Union Pacific's Great Excursion Adventure

“…’cause I’m the Tall Cool One and I’m built to please.”

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"...'cause I'm the Tall Cool One and I'm built to please."

Tuesday – 28 June 2016
Over the past few years, Sara and I have talked – mostly idly – about replacing some of the appliances in our home. One that we knew was on the long-range forecast was the refrigerator. It has, in the last three weeks, vaulted to the lead – something about having to defrost the bloody thing three times in less than two months kind of gets your attention. We hadn’t really discussed the type of replacement fridge we wanted; we just knew that we needed something “not as old” as our current fridge. Last night, we packed up Team DiVa and headed to the local Home-Away-from-Home Depot to check out the options.

Not surprisingly, they had many options.

One of the first ones we saw was a petite – no, really, we’re talking 9 cubic feet – fridge. I commented that we had found our fridge and that we could call it a night. I even suggested that we could get two for less than the price of one full-sized refrigerator – at almost the same storage capacity. I don’t think that Sara actually vocalized her thoughts, but the eye roll spoke volumes.

We looked up and down the aisles at the various models and prices: top-freezer, bottom-freezer, french door, four-door, ranging from $300 – $4500 (I’ll come back to this one in a minute). Team DiVa took advantage of this opportunity to open the doors that they could… and were shocked that some of them were “brr-coldy inside!” Shocked, I tell you!

I’d mentioned before that we weren’t sure what model we wanted. While walking around, we decided that a side-by-side model would be best, as it would allow the little ladies better access to both fridge and freezer – a prospect that excited both of them.

Fridge

And, although they didn’t say anything, I’m pretty sure that the built-in ice and water dispenser will be a hit as well, given how fond they are of the one on their grandparents’ refrigerator.

About that $4500 refrigerator that I mentioned earlier: It’s a four-door, 27.9 cubic foot appliance. With a touchscreen. And cameras. Just let that sink in. Ladies and gentlemen, say “Hello” to a fridge that costs many times more than a mortgage payment: The Samsung Family Hub 4-Door Flex French Door Refrigerator

samsung_fridge

 

The lower-right door? It can be either a fridge or a freezer. It has three (3) cooling zones – top, bottom-left, and bottom-right. The touchscreen? It’s wifi-enabled AND you can stream music to it or mirror your TV output to it (as long as it’s a qualifying model). Don’t want to open the door to look in? It has cameras to look at what’s inside. Yeah. Someone needs to drop a mic and walk off-stage…

…but for that kind of money, we could get a new air conditioner and keep the whole house cool. Granted, probably not “ice cream and frozen meat” cool, but you get the idea.

The new addition to the kitchen family will be delivered next week.

And this is how we kill a language…

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And this is how we kill a language...

Tuesday – 21 June 2016
Excerpted from a conversation:

[11:48 AM] Dave1: Dave2, interesting. You said earlier “guessing another breaker needs replaced”, and that use of “needs + past participle” is quite localized to western PA. http://microsyntax.sites.yale.edu/needs-washed

[11:49 AM] Rob: Dave1: It’s not that localized. I hear it here all the time.

[11:50 AM] Dave1: uhoh, it’s spreading.

[11:50 AM] Rob: It’s fostered my “Whatever happened to transitive verbs?” question

[11:50 AM] Steve: dear god. we must stop it.

[11:50 AM] Dave2: oh….more likely is my shitty typing…I would have vocalized “needs to be replaced” or “needs replacing”

[11:50 AM] Dave1: There might be an Oregon branch of it: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/needs-washed

[11:51 AM] Dave1: “You’ll see that although it’s concentrated in the areas I just mentioned, it’s certainly not limited to them. For example, I was surprised by the number of people in southern Oregon and southern Idaho who reported hearing “needs washed” kind of sentences.”

[11:51 AM] Rob: Yeah. That.

[11:51 AM] Dave1: (red means ‘not heard’)

[11:51 AM] Steve: looks like the Dakotas are the only safe place left.

[11:52 AM] Dave1: isn’t that because there’s nobody there? 🙂

[11:52 AM] Steve: probably.

[11:52 AM] Steve: oh. and Maine

[11:52 AM] Dave1: the lobstahs kill anyone who says ‘needs washed’ in Maine.

[11:53 AM] dga: DFWTL.

[11:58 AM] Rob:Old furry lobsters.

[11:58 AM] Steve: Fury Lobsters.

[11:59 AM] Rob:Nick Fury Lobsters!

