Union Pacific's Great Excursion Adventure

‘We will pay the price, but we will not count the cost…”

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'We will pay the price, but we will not count the cost..."

Friday – 29 January 2010
TGIF and all that goes with that.

Last night, SaraRules and I attended two more movies at the Sundance Film Festival: Abel and Russian Lessons. Both movies were very good.

Abel told the story of a young boy in Mexico named, aptly enough: Abel (pronounced “AH-bel,” not “AY-bel”). From the Sundance film synopsis:

Adorable little Abel has problems in the head. His mother collects him from the psychiatric ward hoping not to upset him. She carefully discusses with his teacher how to deal with the absence of Abel’s father. The entire family is on pins and needles, worrying about Abel breaking down. But things take an interesting turn when the little boy emphatically carves out a new role for himself in the family—he decides to become the father of the house. Abel transforms the fear his family has about his episodes into the respect due to the head of the household. Oddly enough, it works! That is, until a stranger shows up at the breakfast table, claiming to be Abel’s father.

To simply say that this movie was… “quirky” would not quite do it justice. It was offbeat, yet still quite endearing. Watching the family, it was easy to spot dysfunctions in their relationships… but viewers  were quickly drawn in by the naturalness of the characters’ interactions – they could have been any family. Or every family. Even yours. Or mine.

In a rather unexpected move, this movie also employed silence as a way to define a certain moment in time, similarly to the way it was used in Contact or Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams, or even the initial battle scene in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek. And, as with each of those movies, along with the on-screen imagery, it was a very powerful use of a (lack of) sensory input.

I hope that this film finds its way to mass distribution. It certainly deserves it.

Russian Lessons was a documentary about the civil war between Russia and the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

Andrei Nekrasov, with directing partner Olga Konskaya, returns to Sundance with a formidable documentary that energetically delves into the violent and bewildering conflicts in the Caucasus, with Russia pitted against the former Soviet state of Georgia, and involving Georgia’s troubled regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Boldly visiting conflict zones rarely filmed, the codirectors uncover damning evidence of Russian violence, incidents whose few recorded images are often reprocessed in mass-media reports as evidence of other people’s crimes (often, supposedly, residents of Georgia).

The movie’s director, Andrei Nekrasov, spoke briefly before the film started. He called it “…a movie of sacrifice and hope.” SaraRules and I noted later that we both thought of Freedom Riders in the same light. Mr. Nekrasov went on to say that we “…can’t be happy without being aware that there is suffering in the world, but that we can change it through sympathy, empathy and love.” Something to note: Mr. Nekrasov is Russian, not Georgian. Yet, you could see that he struggled to make sense of how and why anyone – let alone his own countrymen – could rain down such atrocities and suffering upon people so unapologetically.

The movie, while a fine documentary, was not always easy to watch. Nor, would I imagine, was it easy to film.  The interviews showed the raw emotion of the people on both sides of the war. Mr. Nekrasov and Ms. Konskaya also did not pull any punches in showing the aftermath of the Russian assaults on the Georgian people – including an airstrike against a civilian apartment complex that occurred while Mr. Nekrasov was driving into that city.

This is yet another movie that I think deserves wide distribution. It is a movie that everyone should see… although it might be one of those movies that people only need to see once.

Stray Toasters


“Buses are a-comin’… Oh, yes!”

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"Buses are a-comin'... Oh, yes!"

Thursday – 28 January 2010
Last night, SaraRules and I went to a screening of a movie at the Sundance Film Festival. The movie was Freedom Riders (1, 2), a documentary about the Freedom Rides – a group of people dedicated to the ideal of tearing down the barriers of segregation on interstate buses.

Photograph (c) Corbis, 1961

From the Sundance synopsis:

In 1961 segregation seemed to have an overwhelming grip on American society. Many states violently enforced the policy, while the federal government, under the Kennedy administration, remained indifferent, preoccupied with matters abroad. That is, until an integrated band of college students—many of whom were the first in their families to attend a university—decided, en masse, to risk everything and buy a ticket on a Greyhound bus bound for the Deep South. They called themselves the Freedom Riders, and they managed to bring the president and the entire American public face to face with the challenge of correcting civil-rights inequities that plagued the nation.

