Union Pacific's Great Excursion Adventure

“It’s close to midnight and something evil’s lurking in the dark…”

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"It's close to midnight and something evil's lurking in the dark..."

Monday – 31 October 2011
It’s Hallowe’en.

Many people have been posting “Happy Hallowe’en” on their various social media outlets. Thanks to them, I have had the “Silver Shamrock” jingle (from Halloween III: Season of the Witch) running through my head for the past 3+ hours. It’s been about as annoying as the time I had Escape stuck in my head for three days…

The weekend was good, but a bit long and tiring. SaraRules! messed up her back sometime Thursday night/Friday morning. As such, I was the point man for taking care of the girls for most of the weekend. Fortunately, they took a modicum of mercy on me — they weren’t extremely fussy or irritable. (Thank you bouncy chair and swing!)

Diana (left) and Vanessa (right)

But, by the time we were putting them to bed last night, I realized just how tired I was and how ready I was for them to be down for the count.

On the flip side, I was still home when they woke up this morning, so I got kid cuddles before heading to work.

Last night, we also headed up to SaraRules’ parents’ house for dinner, Disney’s Ichabod Crane and Hallowe’en cookie decorating. It’s tradition! (And, it’s pretty fun, too.)

Stray Toasters

And that’s that… for now.



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Thursday – 27 October 2011
Another NBN Thursday finds me back at work. Fortunately, it’s my “Technical Friday,” so it’s rather bearable.

I had a great birthday yesterday. Thank you to all the well-wishers and to the family and friends who helped me celebrate it. I started the day hanging out with the twins. A little after 1100, Bonne came over and took over kid wranglin’ duty, so that I could have a few hours to run all over Hell and half of Georgia. And I did. I traveled north to Clearfield (Almosta Junction) and Ogden (Union Station and The Wonderful World of Trains). I didn’t pick up anything at Almosta Junction… although, I thought hard about it. I did pick up a new signal bridge and a Norfolk Southern hopper car at WWoT. I also squeezed in trips to RubySnap and The Chow Truck before heading home.

Back at the ranch, I hung out with the girls again. (Translation: “I fed and changed them.”) Then, it was time for a quick trip to Dr. Volt’s. Then, back home for cake and ice cream with a family and a few friends.

All-in-all, it was a great way to celebrate a birthday.

And, tonight: Belated birthday dinner with SaraRules!

Stray Toasters


Forty plus one… and counting

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Forty plus one... and counting

Wednesday – 26 October 2011
I was born…

…forty-one years ago today. As of 7:00 AM EDT (which should have been EST), I completed yet another journey around the sun without meeting the The Reaper’s embrace… and it’s been a fantastic journey. This past year has seen some great things, especially including the addition of two beautiful little girls to my family.

Last night, as a bit of a pre-birthday present, SaraRules! gave me the opportunity to head out to Guys’ Night Out, with and . It was a nice treat. And, MacCool’s had their seasonal Black and Pumpkin beer on tap. And, of course: Finn’s Skins! One of my coworkers, another Robert, dropped by and hung out for a while too. It was a good way to spend my last night of 40.

Today, I’m watching the girls for a bit. Then, Bonne’s coming over to watch them for a few hours, giving me some time to gallivant about the valley. (Win!) Then, I’ll come back home and watch the girls until SaraRules! gets home and it’s time for cake and ice cream.

Yeah. I’d call that a good way to kick off forty-one.


A Pirate Looks (Back) at Forty

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A Pirate Looks (Back) at Forty

Tuesday – 25 October 2011
Work week: Day 2.

Of course, it is my first Technical Friday of the week – I’m taking tomorrow off and then back on Thursday – so, I’m okay with being anxious about being out of here.

Today is also my last day as a 40-year-old. It’s been a pretty fantastic year. I have a great family – which just got a couple of fantastic new additions. I have some pretty amazing friends. I’ve been able to see and do a lot of fun things. I’m looking forward to seeing what forty-one brings…

Last night, , and Angy came over to watch the Ravens-Jaguars game. It would have been good had the Ravens not sent their practice squad to Florida. It was a defensive game. And it was one that the Jags played every bit as well as – if not a little better than – the guys from Charm City. Ravens receivers couldn’t get separation from their cover guys. The run was effectively shut down. And it wasn’t until almost the end of the game until the Ravens put points on the board. But, they did. (Barely.) And, to be honest, I have to say:

I’m glad that the Ravens lost.

There. I said it.  And I meant it.

Wait, wait, wait… I know that sounds completely “wrong” of me to say, but I am. Why? It’s simple, really: We play Pittsburgh in two weeks. Baltimore needed a good ass-kicking/wake-up call before that game in order to… do whatever it is they need to figure out… before that game. And I’d much rather have them work out the kinks in a game against the Cardinals than go heads-up against the Steelers after such a poor showing against the Jags.