[11:59 AM] Steve: Fast and the Nick Furious.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go write a fan-fic about one-eyed, secret agent lobsters in obscenely fast cars….

Father’s Day 2016

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Father's Day 2016

Sunday – 19 June 2016
Today is Father’s Day.

I hope that all of the fathers – whether by biology, marriage, or just inspiration – or the mothers who are filling the void for fathers who are absent (for any reason) have a fantastic day with those you love and who love you in return.

While I’m looking forward to spending the day with these little ladies…

Team DiVa at Cascade Springs

Team DiVa at Cascade Springs

…I’m also looking forward to talking with my father…

Just a couple of Roberts...

Just a couple of Roberts

…and with my stepfather…

Jay and Rob

Jay and Rob

…and my father-in-law.

Steve and Sara

Steve and Sara

Parenthood isn’t easy, but the kids who look up to and love us make it worth it… despite all of the times we might think otherwise.

Namaste.

Opposites attract (or “That’s a heck of a way to run a railroad…”)

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Opposites attract (or "That's a heck of a way to run a railroad...")

Saturday – 18 June 2016
I’ve often said that Sara is something of a saint for putting up with a lot of my geeky habits, be they gaming, trains, comics… or anything in between. That said, there have been more and more signs that she’s getting to be geeky by osmosis – he occasionally makes comics- and/or science fiction-related comments that would, previously, be more attributable to me. Here is a prime example from earlier today (along with a bit of backstory):

Backstory

I have a model railroad. It’s O Gauge, which I may or may not have gotten into because it “happens” to be the same scale as HeroClix. (Lucky coincidence…?) When we bought our house, it had about 1/3 of the basement was unfinished; with the help of a few friends and my father-in-law, I’ve built a train room. The fact that the room has also become my office and gaming room is a lucky coincidence/fringe benefit. No, I don’t call it a “man cave,” because I quite frankly abhor that term. I usually just call it “the train room,” or “my room,” or “The Toy Box.” But I digress. The room was finished about two years ago, give or take a couple months. Details have kind of slipped away. I finally built a train table and put up an actual working layout about a year ago. I finished the train table (added another 3′ section) and redid the trains on it.

One of the things that I realized is that I can pretty much have what I want on my layout, like a “Conjunction Junction.” (What’s your function?) Other things that might wind up on the layout might include a “Petticoat Junction” and/or a Botany Bay, if I create a seaport area…

Something that I recently decided is that I wanted to build a small version of Stark Tower/Avengers Tower and put it on the layout.

Stark Tower

Stark Tower

I have to admit that I was pretty amused and enthused about the possibility of actually putting my Quinjet on the landing pad, as well.

picture (c) Figures.com

picture (c) Figures.com

Once I got under way, I realized something in practical application that hadn’t occurred to me in the theory phase: At the size I wanted to do the tower, it would require at least three linear feet – and about 3-4 square feet – of space on the layout for the building’s base. That’s a problem, as my table is 11′-6″ long. That’s a LOT of real estate. So, I started rethinking the idea.

Today, I came up with a great alternative: The Baxter Building – home of the Fantastic Four.

Baxter_Building_001

picture (c) Marvel

This was great on a number of levels:

  • It’s still a rather iconic comics building.
  • It has a MUCH smaller footprint.
  • I have Fantastic Four ‘Clix who could be on the roof, preparing to take on the latest threat… as a train rolled past the building.

I even considered the prospect of doing the 4 Freedoms Plaza incarnation of the building…

End of backstory.

While we were out running errands today, I mentioned to Sara the conundrum I’d been having about what building to put on the layout, after realizing that Stark Tower would have to wait until I decide to either move my office out of the train room or we move to a place where I have a lot more room for a layout. I also mentioned the Baxter Building idea. She listened and, without missing a beat, said:

“You could just do Titans Tower.”

It was like a shaft of light shone down from the heavens. For a moment. Just as quickly as the words had formed in her head and crossed her lips, her face contorted into the classic “I can’t believe I just said that…” expression, as she realized that her nascent geekiness had bubbled to the surface and erupted like Vesuvius reborn.

And, yes, I reveled in that moment and the look.

But, I also decided that Titans Tower will be the new addition to the train table.  (Good thing I have some extra Titans lying around.)

Namaste.

“Hello, my name is…”

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"Hello, my name is..."

Friday – 17 June 2016

Last night, while running some errands, I picked up a couple of “squishy balls” for #TeamDiVa2016.

Balls, spikes and all...

Balls, spikes and all…

The girls “found” them in the car this morning, on the way to school. Apparently, they named them on the way to school:

  • Vanessa named hers (purple) “Fluffy,”
  • Diana named hers “Fluffy Puffy.”