The film was exceptionally well-done. Where many documentaries are cold and dry, just giving facts and names, Stanley Nelson, the film’s director, did an excellent job of presenting a piece of American history with equal portions of fact-finding and emotional resonance. At the film’s end, there was a brief Q&A session with Mr. Nelson, Laurens Grant (producer), Jim Zwerg, one of the Freedom Riders, and Raymond Arsenault, author of the book Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, upon which the movie was based. It was especially interesting and intriguing to listen to Mr. Zwerg discuss how he became involved in the non-violent civil rights movement and how it affected his life.

This was a superb film and I highly recommend it to everyone.  There are two screenings remaining – Today at noon at Sundance and tomorrow at 0900 in Park City – and I strongly urge that anyone/everyone with the means to do so go see this movie.

Stray Toasters

Time for meetings

“It’s the music that we choose…”

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"It's the music that we choose..."

Wednesday – 27 January 2010
Welcome to the middle of the week. I kicked off the morning with a little something to get the blood pumping…

I followed it up with a Take Me There (Blackstreet, feat. Mya and Ma$e) and Switch (Will Smith). Yep… good way to start the day.

Today also marks the day that Apple unveils their latest “secret weapon.” The announcement is just hours away and then we shall see what magic the Wizard of Jobs has for the masses. CNN had this to say about the expectations.

Stray Toasters

  • Who has homemade coffee cake for breakfast?  That’s right… I do.
  • Holocaust Day marked at Nazi death camp Auschwitz
  • Rogers Canada forces Android upgrade that takes away root access
  • Tron Legacy Bike Appears in Meatspace
  • Marvel Comics’ ‘heroes will be heroes again’
    To say that the Marvel Universe has been “a little dreary” over the past few (seven!) years, would be something of an understatement. Some would even say it’s a gross understatement. Yes, there have been some rays of light, but they’ve seen far and few between. I’ve been a Marvel fan – although I’m not sure that I’ve ever been rabid enough to be considered a Marvel Zombie (the pre-Kirkman usage), but I’m pretty sure I qualify as a F.O.O.M. (Friend Of Ol’ Marvel) – since I was young, but in the past few years, I’ve drastically scaled back my Comics and Sushi Wednesday purchases of Marvel books. (That’s fine, because I like what’s been going on in the DC Universe. A lot.) Hopefully, Marvel Comics’ leadership has had a collective rectal craniotomy and can actually make the MU interesting to read about once more.
  • Monkeys keep chatter ‘short and sweet’
  • Cthulhu in Love perfume
    I think that this has to be one of the more… entertaining… marketing tag lines I’ve read/heard in a little while:

    There is a place in the Pacific Ocean – the farthest place from land on all sides. In the depths of this pole of inaccessibility a sunken city sleeps. And in that city of R’lyeh, far below the waves and the sunlight and the happiness, dreams the Great Cthulhu. And what does the Great Malignant One dream about? Companionship. See, Cthulhu is in love with love. And the Great One exudes a scent to attract lovers. Three sailors went mad making sure this scent was bottled and shipped to our warehouses. We think it was well worth it, though, because now we can offer you Cthulhu in Love Perfume.

  • A Hard Look at Hard Bop
  • posted a link to Colorblind Casting School:

    Excerpt: “But hey, here’s a counterpoint: Spider-Man and X-Men didn’t start this burst of superhero movies in Hollywood. No, Wesley Snipes as Blade did that. Black hero with a black love interest and everything. And before the movies? Blade was lame. All he had going for him before the movie was awesome Gene Colan art and we got two great movies out of him and one awful one. As far as quality of Hollywood superhero flicks go, he’s matched Batman (both 1989 and Begins franchises), Spider-Man, X-Men, and Superman. Blade beats Hulk, considering that those movies were mediocre at best.”

