Union Pacific's Great Excursion Adventure

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.

Nature Challenge: Day 7

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Nature Challenge: Day 7

Saturday – 23 April 2016
Today’s picture…

Ducks!

Ducks!

Nature Challenge: Day 6 (belated)

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Nature Challenge: Day 6 (belated)

Saturday – 23 April 2016
For Friday…

Tulips at Wheeler Farm...

Tulips at Wheeler Farm…

Nature Challenge: Day 5 (belated)

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Nature Challenge: Day 5 (belated)

Saturday – 23 April 2016
For Thursday…

View of the Wasatch Mountains from Antelope Island...

View of the Wasatch Mountains from Antelope Island…

Nature Challenge 2016: Day 4 (belated)

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Nature Challenge 2016: Day 4 (belated)

Saturday – 23 April 2016
Today’s view, while heading home from #TeamDiVa2011’s ballet class…

Mountains and clouds...

Mountains and clouds…

 

“If I Had $1,000,000…”

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"If I Had $1,000,000..."

Thursday – 21 April 2016
Today is/should be “No Bad News Thursday,” although it’s doing its damnedest to try and fail at that.

You have one job, Thursday! ONE. JOB.

Despite its attempts to be difficult, the day is still proceeding fairly well.

A friend posted an item, via yourclassical.org, saying that Marian Anderson was going to be on the new US $5 bill.

marian-anderson

With all of the hullabaloo given to Harriet Tubman on the face of the $20, I was somewhat skeptical.  I decided to go to the source and validate this claim on the U.S. Treasury website.

Lo and behold, it is true!

INTRODUCING THE NEW $20, $10, AND $5!

Excerpted from the site:

  • The New $20: The front of the new $20 will feature the portrait of Harriet Tubman, whose life was dedicated to fighting for liberty. The reverse of the new $20 will depict the White House and an image of President Andrew Jackson.
  • The New $10: he new $10 will celebrate the history of the women’s suffrage movement, and feature images of Lucretia Mott,Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony,Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Alice Paul, alongside the Treasury building. The front of the new $10 will retain the portrait of Alexander Hamilton.
  • The New $5: The new $5 will honor historic events that occurred at the Lincoln Memorial in service of our democracy, and will feature Martin Luther King, Jr.,Marian Anderson, and Eleanor Roosevelt. The front of the new $5 will retain the portrait of President Lincoln.

Well done, Treasury. Well done.

Nature Challenge: Day 3

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Nature Challenge: Day 3

Wednesday – 20 April 2016
…and this is today’s picture:

Snowball bush (I think), in the back yard...

Snowball bush (I think) and tulips, in the back yard…

Namaste.

Nature Challenge: Day 2 (belated)

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Nature Challenge: Day 2 (belated)

Wednesday – 20 April 2016
I had a picture all ready to go… but neglected to do a post yesterday. Super-Genius. *sigh*

Here’s it is:

Tulips in the front yard...

Tulips in the front yard…

I’m not tagging specific people, but if anyone would like to join in, please do.

Namaste.

Nature Challenge: Day 1

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Nature Challenge: Day 1

Monday – 18 April 2016
Over the past few weeks, my friends Joe and Karen tagged me for the Nature Photography Challenge:

The original guidelines say to post a nature photo each day for seven days and to tag me and another person each day. (Try to post a photo from the last 24 hours and don’t worry about tagging others if it’s stressy for you or them.). 

Between traveling, work, and home, my schedule has not entirely been my own and I’ve been “a little” preoccupied, but I haven’t forgotten the challenge. So, here’s today’s picture:

Tree and sky - front yard

Tree and sky – front yard

I’m not tagging specific people, but if anyone would like to join in, please do.

Namaste.

A few thoughts on family and funerals…

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A few thoughts on family and funerals...

Wednesday – 05 April 2016
I am writing wrote this on an airplane. I spent the last three days at home in Maryland. I went home for a grandparent’s funeral – my stepmother’s mother. It wasn’t completely unexpected, but it is never pleasant. Of my step-grandmother, I can honestly say this: At no time in the forty odd years that my father and stepmother have been married, she never treated me differently than any of her other grandchildren. Ever. And she was a loving great-grandmother to my girls, as well. She was a lovely woman and a genuinely good person. She will be missed. Greatly.

grandma anderson

Taken a three years ago…

I didn’t make any concrete plans while I was in Baltimore… for the most part. Of course, I was going to get crab cakes – living in a landlocked state made that something of an imperative. But, I also wanted to get together with a few people, schedules permitting. That part worked out reasonably well. I wasn’t able to connect with a few of my former classmates, but I was able to spend time with family. And, that was fantastic.

