Union Pacific's Great Excursion Adventure

“Here comes the sun…”

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"Here comes the sun..."

Tuesday – 31 May 2011
I don’t know if this is Mother Nature’s parting gift or the setup for an incredibly cruel joke, but it’s a lovely morning. It’s sunny and clear, temps are in the 50s, on their way to the mid-70s. Everything about it says “Today’s going to be a great day.” Yet, my inner cynic is still waiting for the other metaphorical meteorological shoe to drop.

Yesterday was a fairly quiet, low-key day. SaraRules! and I did get a little productivity in, though. We added some new items to the baby registry. We looked at tile for the new bathroom. And, we discovered a new place to eat. Well, it’s not really “new,” as much as it’s “new to us:” Mama’s Plantation Restaurant, in the Midvale Family Center (near the Wal-Mart). had mentioned it a while back, but SaraRules! and I never got to visit it at its old location in Taylorsville. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that it wound up in our extended neighborhood. The food and the service were good. The pricing may be a little on the steep side, but it was a nice change of pace and someplace we will revisit.

…and tonight: Guys Night Out.

Stray Toasters

On with the show…

Namaste.

Monday, Monday…

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Monday, Monday...

Monday – 30 May 2011
Today is Memorial Day.

Please take time to remember those who have fallen in the line of duty to protect the freedoms that we hold dear.

This has been a good weekend. Saturday, I took Ron up to Clearfield to see the O-Gauge layout at Almosta Junction. My friend, Dee, met us there. One of the guys from Almosta offered to fire up a train and let it run. We took him up on it. After hanging around for a while, Ron and I headed back to SLC and over to shockpuppet and ‘s place for their summer kickoff barbecue. Mother Nature, however, had other ideas. The party wound up moving inside… but it was just as much fun. (And far less wet.)

Sunday was a sleeping-in day. I made it to 9:30. It was also a fairly lazy day, which came under the heading of “not a bad thing.” SaraRules! and I picked up Ron and headed up to the in-laws’ for dinner. After we ate, we watched a movie called Wild Target. It was a funny romp about a hit man who’s not-s0-sure he wants to stay in the business… and the problems he has completing his last assignment. While my FIL and MIL had seen it before, none of the rest of us had. It was quite worth a viewing.

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

“Let the rhyhtm move you…”

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"Let the rhyhtm move you..."

Saturday – 28 May 2011
The sun is up and playing Hide and Seek among the clouds. This is good.

Last night, SaraRules! and I, along with our friends Marie and Josh, had an evening out. We had dinner at Settebello (all of us had variations of the same pizza), dessert at Capo and then attended Utah Symphony’s final concert of the 2010-11 season:

The program consisted of:

  • Charles Ives – Three Places in New England
  • Richard Strauss – Four Last Songs
  • Igor Stravinsky – Le Sacre du printemps

I’d not heard the Ives nor the Strauss pieces before. The Ives was a chaotic and frenetic piece; it was the aural equivalent of a hurricane. Yet, in the midst of the storm, Maestro Fischer did a fantastic job of  coordinating the musicians. If Three Places in New England was the leading edge of the hurricane, Four Last Songs was the calm eye of the storm. The movements were melodic and serene. Soloist Janice Chandler Eteme‘s performance was beautiful and very well-received — very nearly the entire hall gave her a standing ovation, with three curtain calls. The program closed with La Sacre du printemps (“The Rite of Spring”), another hectic and wildly energetic piece. As the symphony played, I realized that this piece is, in my opinion, one of the musical compositions that should be experienced as a live performance.

During and after the performance, I pondered Director Fischer’s choices for the selections used in this concert. I found there to be something of a counterpoint to the selections — the upbeat and chaotic sounds of Three Places and Rite, contrasted against the mellow tones of Four Last Songs. I also came to the conclusion that ending the season with pieces as energetic as Three Places and The Rite of Spring was akin to ending the season with a very emphatic exclamation point. It closed the season on a very strong  note, so to speak — showing that even at the end of a season, Utah Symphony was able to end things with a bang.

All told, the concert was a fine finish to Maestro Fischer’s first season as Music Director and was an excellent end to Utah Symphony’s season.