  • Arts: Charles Clary’s Massive Paper Cuts
  • Avatar overtakes Titanic as top-grossing film ever
  • Check the flavor of the rhythm I wrote
    And while I have a chance, now
    Let me clear my throat!


Mid-Tuesday Musings

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Mid-Tuesday Musings

This morning’s meeting was relatively short… despite the fact that I was late going to it.  The rest of the day hasn’t been too bad. In fact, it’s been downright quiet. And I am not complaining about that in the least.

At lunch, Wes and I hit the gym:

  • Elliptical: 5 min/random
  • Sit-ups: 3 sets/20 reps
  • Bench Press: 3 sets/8 reps, 205 lbs
  • Flys (machine): 3 sets/10 reps, 100 lbs
  • Compound Row: 3 sets/12 reps, 130 lbs

Post-workout weight: 188.0 lbs

Stray Toasters

And, that’s a wrap.


“Tuesday afternoon is never ending…”

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"Tuesday afternoon is never ending..."

Tuesday – 26 January 2010
This morning started… oddly. I woke up a little before the alarm went off, so I was able to catch it before it started blaring. That, in and of itself, wasn’t so bad. I laid in bed for a few minutes and nodded off again. I had a dream about being at work and in some sort of meeting. Joking around with one of my coworkers, I elbowed him in the ribs – much harder than I’d planned – and apparently cracked a couple of his ribs. Odd. Very odd, indeed. Especially since (at least when I’m awake) I like this coworker. I woke up shortly thereafter… and it was a rather disconcerting way to kick off the morning.

Hopefully, it’s not a portent of how the rest of the day will be…

Stray Toasters

Maybe that dream was an omen: I found out – ten minutes after it started – that I was missing a meeting that I was supposed to attend. *grblsnrkx* Although, I do have the defense of: I never received notification of said meeting and thus didn’t have it on my calendar. I didn’t miss too much, but it was still annoying.

Right on to the friction of the day…


Manic? Nah, not my Monday.

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Manic?  Nah, not my Monday.

Monday – 25 January 2010
Welcome to the beginning of the work week.

Yesterday was a chock full of football action. Justin (from work) and Logan came over to watch the NFC Championship game… or the NFC Flub Fest, as it was. I fixed dinner: Steaks, homemade macaroni and cheese (with pepper jack) and salad. After the game, I headed to the airport to pick up SaraRules. She recounted her weekend – including what sounded like a great, though rainy, time at Disneyland. All-in-all, she had a great time hanging out with Meliko.

Instant Replay: Football

New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts
17 – 30
After stunning the rest of the AFC, the Jets headed into Indianapolis to take on the Indianapolis Professional Football Club at Lucas Oil Stadium.The Jets’ defense came out like gangbusters, stopping the Colts’ run and pass offense. After a scoreless first quarter, they rallied to score 17 points in the second quarter. However, those would be the only points the Colts let them score. Somewhere between the booth and the field, the Colts started picking up on what the Jets were doing and proceeded to pick them apart.

Congratulations to rookie coach Jim Caldwell, Peyton Manning and the rest of the Colts franchise..


Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints
28 – 31
I don’t really know what to say about this game. The teams looked to be well-matched… so why is it that the Vikings looked so bad?! (And that’s not “Bad,” in the Michael Jackson sense, either.)

The Vikings’ O-line wasn’t there, at least not in the first half. Favre was rushed and knocked down… A LOT. Additionally, there were miscues and errors that resulted in six fumbles, dropped passes and even a couple of interceptions.

On the Saints’ side of the game, they seemed to just… “click.” Offensively. Defensively. They showed up to play. Yes, there was the “questionable touchdown,” but even without that, they played hard and well.

Congrats to Coach Sean Payton, QB Drew Brees and the rest of the Saints’ squad.

Stray Toasters

More later. Maybe.


Sunday, with a side of football

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Sunday, with a side of football

Sunday – 24 January 2010
I woke up this morning with a headache. I only wish that I’d been drinking last night to have earned it. On the other hand, it provided “a little” incentive to sleep in this morning.