Sunday night, when I got in,  was able to spend three-plus hours talking with my father and brother. Opportunities like that are far and few between, as we live in different parts of the country. The conversation ranged over a number of topics, but it was great to just be able to sit in the same room and talk with the two of them.

Monday, after the funeral proceedings, I went out to visit an aunt and uncle. I didn’t them that I was in town, nor that I was coming out for a visit. That might sound a bit presumptuous, but I have what I consider a very good reason for that:

Before I moved out west, I would occasionally take a day trip to my paternal grandmother’s; she lived about three hours from where I lived. I would show up and there would be a spread of food laid out for me. I appreciated that, but hated that she went to the work for me to be there for an hour or two.  So, I stopped calling before heading to her house. That served a few purposes:

  1. She didn’t worry about me being on the road,
  2. She didn’t spend part of her day preparing a meal for me,
  3. I got to give her an unexpected surprise, and
  4. If she wasn’t at home – as happened a couple of times – she didn’t feel bad about missing me AND I got a great afternoon’s scenic excursion out of the deal.

So, as I noted, I didn’t tell my aunt and uncle I was coming by. This turned out to be equally fortuitous. Apparently, my aunt was having a kind of a “down” day and needed a boost, which she said my visit provided. (WIN!) I also got to sit and talk with them for a couple of hours, which was fantastic. I got to hear a few stories about when I was little and I was also treated to a story from (and about) my uncle that neither I nor my aunt had heard before.

Tuesday was a little more open-scheduled. We slept in and then met another aunt and cousin for lunch. We were going to go to one of my old haunts, but it wasn’t open for lunch. My sister suggested a nearby option, that also had seafood. Good call. Actually, excellent call. After that, my brother and I decided to walk over to the Inner Harbor and do a little shopping. We also had a chance to talk one-on-one, face-to-face. We also walked up Federal Hill, to get pictures of the skyline.

The Inner Harbor (taken from Federal Hill)

The Inner Harbor (taken from Federal Hill)

 

That evening, I made plans to meet my god-sister at her parents’ house. We talked for about an hour and a half, before she had to leave. After that, I sat and talked with my godparents for the next four hours. Again, I got to hear stories and learn a few things. I consider it time well-spent. By the time I got home, it was well after midnight… And my entire family was still awake. That was a not-so-minor surprise. And we proceeded to talk for the next couple of hours.

This morning Yesterday, my parents, siblings, and I went out for breakfast. I can’t recall the last time that the five of us – just the five of us – were able to do that.

Breakfast with the family...

Breakfast with the family.

It has to have been nearly twenty years, if not more. Again, time well-spent. We said goodbye to the ladies at the restaurant and headed to the airport with my father. All too soon, my time at home was at an end.

Despite the reason for us getting together, I had an amazing time with family and extended family. It also punctuated how valuable they are to me. It also made me even more appreciative of the fact that Sara, the girls, and I were able to go to Boise over Easter and visit her grandmother… who has become my sole remaining grandparent.

Namaste.

Ones and Zeroes

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Ones and Zeroes

Tuesday – 22 March 2016
I’ve worked in IT, in some capacity or other, for almost 15 years. I enjoy it; I’m even nominally good at it. Today, however, I had to call my ability in this field into question.

A little over a month ago, I was tasked with spinning up a new server for an application that we’re going to vet and possibly put into service. And I did. And promptly went on my merry way with other tasks and projects. This morning, I had to come back to that server and do some additional configuration. I attempted to remotely access the machine. No go.

Huh.

Undaunted, I considered that I’d possibly built the machine in a different site. So, I tried to connect using that sites code. Still no go, Flight.

What the…?

At this point, I started getting “a little” concerned. I was sure that I’d built the machine, but not being able to connect to it or even ping it caused some alarm.

 

I logged into the local virtual machine cluster to look for the machine. There it was, big as day and twice as bright. It was on, so that negated the “Did I remember to turn the bloody thing on” question. I opened its vm console, logged onto the server, and validated that it was working properly. It was. I tried pinging the server from other machines. Pings out, no ping replies returned. I pinged the other machines from the server. Pings out, ping replies returned.

The last time this happened – last week, actually – I had neglected to turn off a server’s firewall, preventing it from responding to any external contact.