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

“armchair rocket scientist graffiti existentialist”

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"armchair rocket scientist graffiti existentialist"

Friday – 27 May 2011
It’s my 9/80 day off… and it’s the start of a four-day weekend. I’m good with that. I’m looking forward to a bit of downtime this weekend.

Last night, SaraRules! and I hit the local Noodles & Company for dinner, ran a few errands and then came home for a quiet evening in. I fired up the 360 and tried my hand at the CoD: Black Ops mission that’s been kicking my ass for the past little while. I finally had to look up some hints online. Same result, but I think I finally figured out what I need to do differently. (Aside from the general “not get killed” concept.)

This morning, I slept in… until 8:15. Hey, it’s later than my normal mornings, so it counts as “sleeping in.” After seeing SaraRules! off to work – and puttering around the house for a bit – I dragged my sorry carcass out of the house and into the gym for the first time in [REDACTED]! I have witnesses to prove it — I ran into ‘s dad and former coworker/current co-gamer Josh. Today’s workout consisted of:

  • Elliptical: 20 mintues/Level 3/Random, pacing between 5.0 and 5.5 MPH
  • Bench Press: 3 sets/8 reps, 135 lbs.  (Gotta start somewhere…)
  • Curls (dumbbell, seated): 3 sets/10 reps, 20 lbs
  • Lateral Raises (with Flys): 2 sets/10 reps, 10 lbs
  • Shoulder Press (dumbbell): 3 sets/8 reps, 30 lbs
  • Flys: 3 sets/8 reps, 100 lbs

Not too bad for the first workout in a while. It’s my One Little Victory of the morning.

Stray Toasters

Time to find some lunch and get on with the day.

So… close…

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So... close...

Thursday – 26 May 2011
It’s my “Technical Friday.” And, since we’re going into Memorial Day weekend, that means that this is a four-day weekend. Win.

Last night, SaraRules! and I went to Rodizio Grill for dinner. At least one of us (*raises hand*) decided to indulge in one of the Seven Deadly Sins. When we left, I was quite full. When we got home, I read the day’s four-color haul before calling it a night. (And I was still very full from dinner.)

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

Don’t Panic

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Don't Panic

Wednesday – 25 May 2011
It’s not just midweek. Nor is it just new comics day or D&D 4.0 game night…

Today is also Towel Day. (1, 2)

For those who don’t grok why a towel should have it’s own day, perhaps this will help explain it:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly 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 vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft 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 avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); 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.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)1

That pretty much sums it up.

Last night, SaraRules! and I ran a few errands – including setting up a baby registry at the local Babies ‘R’ Us – and then capped the evening with cups of ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery. We also (finally) got around to watching last season’s finale of NCIS… which, not so oddly, explained a few things about this past season. Go figure.

Stray Toasters

Quote of the Day
“Rebar is not forgiving…”

So long and thanks for all the fish.

1 — Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“Rain, rain, go away…”

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"Rain, rain, go away..."

Tuesday – 24 May 2011
I think that 10,000 Maniacs said it best:

The color of the sky as far as I can see is coal grey.
Lift my head from the pillow and then fall again.
With a shiver in my bones just thinking about the weather…

“What a cold and rainy day. Where on earth is the sun hid away?”

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.

Last night was a lazy night around the household. We noshed on pizza and finished the season of NCIS: Los Angeles. After that, SaraRules! watched Creepshow 2, while I surfed the Interwebs. There was a vignette in the movie, called “The Raft,” that reminded me of the ST: TNG episode “Skin of Evil.” In both, a “killer oil slick” devours/engulfs people. In doing a little – very little – research, I found that both the movie and that episode were released in 1987.

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

Yep, this is a steaming pile of Monday.

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Yep, this is a steaming pile of Monday.

Monday – 23 May 2011
Monday. You know it’s going to be “a day” when you come in to four-hundred-sixty-five (yes, that’s “465”) emails. That is not what I consider an auspicious start to the day. Fortunately, I stopped at the local Beans & Brews for a 32-ounce cup of frozen mocha goodness… with a triple shot o’ espresso.

Last night, SaraRules! and I took my friend, Ron, to Cafe Med for dinner. I had the Turkish Yogurt Pasta and dolmas. And they were good. Unfortunately, the restaurant was out of Akbar Mashti. Instead, we hit the local Super Target, picked up a couple of flavors of ice cream and headed home. Ron and I wound up chatted into the wee hours of the morning — hence, this morning’s triple-shot-laden bit of liquid fuel. But, it was a great way to spend the evening.