Apparently in honor of the day, the sun has actually put in an appearance today. There was snow yesterday – apparently, the canyons got 21″ of snow last night – so it’s nice to see our local mass of incandescent gas.

Yesterday, I got up and lazed about the apartment for a few hours.  Chris called and I headed over there to finish up our second Batman/Gotham PD vs. Arkham Inmates ‘Clix game. (Yes, again; we had to call the game Friday night – after 4.5 hours – because I had to make it to a store before it closed.) We finished the game after another hour or so… and I won. (Pictures here.) It was also satisfying because I won using the Batman team, a team that I usually don’t play very well. We did note that the Harvey Dent LE figure is a bit of a game-changer.

After the game, I headed down to visit Kate, Perry and the kids for a bit. After that, I came home, had a bite to eat and got some things together before heading back to Chris and Mary’s for his Dark Heresy game; I’ve been an intermittent player in that game. We played from roughly 2000 hrs until just before 0200. Post-game wrap-up took about another half-hour. Let’s just say that it was a long drive home.

And now, there’s football on TV. I’ve decided that I really don’t care who wins this game… and that I’m an NFC fan for the Super Bowl:

  • Seeing Bret Favre go to – and win – the Super Bowl would be a great end to his season.
  • Drew Brees was a Boilermaker… and he’s still wearing black and gold.

So, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a win-win situation.

And for dinner: I’m cookin’ steak.  Mmm.

Stray Toasters

Quote of the Day
There are couple of gems that stand out from this weekend:

The first one came Friday night, while Chris and I were playing HeroClix.  Mary was walking through the house, preparing to do a bit of laundry:

Mary: I found something in your pants, babe.
Chris: Hey, I’m going to need that back!

The second one came Friday night, over dinner:

: Fuck Hamlet!

Back to the gridiron action…


“Dum ditty, dum ditty, dum dum dum.”

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"Dum ditty, dum ditty, dum dum dum."

Friday – 22 January 2010
It’s my 9/80 Friday off. I actually considered getting up and going to the gym this morning. Instead, I stayed in bed. However, I may go this afternoon or (more likely) tomorrow, as I have a heaping helping of “nothing do to” going on tomorrow.

SaraRules made it to California safely. Her parents, who also went to California – to visit other family members – also arrived safely. Now, if I could only figure out what I want from Trader Joe’s all would be well.

Last night, rather than gallivanting around town, I came home and hung out. Besides, there was a new episode of Fringe to be watched!  And Burn Notice‘s new season kicked off… even though I just let the DVR handle that one.

Stray Toasters

Time to get out of here and get my Friday going.


“We’re only at home when we’re on the wing…”

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"We're only at home when we're on the wing..."

Thursday – 21 January 2010
Happy Birthday, Mary!

Here's to another year of complete disregard for age-appropriate developmental milestones

Another NBN kicks off in the valley… and this one kicks off with flurries. Light flurries, yes, but ’tis snow, nonetheless. But, on the plus side: It’s my “Technical Friday.” That ain’t so bad. And, Chris and I are getting together tomorning to play ‘Clix, as he has the day off, too.

Last night was a rather quiet night in. We watched Tuesday’s NCIS while we ate dinner. We noted that we’d seen the teaser segment before, but didn’t remember seeing the rest of the episode. After the show was over, I had an epiphany. I checked the DVR for recorded programs. Sure enough, we had recorded that episode… three months ago – when we had seen the teaser segment – but never gotten around to watching it. Go figure.

Stray Toasters

I should make sure that I’m ready for the first of today’s meetings… which starts…. soon. Wahoo.


“Strip and Go Naked”

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"Strip and Go Naked"

Wednesday – 20 January 2010
Not only is it the middle of a very abbreviated work week, it’s also Comics and Sushi Wednesday. This morning’s weather includes flurries, at least in this part of the valley. The snow isn’t so thick that it’s making visual conditions bad, if it was a few degrees warmer, it would be more like a light drizzle.