I looked at the firewall settings; it was turned off. Good. I checked its IP address. I was able to ping it from other machines. Okay, that narrowed down the range of possible problems, but it raised another question. The server properties showed that it was joined to the domain, so it should (operative word) have been registered properly in DNS. I prepared to remove the system from the domain and re-add it when I saw what the problem was.

I had mistyped the computer’s name when setting it. I hadn’t caught the error because I kept looking at the correctly-typed name in its VM console window.

...

I renamed the computer, removed it from and re-added it to the domain, and in probably the least-surprising thing I’ve encountered today: It appeared to pings and remote calls.

Super. Genius.

“I’m (a) super… thanks for asking!” (Part V – Finale)

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"I'm (a) super... thanks for asking!" (Part V - Finale)

Sunday – 20 March 2016
Today was the final performance of Aida for Utah Opera‘s 2015-2016 season.

Aida: War

Aida: War

That was a bittersweet statement. I met a lot of fine people and had a fantastic experience. I’m also going to have snippets of the music from the opera playing in my head for some time to come. This was a great run, with an exceptional cast and crew.

In fact, let me quote UO’s Artistic Director, Christopher McBeth, to accentuate the point:

Near as I can figure at the moment, Utah Opera’s AÏDA played to well over 10,000 people. This calls for my best pipe and tobacco. Thanks to all involved in a great run and full houses. Slaìnte!

Let’s do a little math here:

  • The Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre seats 1,790 people, according to the Salt Lake County Center for the Arts website.
  • The show ran for five (5) days, plus one tech rehearsal – open to a smaller audience – before opening.

By those numbers, I’d be inclined to say that we played to full houses every night of the run. I consider that a pretty remarkable feat.

Anyone who’s been reading my posts for the past couple of weeks knows that I’ve truly enjoyed my experience as a supernumerary. Let me elaborate on what it took to get me to actually become part of the process:

  • Sara was a supernumerary in The Italian Girl in Algiers. She had nothing but good things to say about the experience and suggested that I give it a try sometime. This was in 2010.
  • Christoper McBeth is also a friend and had suggested that I be a super, many times over the years; I always respectfully deferred.
  • After The Merry Widow (earlier this season), Michelle Peterson, Utah Opera’s Company Manager, was talking with Sara and me and said, “You need to be in the next opera!” I told her that I’d give it due thought.
  • Christopher, at our January Guys’ Night Out gathering, mentioned – to the entire group – that we should run away and join the circus be part of Aida. Some of the guys gave him contemplative (but entirely non-committal) looks.

It was shortly after that January GNO that Roy and I decided “Why not…?!” We reported to rehearsals at the UO Production Studio in mid-February, without any idea of what to really expect. What we found was not only an incredibly well-run organization, but one that welcomed newcomers openly and warmly. To my knowledge, at no point was anyone made to feel like an outsider and they were very kind to the mistakes and questions of those who were new to the environment.

Rehearsal

Rehearsal at the Production Studio

Let me also note here that when it was rehearsal time, it was a serious endeavor, but that didn’t mean that we didn’t have fun. Roy was cast as a guard, I was cast as a Captain.

Roy: Guard

Roy: Guard

 

Robert: Captain

Robert: Captain

 

No good can come of this...

No good can come of this…

We rehearsed for the next couple of weeks, first at the Production Studio, later at the Capitol Theatre. It was when we first arrived at the theatre that we got to see the set. And at that point, things started falling into place. Next came costume fittings and dress rehearsals.

Costume fitting

Costume fitting

 

Final dress rehearsal...

Final dress rehearsal…

 

Captains: Thomas, Richard, David, me, and Cayman

Captains: Thomas, Richard, David, Robert, and Cayman

All too soon, it was time to hit the stage for opening night. And, as I mentioned in a previous post, they threw a curveball at me and told me – minutes before the show – that I’d be filling in for another role, during one part of Act II. I’d heard the phrase “The show must go on…” more times than I can count; it never really hit home until this point. And the show did, indeed, go on. A bit scary. And far more fun that I could have imagined.

And it was like that every night.

The members of the cast and crew were great. Our director, Garnett Bruce, made a comment at the opening night cast party that stuck with me. One of the other first-time supers noted that he had really enjoyed the experience and that Garnett’s demeanor and energy had helped to make it so. Garnett simply said,”If we don’t make the rehearsals fun and welcoming, people don’t come back. We want to make opera inviting.” And it was. I would gladly be part of another of his productions, as long as my schedule permits.