As you might imagine, the names have gone through a number of permutations since this morning.

Kids. Go figure.

Lady Day

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Lady Day

Friday – 17 June 2016
We’ve made it to the end of another week. Selah.

My friend, Dave, posted a link to the following article in a chat a little while ago:

The tongue-in-cheek way the women of Google are responding to a shareholder’s sexist comment

Synopsis:

The women of Google have come up with a clever, tongue-in-cheek way to raise awareness about gender equality after an investor made a sexist remark at the company’s annual shareholders meeting last week.

Now other Googlers are standing up in solidarity by designating this Thursday and Friday as “Lady Day.”

The idea sprouted in an email group for alums of a Google leadership-development program for women. One employee suggested that they should all change their titles to “Lady ___” in acknowledgment and lighthearted protest of the incident. As in “Lady Systems Engineer,” or “Lady People Analytics Manager.”

As of now, more than 800 Googlers — women and men — have changed their job titles in the company-wide directory or in their email signatures.

I recommend reading the entire article.

Google also came up with a new graphic to help illustrate the point:

So, for the day, you can refer to me as “Lady Systems Support Engineer.”

Solidarity – along with equality – is a pretty awesome thing.

Namaste.

36 Years

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36 Years

Thursday – 16 June 2016
Not only is it #NoBadNewsThursday, but I’d like to wish a heartfelt “Happy Anniversary” to my parents…

Gwen and Jay (2009)

Gwen and Jay (2009)

 

2010

2010

…well, one set of parents, that is.

I love you and hope that you have a fantastic day!

Trip to Cascade Springs

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Trip to Cascade Springs

Monday – 13 June 2016
Yesterday, we trekked back down to Utah County and into the Uintah National Forest in an attempt to (finally) visit Cascade Springs. This time, we were successful!

The trip started off well enough, driving into the canyon. As the road ascended slightly, things continued to proceed apace. As the road climbed higher and we started hitting more switchbacks, I became “a little less okay.” A little bit of backstory:

  • I grew up in states that are, for the most part, pretty damned flat.
  • When, in these states, roads rise (reasonably) in elevation and/or border a sharp drop, there are guard rails on the shoulder.
  • On one of my first visits to Utah, I was taken up Little Cottonwood Canyon, to Snowbird. It was on this trip that I discovered what I considered – and continue to consider – Utah’s laissez faire attitude towards winding roads and guard rails. I found this mildly disturbing.
  • A year or two after moving here, I was taken for a picnic overlooking the Bingham Canyon Mine. The road to the picnic spot was roughly a car-and-a-half wide for two-way traffic; I didn’t deal with that very well. (I’ve been told that it’s amusing/disturbing to see a black man white-knuckling the “Oh Shit Bar” over the window.) I was disturbed enough by the ride up that I did to not want to eat, though I did look at the excavation pit. And it was a very quiet ride back down.
  • Years later, I went for a drive up to the C Overlook, in Cedar City. Again, no guard rails. I wasn’t exactly thrilled, but the road was wide enough to give me a modicum of comfort.
  • Shortly after that, Sara took me up to Cedar Breaks, near Cedar City. Most of that ride was fine, although there were a couple of sections of road that had far more of a “scenic view” than I generally care for, but I managed the trip alright.
    • I got a measure of revenge a few year later by inflicting that same ride on my brother-in-law, John. He had the same rough reaction that I did, so I felt nominally better about things.

All of that to say that I have a healthy respect for gravity and my as-yet undiscovered ability to fly without an airplane. (I’m absolutely fine with traveling in planes, though.) That, combined with a lack of rails and only small berms on the sides of the roads, meant that I was “quiet and pensive, my thoughts apprehensive…” for portions of the trip.

Apparently, that’s a trait that Vanessa has inherited from me, as she was rather vocal about her displeasure and discomfort over some sections of the roads we had to take. Diana, on the other hand, couldn’t have cared less… other than “it [was] taking too long.”

Sara and I reassured her that she had nothing to worry about. (True, although I fully grokked her apprehension.) But, we both dealt with it – I’ve always said that Vanessa would make a great Green Lantern – and finally reached our destination.

Team DiVa at Cascade Springs

Team DiVa at Cascade Springs

Pictures of our walkabout can be seen here.