Stray Toasters


Monday? Really? Don’t worry, I’ve got this.

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Monday?  Really?  Don't worry, I've got this.

Monday – 24 October 2011
Even for a Monday, it’s not a bad day. It’s kicking off an extra-abbreviated work week, as I’m taking Wednesday off for my birthday and this week contains my 9/80 Friday off. And… this Friday will be my first day taking care of the girls by myself. (Pray for us. Pray hard.) It should be fine. At least, I’m not anticipating any problems.

This morning, the girls ate around 0500 and weren’t up for a feeding before I left. While this means that I missed out on pre-work kid cuddles, it also means that I got to sleep in a bit. (Translation: “I intentionally ignored two alarms and got some extra sleep.”) And it was good. In fact, I think that’s a key reason why this Monday started particularly well.

And… the Ravens are playing in tonight’s Monday Night Football game.

Stray Toasters

Sunday dose of cuteness…

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Sunday dose of cuteness...

Sunday – 23 October 2011
Vanessa woke up at 0700 this morning…

…which means that I woke up at 0701. Hey, I’ll admit it: I was hoping that she’d sleep until 0830 or so, when she was next “scheduled” to be fed. Yeah, yeah, I know that the word “schedule” isn’t in her – or her sister’s – vocabulary. A guy can hope, though, can’t he?

I fed her, put her back in her bassinet and made coffee. More or less in that order.

And, as if on cue, Diana woke up at 0800. SaraRules! got up with her. After both girls were fed and back in bed bassinets, I availed myself of the opportunity for a hot soak. And it was good. Now that SaraRules! is up, we’re going to take the girls for a stroll over to Rich’s Bagels for breakfast goodness. The rest of the day…? That’s a bit up-in-the-air. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Speaking of which, here is your aforementioned dose of cuteness:

Diana on the left; Vanessa on the right.

The rest weekend has been good, as well. Friday, came over to visit and cuddle babies. (Have I mentioned that it’s nice to have adult interaction around here, since our social availability has dropped considerably?) The girls went to bed at a decent hour, which would have normally allowed us to watch Fringe… but Fox aired a repeat episode. So, we knocked out a couple hours’ worth of recorded shows from the DVR.

Saturday, the girls were up early, so we fed and dressed them and headed to the last Downtown Farmers Market for the season. There were “a few” more people there than we expected. But, the girls handled the outing well. And… we.. may have even stopped at the RubySnap booth for a cookie or three. Maybe. Kind of. Sort of. We also picked up a couple of [REDACTED] with [REDACTED] for the girls. We came home and were visited by SaraRules!’ mom and her cousins, Royce and Naomi – who were out for a Daddy-Daughter Date Weekend. To round out the day, I went down to play a little DCUO… but didn’t count on having to download a 1.2 GB update. (I still logged into the game for a bit, though.)

And that “up-in-the-air” part of the day? So far, we have:

  1. …run a few errands.
  2. …gone to the mall.
  3. …had a Skype conversation with the Baltimore contingent…

…and we’re soon heading to the in-laws’ for dinner and football.

Quote of the Day
As I mentioned above, SaraRules! and I took the girls to the local mall. While there, we stopped in one of the anchor stores. We were looking for a couple of outfits for the girls; we didn’t see anything, so we stopped to ask a couple of associates. THEN… they realized we had a stroller with twins.

First Associate: They’re so cute!   (SaraRules! and I hear this often; it never gets old.)

Second Associate: “Are they yours?”

|| PAUSE ||

Okay, let’s examine this:

  1. The girls are a few shades lighter than me.
  2. The girls are a few shades darker than Sara.
  3. We’re pushing them in a two-seat stroller.
  4. SaraRules! was carrying a diaper bag.

> PLAY >

Without missing a beat, I said – in a very deadpan tone: “No, we found them by the side of the road.”

It took Associate #2 a moment to process this in the manner that I intended it: “Yes, dumbass… they’re ours.”  But, after the gerbil got up to speed, you could see the light of recognition in her eyes.  Genius, she was not.

All in all, I call that a good weekend.



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Friday – 21 October 2011
It’s almost the weekend. Amen. “Almost” because it’s my 9/80 “on” Friday. No worries. It’s quiet around here and I can get a couple of things taken care of. In fact, I’ve already put out one minor and one potentially major fire. And, I’ve even eaten lunch already.

Last night, SaraRules! came home with a new technique for swaddling the girls. She showed me the method: It involves the use of two sheets, as compared to the usual one, and it’s quite effective. It took the twins a little while to get used to the fact that their hands aren’t free to flail about… but they seem to be adapting to it. And, it seems to have helped them sleep better. We will see how it fares in prolonged use.