Robert, with Garnett Bruce (director)

Robert, with Garnett Bruce (director)

I’ve mentioned Jennifer, our AD, before – she’s the one who got me my new axe. She was also the top kick after opening night, as Garnett had to leave and prepare for his next show. She’s also the one who informed me of my role-reassignment (co-assignment?). And I don’t think that I ever saw her without a smile on her face.

Our stage managers, Kathleen, Carli, and Sarah ran a pretty tight ship, but they also kept the wheels on the bus. And kept the bus running. Carli was the Stage Left ASM and she gets my undying gratitude for putting up with Roy and my shenanigans:

One of Roy’s entrances had him carrying a statue of the Sphinx, our group was carrying litters of treasure, but referred to as “booty palettes,” right after him. So, naturally, we lined up at the same time. Whenever Carli would give us our standby calls before we walked out of the wings, “Standby, Sphinx and booty palettes…,” we’d break into booty-shaking dancing. Just off-stage. Barely out of line-of-sight of the patrons in the balcony. Her reaction was (usually) head-shaking… with laughter.

I also need to acknowledge one of our dressers, Jason, who helped lace me into my cuirass before every show and would also help adjust any other costuming issues he noticed as I was walking down the hallway to head onstage.

I’d also like to be sure to give a tip of the hat to the costumers, hair designers, makeup artists, musicians, dancers, and the backstage crew for also making this not only a fun production, but a memorable event.

Whew.

There was a lot to say and I’m sure that I could say so much more. But, I think that I’ll just close with “Thank you, to Utah Opera for providing such a fantastic opportunity, not only to be part of this amazing production, but also to see what goes into putting on such a show and for allowing me to meet so many new and interesting people.”

Derrick Parker (Ramfis) and Robert (Captain)

Derrick Parker (Ramfis) and Robert (Captain), after the last performance

 

With Jonathan (Guard/Carrier)

With Jonathan House (Guard/Carrier)

 

Robert, Roy Dawson, Will Johnson

Robert, Roy Dawson, Will Johnson

 

With Jennifer Cheek (Aida) and Roy Dawson (Guard)

With Jennifer Check (Aida) and Roy Dawson (Guard)

 

Roy Dawson (Guard), Derrick Parker (Ramfis), and me

Roy Dawson (Guard), Derrick Parker (Ramfis), and me

Namaste.

Spectre: Aftermath

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Spectre: Aftermath

Saturday – 19 March 2016
I have just finished watching the latest/last (?) Daniel Craig outing as James Bond: Spectre.

James Bond: Spectre

James Bond: Spectre

I enjoyed Craig’s Bond, as usual, but something seemed a little… off. Not so much in the performance, mind you. It felt like something in the script itself was missing. Christoph Waltz as Blofeld – I was quite fine with that casting… although, much like Star Trek Into Darkness‘ John Harrison/Khan, it might have been better to let him be someone else. Lea Seydoux’s Dr. Madeleine Swan was alright, but given the way that her character was introduced – a direct and intelligent woman – it later felt like she was just “kind of there.” (I know, some will just say “Bond girl” and shrug it off.) I appreciated Ralph Fiennes’ M more in this movie than in his previous appearance. And the movie scored bonus marks for the inclusion of Dave Bautista and Moriarty Andrew Scott.

I did like the nods to Bond history. I also appreciated the way that they made Bond’s connection to Spectre personal – it was a touch that I wasn’t quite expecting them to execute in the manner that they did.

On the whole, it wasn’t a horrible movie, but it didn’t keep me on the edge of my seat in the manner that I expect from a Bond film. It didn’t feel like a waste of a movie night, but I think that my expectations might have been a bit high after Sam Mendes’ outing with Skyfall. If I had to rate it against the recent round of movies, it would look like this:

  1. Skyfall
  2. Casino Royale
  3. Spectre
  4. Quantum of Solace

Something else that didn’t work for me was the theme, Writing’s on the Wall. I wasn’t sold on the lyric content or the performance by Sam Smith. By the same token, I wasn’t taken with Jack White and Alicia Keys’ theme for Quantum of Solace (Another Way to Die), while Casino Royale and Skyfall‘s themes – You Know My Name and Skyfall, respectively – felt just fine.

All things considered, I give the movie six (6) Spectres.

spectre_ringspectre_ringspectre_ringspectre_ringspectre_ringspectre_ring

Namaste.