Last night, SaraRules and I had a date night – we saw Avatar. It was her first time seeing it. She enjoyed it… despite most of the 3D effects “not working” for her (Why I Can’t Watch 3D TV). For me, it was nice to be able to watch more of the effects work rather than trying to keep up with what was happening with the story. All-in-all, it was a good time. Even though he was talking about a different day of the week, Ben E. King and The Drifters had it right:

Saturday night at the movies
Who cares what picture you see
When you’re hugging with your baby in last row in the balcony


Wes and I headed to the gym yesterday:

  • Elliptical: 10 minutes
  • Sit-ups: 3 sets/20 reps
  • Bench Press: 3 sets/8 reps, 205 lbs
  • Curls: 3 sets/10 reps, 30 lbs
  • Lateral Raises (w/ forward fly): 3 sets – 1 set @ 12 lbs, 2 sets @ 10 lbs

Pre-workout weight (morning): 185.5 lbs

Stray Toasters


“I’ve been workin’ on the railroad, all the live-long day…”

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"I've been workin' on the railroad, all the live-long day..."

Tuesday – 19 January 2010
There’s snow in parts of the valley this morning. The northbound leg of I-215 (the freeway outside my office window) is backed up for a couple of miles, according to CommuterLink.  It was just raining when I left home, but I thought I saw a few flakes about the time I got to the office. We’ll see how the weather holds up for the rest of the afternoon. And, the Council for Better Driving: Utah reminds motorists to be careful when commuting today.

Once again this year, I neglected to set up a service project before yesterday. So, in an effort to at least a little something, I took a few unneeded and extraneous things to The Salvation Army. Hopefully, someone will be able to get some use out of the things I dropped off.

After that, I picked up from work and dropped her off at home. Next stop: The Train Shoppe. I’ve lived in Salt Lake City for over 11 years now… and this was my first time going there. And, it was well pretty cool. They carry N, HO, O and G scales. I’m interested in getting into O Scale (mainly because it’s roughly the same scale as HeroClix, meaning that if I get really intrepid/industrious, I can integrate my WWG buildings into a RR layout… and use some train accessories in ‘Clix games. Win-Win!). Unfortunately, I live in the wrong part of the country for easy/quick access to the ‘roads I’m interesting in: B&O/C&O/CSX, Norfolk & Western, Norfolk Southern and Pennsylvania, but, according to Jeff and Todd, they could order items for me, if I wanted them. Yep… there might have to be some “mad money reallocation” in my entertainment budget later this year.

Back at the homestead, I cooked dinner: Chicken breasts (stuffed with broccoli and cheese), rice (cooked in cream of mushroom soup), salad, dinner rolls and… homemade maple butter.

After dinner (and a little TV time), SaraRules and I headed to the gym. We did cardio(!) – 30 minutes on the elliptical. Once again, I made it through… despite going at a faster overall pace than I had planned on. I went a little over 2.5 miles and burned 300-ish calories.

Stray Toasters


“Dreams flow across the heartland, feeding other fires…”

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"Dreams flow across the heartland, feeding other fires..."

Monday – 18 January 2010
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (1, 2).

Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. Visit MLKDay.gov.

(Click banner for more information)

Yesterday was a pretty quiet and low-key day. After a little time spent in Paragon City, while SaraRules did… hm… whatever she did while I was saving the world, we headed over to the in-laws’ for dinner and a movie. The dinner fare was a rather tasty homemade chicken pot pie; the movie was Terminator: Salvation.

I watched last night’s pilot of Human Target this morning. As I mentioned before, I was a little concerned about how they would deal with Christopher Chance as a bodyguard, since they had done away with his “master of disguise” persona. They took a rather simple way around it: He just tailors his persona to blend into to the job/lifestyle of his client. It wasn’t groundbreaking, but I enjoyed it. A reviewer noted the following:

The New York Times stated, “because he’s a human target, he has no problem blowing out of exploding buildings … with nary a scratch. Think Jack Bauer with excellent grooming.

Yep, that was pretty spot-on… except he didn’t have the patented Jack Bauer growl. Oh, well, it was still fun. And, there was even a cameo by [SPOILER REDACTED] in the last couple of minutes of the show! That was an amusing twist. I might just have a new Wednesday night viewing habit.