SaraRules! also sent me a terminally cute picture of Vanessa this morning:

Yeah, she’s a little cutie.

Stray Toasters


Wait… what do you mean “The day’s almost over?!”

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Wait... what do you mean "The day's almost over?!"

Thursday – 20 October 2011
Today is not only another NBN Thursday, it is also Spirit Day.


 What’s ‘Spirit Day?’ you ask.  (I had to ask the same thing a couple of days ago…) From the GLAAD.org site:

Millions of Americans wear purple on Spirit Day as a sign of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth and to speak out against bullying. Spirit Day was started in 2010 by teenager Brittany McMillan as a response to the young people who had taken their own lives. Observed annually on October 20, individuals, schools, organizations, corporations, media professionals and celebrities wear purple, which symbolizes spirit on the rainbow flag. Getting involved is easy — participants are asked to simply “go purple” on October 20 as we work to create a world in which LGBT teens are celebrated and accepted for who they are.

So, I’m in a purple shirt and tie today, supporting friends and family. (And, as a fringe benefit – not to be confused with a “Fringe benefit” – I get to wear Ravens team colors. Win. Win.)

::: insert work and meetings here :::

I was going to have something here, but it’s been a few hours (Yay for work and meetings!) and I don’t have the foggiest idea “what” it was anymore.

Stray Toasters

That’s good for a late-afternoon post.


“A Lerxst in Wonderland”

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"A Lerxst in Wonderland"

Wednesday – 19 October 2011
Midweek. New comics day. Possibly even Sushi Wednesday.

And, it’s SaraRules!’ first day back at work since the twins were born.

The twins were up this morning for a feeding before I left for work, so I was able to steal a couple hugs from them before setting off. I have to admit: It’s a great way to start your day.

Stray Toasters


No, this still isn’t Belgium…

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No, this still isn't Belgium...

Tuesday – 18 October 2011
Documentation. WHEEEEE! Yeah, maybe if I keep trying to convince myself that I’m having fun, it will either come to pass or I’ll actually start believing it.  (cue: Journey)  That aside, it hasn’t been a bad day.

Last night, I got home to find SaraRules! carrying Vanessa, who had apparently decided that she needed to be held/cuddled for most of the day… while Diana was just taking it easy in her crib. The girls were good, if a little restless, for most of the evening. In fact, they were quiet and calm enough that SaraRules! and I were able to watch a little of the second half of the Dolphins-Jets game. Hey, “some football” is better than “no football.” It would have been nice, however, if the Dolphins had bothered to show up for the game. *sigh*

Stray Toasters


Exit: Weekend. Enter: New work week.

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Exit: Weekend. Enter: New work week.

Monday – 17 October 2011
For a day that started with rain and clouds, it’s mighty sunny and bright out there now. And I’m good with that.

This past weekend was a good one. I got to spend it with my three favorite ladies. The younger two even let me sleep in a bit on Friday, which was quite nice. We ran a few errands on Friday, as well, including a trip to RubySnap – for cookies and to make a donation for their “Save the Suzies” breast cancer campaign:


That’s right: We’re all in pink. Just. Like. That.

Friday evening, I actually got a chance to play ‘Clix with the guys! (Thank you, SaraRules!) Chris, Andy and Harley came over and helped me test out a scenario that I’m planning for the next tournament… which I actually get to go and judge  (Thank you again, SaraRules!): I’m “recreating” the DC Comics “War of the Supermen” event from last year’s comics. We play-tested it and it seems as though everything works out pretty well.

Saturday, I kicked off the day with a hot soak and reading magazines. And it was good. In the afternoon, we took the girls to Downtown Philly Cheesesteaks. Oddly, they didn’t eat anything. But, they did get to meet Paul (former boss) and his wife, Mary. We had a nice visit and the girls were incredibly well-behaved the entire time. On the ride home, they got a little angsty, but by that time, they’d been in their car seats for a couple of hours. Saturday evening, Kenneth, Akiba and their kids came over to visit and meet the girls. We hadn’t seen them since… the Horror Movie Baby Shower, so it was nice to get a chance to spend some time hanging out with them.

Yesterday was a lazy, stay-at-home kind of day. And it was good… because the girls couldn’t decide whose turn it was to nap or be awake. So, we were attending to one and/or both all afternoon. (Good thing they’re adorable…) In the evening, Logan came over and had dinner with us and hung out for a bit.

So, all-in-all… it was a good and somewhat relaxed weekend.

Instant Replay: Football
Yesterday had a lot of good – and surprising – games:

Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens
14 – 29
The Ravens hosted the Texans……and came away with a win, keeping sole possession of the lead in the AFC North.