Stray Toasters

The show must go on…!

Namaste.

Sunday Rainy Sunday

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Sunday Rainy Sunday

Sunday – 22 May 2011
March winds: Check.
April showers: Check.
May winds, showers, flowers and even more rain: Check.

What started as an overcast day has become a rainy day. Which would ordinarily be (more or less) fine in my book, but I was planning on mowing the yard this morning, before it takes on the aspect of a suburban jungle. (O-E-O-E-O!) So, rather than fire up the mower, SaraRules! and I had breakfast at Millcreek Eggworks and Cafe. We’re pondering a trip to the Living Traditions Festival… assuming that the rain lets up a bit.

Yesterday’s ‘Clix tourney went well. We had fifteen players, at least, we started with fifteen — two had to drop out after the first round. But, all-in-all, it was a good event. Had I checked a calendar beforehand, I would have themed the match to coincide with Armed Forces Day. *shrug* Oh, well. The next event, however, is a themed one that I’m calling “Suffragette City,” in honor of the passing of the 19th Amendment. After the tournament, Chris and I started a Green Lantern Corps/Sinestro Corps game, but didn’t get to finish it.

Last night, SaraRules! and I were invited to a farewell dinner for the Resident Artists from Utah Opera. It was a nice affair and it was good to see the RAs again before they leave for various destinations around the country… and the globe.

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

Saturday stuff and things

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Saturday stuff and things

Saturday – 21 May 2011
It’s the weekend. Amen. The sun has finally decided to put in an appearance, which is a nice change of pace.

Today is supposedly also “Rapture Day.”

Last night, we had coffee and dinner with the usual suspects… plus one. The “plus one” is a friend of mine from my second hometown. We haven’t seen each other in what we figure to be at least ten years. It was a good evening.

I was up early this morning. 7:30 early. Why? Because was kind enough to lend his time – and his Jeep – to our endeavor of getting a new bathtub. So, we were off to the local Home Depot by 8:00. A few minutes and more than “a few” dollars later, SaraRules! and I were the owners of a new bathtub.

Later today, I’m judging another HeroClix tournament for Dr. Volt’s Comic Connection. NECA/WizKids has updated some of their rules, eliminating four (4) sets of ‘Clix from “Modern Age” play. Among the casualties are a few fan-favorite pieces; I’m curious to see what choices players make for teams today.

Stray Toasters

Okay… time to get ready to face the rest of the day.

Namsaste.

Soggy Friday

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Soggy Friday

Friday – 20 May 2011
It’s my working Friday. We’ll see just how much monkeydom there is to deal with today. Hopefully, it won’t be too much.

Last night, SaraRules! and I went out for dinner at Pawit’s Royale Thai. As usual, the food was delicious. Pawit came out and chatted with us for a few. After that – and a quick trip to say “Hi” to the in-laws – we headed to one of the local Home Depot stores to look at bathtubs. That’s right, we’re about to kick “Project: Renovate” into gear.

Tonight, I get to hang out with a friend of mine from home whom I haven’t seen in roughly ten years.

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

“She caught the Katy, left me a mule to ride…”

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"She caught the Katy, left me a mule to ride..."

Thursday – 19 May 2011
It’s another grey and rainy day here. I’m beginning to wonder if someone switched Seattle and Salt Lake City’s locations in the middle of the night.

Yesterday was not only new comics day, but also D&D 4.0 game night. We broke in a “new” venue: Dr. Volt’s Comic Connection, as we had become… disenchanted, shall we say… with Hastur Hobbies. It was a good change of pace — we could actually hear each other and the store wasn’t all asses-and-elbows. Thanks again to Dave and Jeremiah for letting us use the store to geek out.

Long Train Running
As I’ve been working on my home layout, thoughts of running multiple trains has been part of the nominal planning process. One of the ideas I’ve had included a three-level design, with a subway, a main/freight line and an el/commuter line. This put me right on… umm, track… for that, although I may no longer do a three-level design, with the current layout.

As I’ve noted before, my mother got me the MTH Bantam J Steam Freight Set for Christmas. For my birthday last year, my father got me a copy of The Illustrated Dictionary of Trains of the World. Inside was a note:

Rob,
The Powhatan Arrow (1, 2) came through Keystone, WV (and stopped at Northfork) en route from Norfolk, VA to Cincinnati during my childhood.