It was a very nice spot and we only walked the smaller loop, as the longer one would have been a bit long for the little ladies. Then we were done and ready to head home. Vanessa and I steeled ourselves for the trek back to civilization. until we noted that there was another road that headed over a different ridge and came out near Midway and Heber. At this point, Sara was up for it and I figured that it couldn’t be much worse than the trip in…

…and it wasn’t!

Sure, the road was once more guard rail-free AND it was a dirt road, but it was about three car widths wide in most places. Hallelujah! We made the bumpy not-nearly-as-fast-as-we’d-expected journey down the mountain. We ate lunch at the Hub Cafe, just off the main drag in Heber. After lunch, it was time to head home.

All-in-all, it was a good trip, but if we do it again, I’d probably opt for taking the road through Heber, rather than the forest.

Movie Night

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Movie Night

Wednesday – 08 June 2016
Below is an excerpt of a conversation I had with Sara this morning; this is what conversations about what movies to watch for #MovieDateNight and or #ActionMovieSaturday typically sound like:

Sara:
How’s training this morning?

Rob:
Going alright, so far. 🙂
How’s your Wednesday?

Sara:
So far, so good. I think it’s your turn to pick a movie. Didn’t I pick Gods of Egypt?

Rob:
You might be right… I think it was my night, but you picked/suggested.

Sara:
Fair enough. Deadpool is at redbox. I would like to see that.

I saw Deadpool in the theatre, shortly after its release. I wasn’t sure that it was necessarily something on her radar, but I’m absolutely fine with tonight’s selection.

deadpool

Namaste.

Gemini

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Gemini

Tuesday – 07 June 2016
Today is my mother’s birthday.

IMG_0028

Mom and my stepfather

 

The Diva meeting Team DiVa...

The Diva, meeting Team DiVa for the first time…

I am usually pretty good at crafting words into the shapes that I desire. Even so, I don’t think that I could adequately express how blessed and fortunate I am to have her as my mother or appropriately convey the sheer number of things that she has done, not only done for my sister and me, but for countless others – family, friends, students, and strangers.

wpid-IMG_0051.ASM8BLIgWkrT.jpg

At work…

Suffice it to say that my world is a better place because she is my mother.

And, I’m happy to celebrate her birthday… even from the other side of the country.

With Mom...

Namaste.

Memorial Day 2016

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Memorial Day 2016

Monday – 30 May 2016
Today is Memorial Day.

 

U.S. Marine Corps Celebrates 235 Years Of Service

Please take the time to remember those who served and sacrificed so that we are able to enjoy the freedoms we have today.

Namaste.

“Don’t Panic.”

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"Don't Panic."

Wednesday – 25 May 2016
Today is Towel Day.

“…it has great practical value – you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you – daft as a bush, but very, very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.”

 

Stray Toasters

  • I visited my brother and his kids a couple of weeks ago. Despite the fact that we’re (only) 6 hrs apart, by car, and that neither of us really considers that a long drive, it’s only the second time we’ve visited in two years. Still, I had a great time. He and the kids are doing well.
  • DC Rebirth. I have many thoughts about this… soft-boot?
    REBIRTH-splash-small
  • I have my second Raspberry Pi. I’m contemplating setting it up as a media machine for TeamDiva2011…
  • The season finales of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Flash have left me with many questions.
    • I’m still pushing for The CW to call their 4-part crossover “Crisis,” in some manner or other.

Namaste.

Disney Infinity: So Long, Farewell, Goodbye *

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Disney Infinity: So Long, Farewell, Goodbye *

Tuesday – 10 March 2016
Disney has decided to shut down Disney Infinity in June, following its releases for Alice Through the Looking Glass and Finding Dory.

Nick Fury and the Avengers vs. Loki and a Frost Giant

Nick Fury and the Avengers vs. Loki and a Frost Giant

I’ve enjoyed this game immensely, but I was also thrilled to be able to share it with my daughters, who love running around in Toy Boxes that I’ve either made or found on the Disney Infinity Community site. I don’t know if the standalone games and downloaded Toy Boxes will be playable without the Disney servers running in the background, but I will be testing that out over the next few days…
Beyond the potential lack of recreation for me and my kids, the shutdown also has larger ramifications: Disney also shut down Avalanche Software, the studio that’s behind franchise. This means that nearly 300 people – including three friends of mine – were just informed that they were being laid off.
The official press release follows:

By now you may have heard the news that we have made the difficult decision to discontinue production of Disney Infinity. From the beginning, Disney Infinity was built for you—our fans—and I wanted to take a moment to thank you not just for your support over the years, but for creating a community that made Disney Infinity more than just a game.