Ray Lewis… Hey… Hey, Ray!  Yeah!  You just became the first player in NFL history to notch 40 sacks and 30 interceptions!  How does that make you feel?

Yeah, I can dig it!

Cleveland Browns at Oakland Raiders
17 – 24
The Raiders took on the Browns and did some work.Congratulations, SaraRules! and [info]1silver_seraph.

Stray Toasters

Back to it.


Thursday’s Child…

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Thursday's Child...

Thursday – 13 October 2011
It’s a sunny No Bad News Technical Friday. The morning started with a frozen mocha and doughnuts. Personally, I think that’s a great way to kick off the last day of the work week.

It’s pretty much common knowledge that I appreciate good customer service. A few months ago, I signed up for a digital subscription to a model railroading magazine. One of the features that swayed my decision was the ability to download issues of the magazine. Win. Win.

Or so I thought until I actually tried to download an issue.

It turns out that the third-party company who distributes the digital copy uses Google Gears as their medium. Gears is being deprecated next year. So, I emailed the third-party and received the following a week later:

[THIRD PARTY] is aware that Google Gears is no longer supported by Google.  The publisher, however, at this time  has not yet opted to include the optional pdf downloadable version.

Well, okay then. And then I promptly forgot about it…

…until I got a notification that the new issue of the magazine was available. This time, I emailed the magazine directly — the subscription manager… and the editor-in-chief… and the publisher — with my question. Barely 24 hours later, I got a response from the magazine’s publisher:

The Firefox/Google Gears issue is relatively new. We have been waiting to see if [THIRD PARTY] develops an alternative solution. If they do not, we may have to offer a PDF download.

Okay. That’s all well and good, but doesn’t really give me much to go on. Still, I replied. I noted that I appreciated that the publisher took time to personally respond and that I hoped that they found a reasonable substitute for their current digital model. A few hours later, I received another response:


A couple of things…

First off, “Mr. Melvin” was my father. No need to be that formal with me.

Secondly, thanks for the kind words about the magazine. I’m glad you are enjoying our work.

We’ll make an announcement about the download problem soon.

And it was sent, as best I can figure, from his home – not his office. Nice. And it seemed to indicate that the digital download issue would be addressed with a little more urgency than “…we’re just waiting to see what happens.” I can live with that.

Stray Toasters


Wednesday? Sure, why not?!

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Wednesday?  Sure, why not?!

Wednesday – 12 October 2011
Midweek. New comics day. Selah.

A little while ago, I walked a couple of buildings over to give Josh his own “Little Plastic Legion” (HeroClix figures). While I was there, I ran into a couple of other former coworkers — Jan and Nathan. As an added bonus, Jan shared a new-to-me “Sven and Ole” joke. That, alone, was worth the trip.

Stray Toasters


Tuesday (or something quite like it)

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Tuesday (or something quite like it)

Tuesday – 11 October 2011 (or: 11-10-11)
It’s been an intermittently sunny and rainy day today. But, it’s been a good day, nevertheless.

I woke up this morning, for some reason, thinking about Charlie Chan. It may have had something to do with thinking about the twins and mentally referring to them as “Number One Daughter” and “Number Two Daughter.” Who knows. Regardless, I wound up at Charlie Chan. And from there, it was only a small jump to The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan. And with that, the theme started running through my head while I was shaving:

Last night, SaraRules! had a Mom’s Night Out and attended Utah Opera’s performance of Fidelio, which opened last week to many positive reviews. Angy and were kind enough to come over and watch the girls – and Monday Night Football – with me, while SaraRules! was away. The girls were well-behaved… after all, they had no lack of attention… but, did their damnedest to avoid entering The Dreaming. Little Miss Diana was still fighting sleep – hard – by the time that SaraRules! got home; but there also seemed to be a look of “See, Mommy… I stayed awake until you got home!” on her face, too. And it still took her a while to nod off.

So far, the work day has been decent. I finally had a chat with someone from building management – which I’ve been waiting for since about 10 AM this morning – about a cooling issue in our space. We want to try changing a couple of things; they’re amenable to the idea. We’ll see how things shake out.

Stray Toasters


Well met, Monday…

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Well met, Monday...

Monday – 10 October 2011
A new work week begins. My day started with feeding Little Miss Wonder Girl before heading off to work. I have to say that it was a rather nice way to start the morning. And speaking of the little ladies, they were supporting their mother’s team this weekend:


(Click pictures for larger helpings of cuteness)

Yeah… and the Raiders even pulled off a win yesterday.

The weekend was good, all around. From Canadian Thanksgiving on Saturday to dinner with the in-laws last night. As an added bonus, I was able to make it to Dr. Volt’s 21st Anniversary Sale and Signing and chat up my friend, Jake Black, for a few… as well as speak geek with a few of the guys on Saturday.

Stray Toasters