When you and I traveled from Baltimore to Bluefield, train (passenger) service had been curtailed greatly…

While I wanted a passenger train line, I didn’t really have much in mind as to which road name I wanted. The Bantam J was the engine that pulled the ‘Arrow. That started wheels turning in my head. I started looking at Norfolk & Western passenger cars.

Earlier this week, I received my first passenger cars in the mail, three cars from Lionel (#16062, #16063, and #16064). These were good. I put them on the rails and ran them. And, I was pleased.

Yesterday I received another package… another package with train cars. They were three of the four cars from MTH-67418. And these were even better. The detailing on the cars – especially since these were “just” from MTH’s Rail-King (their lower price point) line – was fantastic.

And, of course, I took pictures of the new cars on the layout.

There’s something fun – and somewhat special to me – about having a train on my layout that’s representative of something that my parents would have seen in their youth.

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

I’m just thinning out the blood in my caffeinestream…

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I'm just thinning out the blood in my caffeinestream...

Wednesday – 18 May 2011
Midweek finds a soggy, grey day settling in over the valley. (“Desert plain,” my ass.) And, naturally, with all of the rain – and snow – that we’ve had this Winter/Spring, flooding is now a concern — so much so that there have been major sandbagging efforts around the valley to hopefully stave off damage to homes and property.

Yesterday’s venture to the southern reaches was not bad. We (Minion #2 and I) were kept somewhat busy, so that helped pass the time. I made it back home in time to meet the swamp cooler techs, who were prepping our unit for use this season. (Of course, with the rain and cool temps we’ve had for the past few days, we don’t need to run the cooler. *sigh*)

Last night was also D&D 3.5 game night. We adventured. We didn’t die. I always view that combination as a “good” thing.

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

“Better Nate than lever…”

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"Better Nate than lever..."

Tuesday – 17 May 2011
It’s much later than I’d planned for making a post, so this will be a bit (somewhat) abbreviated.

Last night, following dinner, SaraRules! and I watched The Fighter. Very good movie. And, Christian Bale certainly earned his Oscar nod (and win) for his role. Also, it was another look at Amy Adams – who has shown a good deal of versatility in her characters – making it that much easier to picture her as Lois Lane in Zach Snyder’s upcoming Superman movie.

Today finds me in the Utah County office, once again. It’s been a little more busy than I’d expected. This is not a “bad” thing, mind you. And, I got to go to State Street Grill for lunch with some of the old crew. Win-Win.

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

Have at thee, Monday!

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Have at thee, Monday!

Monday – 16 May 2011
A new week begins.  My week, however, will begin a little later than some others’, as I started the day with a trip to the doctor’s office. It was another appointment to make sure that Babies A & B are progressing as they should. (They are.)

This weekend was a good one:  Saturday, I stopped in at Dr. Volt’s Comic Connection to say “Hi” to Valerie Finnigan. She was there for a book signing and to promote her horror book, which is due this fall. After that, I traipsed up to Clearfield. (Hey… I had air and opportunity.) I picked up a few track pieces. I also stopped at The Train Shoppe when I got back to SLC, but left empty-handed.

Back home to clean up and get presentable for Utah Opera’s opening of Falstaff (1, 2), adapted from Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor. The cast and crew of the production put on a delightful show. Although it’s a comedic opera, it didn’t suffer from being “too” over-the-top; director Christopher Mattaliano did an excellent job of balancing the opera’s humor with just the right amounts of (semi-)seriousness. It was quite a fun way to spend the evening.

Sunday, SaraRules!, Angy, and I went up to Millcreek Eggworks and Cafe for brunch. Mmm, coffee cake…  After a very satisfying meal, came back and helped me get the sprinklers online. (No busted sprinkler heads! Hoo-AH!) Later in the afternoon, SaraRules! and I made a pilgrimage to The Garden of Sweden. We didn’t buy anything, but we did come out with a couple of ideas. In the evening, we headed up to John’s (one of UO’s resident artists) for a birthday cookout. That was a LOT of fun. And we capped the evening with a visit to the in-laws… for yet more dessert!

Stray Toasters

Namaste.