine learning.  I do not consider these things AI.  I would consider it AI if someone can tell me what the LLM/Machine Learning system is thinking when it is not answering a query.  The current answer, based on what has been publicly announced, is nothing.  They do not think independently.  When they do ... then I would be concerned.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  It was an interesting view of bleeding edge technology even if a bit over-hyped.

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

Tampa 2024: In Search Of Sunshine

Last year we took a two week driving vacation to Florida (Key West specifically).  While there we visited the Wifes Aunt and Cousin.  This year the Wife's cousin offered her condo and car while she and her husband went on an awesome sounding New Zealand adventure.  We took her up on the offer last week and had a relaxing and interesting time in Tampa, Florida.

Day One

We left early Sunday morning.  We parked our car in long term parking and caught our plane to Chicago.  We had a tight connection in Chicago and we arrived at our Tampa flight when they were boarding.

At the Tampa airport we had some difficulty finding where the Lyft would pick us up and he was waiting on us when we figured it out.  On the way to the cousin's condo we asked the driver to stop at a grocery store.  There are proper protocols for adding stops to Lyft rides but we, with the driver's consent, broke all the rules.  Not sure if it would have cost us more but I did give the driver a big tip.

We arrived at the condo and got the keys from the guard at the gate.  The cousin has a very nice place with views of the bay.  The rest of the day was relaxing, eating the food we bought at the grocery store, and watching sports on the TV.

Day Two

On our first full day in Tampa we walked along the bayshore to a breakfast place.  When we arrived I realized I left my wallet in the condo.  Fortunately I had my phone and could pay with that.  This would be the first of two times that I forgot my wallet.  This is not normal for me.

One of the Ybor City chickens.
In the afternoon we drove to Ybor City, a Cuban enclave in Tampa.  The city is kinda famous for its free range chickens wandering around the city.  We walked around, bought some souvenirs, and bought some cigars for the Brother-in-Law.  We visited Jose Marti park which for sixty years has been owned by the Cuban people and is considered Cuban territory.

That night we walked to a Spanish Tapas restaurant for dinner.

The guard at the cousin's condo complex almost saluted us as we were in the cousin's husband's car.  He was a colonel and she always salutes him when he comes and goes.  The joke continued the whole week as she would salute us as we went through the gates.

Day Three

Today was the highlight of the trip.  The aunt joined us as a spectator as we went skydiving.  It was an interesting experience that I will write more about in a later post.

Me coming back to earth.
After coming back to earth we returned to Ybor City and had lunch at the Columbia restaurant, the oldest restaurant in Florida  The food was very good.

Day Four

Dalí Jesus.
After a slow morning we visited the Salvidor Dalí museum.  We ate a pre-Dalí Alive 360° show snack of very good Tarta de Santiago.  The show was inside a dome with images of Dalí works projected on the inside.

We then met up with a docent who walked us through the permanent collection highlighting several works and explaining the interpretations of the surreal images.

After the guided tour we ate a delicious Spanish inspired meal (our third Spanish inspired meal in three days).  While we ate we decided not to go to see the impressionist exhibit.  We felt museumed out.

We returned to the Condo for a relaxing evening.

Day Five

Our beach day.
Today was our beach day.  I'm not much of a beach guy.  I was when I was a kid but as I grew up the idea of sitting on a beach became less and less appealing.  Having said this, the beach we went to, Archibald Beach, was nice.  We ate lunch at the snack bar, listened to some live music, and laid in the sun (I sat in the shade of an umbrella).  It was nice at the start but the breeze picked up and it got a bit chilly so we went back to the condo.  We had plans to go to the Tampa Riverwalk but we decided to do it the next day and we just chilled.

Day Six

On our last full day in Tampa we bought some wine and flowers (I forgot my wallet again ... saved by my phone again) and visited the Wife's aunt, took a tour of where she lives, and had lunch.  It was a nice lazy last day.

When we left we planned to go to the Tampa Riverwalk but, once again, we decided we would save it for some other visit.

Day Seven

Today we cleaned up our mess at the condo, did laundry, and threw out the garbage before catching a Lyft to the airport and headed home.

Overall we had a very laid back week in Tampa and we both enjoyed it immensely.  It was nice to take a break from the Omaha gloom.

I didn't take too many photos but the ones I have, including some of those taken by my skydiver instructor, can be found in my 2024 Tampa (Skydiving) Google Photos album.