Stray Toasters

Time to start thinking about what to do with my day…


Things and stuff from a lazy Sunday afternoon…

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Sunday – 17 January 2010
It’s another grey and hazy day in Salt Lake City. I woke up this morning and helped move a sofa. Then, I made a now-rare stop at the local Beans & Brews for some morning go-juice. Now, I’m firmly planted on our couch, watching the Vikings duke it out with the Cowboys.

Yesterday was a good – and long AND busy – day. It started off over coffee with Chris and Perry. Next up, a ‘Clix tournament at Dr. Volt’s. And, once again, we had more players than the last time – eleven people played in the tourney and we had one person who showed up, just to try and get back into the game. Of the eleven people who played in the tournament, two of them were under 10-years-old; they were the kids of one of the other players in the game and they played as a team. I played them in the first round – granting them an automatic win, as a bye round; but they played pretty well, for being new to the game in their other two rounds. At the end of the day, Jay (one of the store’s employees) one the tournament, edging out Chris by one point; and the kids walked away with the Fellowship prize.

After shuttling Chris home, I headed home and changed for a night out with SaraRules. The evening started with dinner at Donovan’s Steak & Chop House. Neither of us had been there before. We both had the 6 oz. filet with shripm scampi, with sides of fresh vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes; SaraRules had a Sauvignon Blanc and I had a Spanish red wine.  The food was top-notch, the attentiveness of (most of) the wait-staff was good. All-in-all, it was a very nice dining experience.

Next, we strolled over to the Capitol Theatre to see Utah Opera’s production of Carmen. Despite hearing selections from the opera over the years, I had never before seen it performed.  UO did an excellent job. The set design and costumes were fantastic. And the casting..?  In a word: “Amazing.”  Leann Sandel-Pantaleo, as Carmen, not only brought the role to life through her voice, but also through body language and overall stage presence.  Chad Shelton, as Don Jose, made the character’s fall from proud young soldier to lovestruck and tortured ex-lover believable… and empathetic. If you are in the greater Salt Lake City metropolitan area and have a chance to see this performance, don’t miss it.

Instant Replay: Football

Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts
3 – 20
The Ravens (Baltimore 2.0) traveled to Indianapolis to take on the Colts Indianapolis Professional Football Club (Baltimore 1.0) at Lucas Field.I didn’t get to see the game, but kept track of the score during the opera’s intermission. And, unfortunately, the Colts came away with the win.

I’ve received a number of “Sorry your team lost” messages, which have been appreciated, but… even though they’re out of the running for The Big Dance, I’m very proud of what the Ravens were able to accomplish this season. They started decently, faltered in the middle of the season, but were able to finish not only with a winning season, but a playoff appearance.

And, of course, there’s always next season.

Stray Toasters


Friday, again!

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Friday, again!

Friday – 15 January 2010
It’s the end of the work week. And it’s the quiet Friday in the office. Amen.

Today is also the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, which will be celebrated in the States on Monday. And, as usual, I am taking the day off of work; I need to see if there’s a service project for which I can volunteer.

Last night, came over for dinner. SaraRules fixed her famous beef stew for dinner. It was, as usual, very tasty. brought eclairs and cookies from Schmidt’s for dessert.

Stray Toasters

I’m firing up the XBox in an hour…


“It’s the suburb of the week…”

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"It's the suburb of the week..."

Thursday – 14 January 2010
It’s a grey and hazy day here. I’ve referred to winter in Utah – especially when the inversion sets in – as being akin to living in a dirty fishbowl. Today is a pretty good example of that. Gotta love air that’s thick enough to chew…

Last night was a very low-key night. After dinner, when SaraRules headed off to Zumba, I decided that it was a perfect night for a hot soak and made it so. To add to the enjoyment of the downtime, I read a bit of Teenagers from the Future, which I haven’t picked up in far too long.

Stray Toasters

I think (actually, it’s more like “I’m hoping”) that I only have one meeting today. That would be nice.