Homer's Travels: February 2024

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.