Our goal for Disney Infinity was to bring the best of Disney storytelling to life in homes around the world, and with your support we accomplished that. We hope you had as much fun playing the game as we had making it.

So what’s next for Disney Infinity? We have two final retail releases coming, including three new characters from Alice Through the Looking Glass later this month, and the Finding Dory Play Set launching in June.

And as we turn to the next chapter in our story, I want to thank everyone who helped bring Disney Infinity to life, particularly Disney’s Glendale-based production and publishing teams, our external development partners, and of course the incredible Avalanche team for their tireless dedication to this project.

But most of all, I want to again thank you for making Disney Infinity a part of your lives—and for adding to the Disney legacy by being a part of this community.

I wish for the best for the people affected by this turn of events.

*-  Apologies/”Thank you” to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

Serious Question about NC House Bill 2…

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Serious Question about NC House Bill 2...

Monday – 02 May 2016
Something came to mind a few minutes ago and I am trying to wrap my head around the legal shadings surrounding it.

Let me back up and say that I think that NC HB 2 is one of the more idiotic, bigoted and offensive laws that I’ve heard of being proposed, let alone one that has actually been enacted. So, if you’re a fan of this law, you might want to ignore the rest of this post.

In broad terms – and according to the letter of the law – users of public single-sex, multiple occupancy restrooms must use the bathroom that matches their birth gender identity, correct?

I have two 4yo daughters, who I am not about to make – or allow, really – go into a public restroom by themselves. Multiple reasons. But, if I take them into the men’s room, am I in violation of the law?

I was talking this out with my friend, Chris, who pointed out the following:

Chris
Tricky. THEY would be the ones in violation of the law.
I think it has an exception for kids under a certain age, but I don’t know what age that is.

Rob
Right, but there’s the whole issue of them being not of age, so wouldn’t responsibility/culpability fall back on me?

Chris
You know, I’m not sure how that works. If they’re 12 and burn down the school, you’re not criminally responsible, but you might be on the hook for civil financial penalties.

That being said, there is an exception for: To accompany a person needing assistance

For me, that’s part of the problem: The girls are fully capable of going without assistance, for the most part; they are, however, too young to go unaccompanied. And, for example, on nights when Sara works and I take them out to dinner, they have to go to the men’s room to use the bathroom.

Chris responded to that with:

And yeah, I see nothing in the law specifying an age. Now if you tried to take them into the ladies room, I think they’d be more likely to try to enforce it than vice versa. But it seems to me that, technically, they don’t NEED assistance and so they would be in violation if you took them into a men’s room. Probably no judge would uphold it, but it would be a hassle for sure.

So, if I were to bring the girls to visit their grandparents in NC and we were to go out and I wound up having to take them to the restroom, would I have to worry about someone getting their dander up and trying to drag me to court – or even jail – because I had to take them to the “wrong” bathroom?

Food for thought.

And, I welcome any serious discourse on the matter, especially from anyone who lives in NC.

“Somebody wake up Hicks.”

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"Somebody wake up Hicks."

Tuesday – 26 April 2016
Today is apparently #AliensDay.

They mostly come out at night. Mostly.

They mostly come out at night. Mostly.

As such, this post is hereby dedicated to one of the heroes of that movie: Carter J. Burke Master Sergeant Al Apone.

A man and his cigar...

A man and his cigar…

Apone was a member of the United States Colonial Marine Corps, part of 2nd Battalion Bravo Team. He was the senior non-commissioned officer with the combat unit deployed to LV-426 aboard the USS Sulaco in 2179, to investigate the sudden loss of contact with the colony of Hadley’s Hope. He subsequently perished as a result of the Xenomorph infestation at the colony.

He was probably best known for saying:

All right, sweethearts, what are you waiting for? Breakfast in bed? Another glorious day in the Corps! A day in the Marine Corps is like a day on the farm. Every meal’s a banquet! Every paycheck a fortune! Every formation a parade! I LOVE the Corps!

Knock it off, Hudson!

Alright sweethearts, you heard the man and you know the drill. Assholes and elbows! Hudson, come here! Come *here*!

WHAT ARE YOU? HUDSON! Get on the ready line, Marines, get some today! Get on the ready line! Move it out! Move it out, goddammit! Get hot! One, two, three, four! Get out, get out, get out! Move it out, move it out, move it out! Move it out, move it out, move it out! One, two, three, four, five, six, seven! Aaarrrrr, absolutely badassess! Let’s pack ’em in! Get in there!

Sgt. Apone was also the (partial) basis for another ass-kicking sergeant: HALO’s Sergeant Major Avery Junior Johnson.