Union Pacific's Great Excursion Adventure

“Carve away the stone…”

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"Carve away the stone..."

Wednesday – 23 May 2012
Midweek is upon us again. That means new comics and Movie Date Night.

It rained this morning. I’m sure that my lawn appreciates that, especially since I’m having… issues… with the two zones in my back yard. Nothing insurmountable (I hope), but a little annoying nevertheless.

Last night, for the first time in five months (according to Foursquare), I went to the gym. Yeah, I know: Five months. This morning I was a little sore. But it was good and it was worth it:

  • Elliptical: 15 minutes, 1.5 miles
  • Lower Back Extensions: 3 sets/12 reps
  • Bench Press: 3 sets/8 reps, 135 lbs
  • Curls (dumbbell, seated): 3 sets/10 reps, 20 lbs
  • Flys (dumbbell, bench): 3 sets/8 reps, 20 lbs
  • Compound Row: 3 sets/10 reps, 100 lbs

Not surprisingly, my muscles were “a little” tired by the time I was done. But, I was glad that I went. And glad for a couple of ibuprofen this morning, too.

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

It’s Tuesday, but this still isn’t Belgium.

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It's Tuesday, but this still isn't Belgium.

Tuesday – 15 May 2012
Huh.  It’s been a week since my last post. And there have been goings-on… which is to be somewhat expected, as seven days have gone by.

The biggest happening is: I resigned last week. And it was good. I’m going to miss the people. (And possibly the view from my window, but they are looking at moving fairly soon, so the view was going away anyway.)

The next biggest happening was that Sunday was Mother’s Day. More specifically, it was SaraRules!’ first chance to celebrate Mother’s Day as a mother.

We had a fairly quiet morning at home, and then dropped the girls off at the in-laws’ while SaraRules! and I went to the Utah Opera performance of Of Mice and Men. It was my third American opera; I was cautiously optimistic, as I was one-and-one on American opera to this point. My optimism was rewarded. I enjoyed the performance.

And, just in case you needed more Team DiVa cuteness:

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

 

Making a splash…

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Making a splash...

Thursday – 19 April 2012
It’s a grey and intermittently drizzly NBN Thursday in the valley. Looking into the distance, it looks as though we’ll have clear(er) skies a little later.

Last night was my turn to give the girls their baths. Given how well they did in the hotel tub, we decided to remove the chair from the girls’ baby tub. Diana had a ball, discovering that she could splash in new ways:

Vanessa was more apprehensive at first, but warmed up to the concept after a few minutes:

The next few bath times should be interesting, to say the least.

After Team DiVa was abed, SaraRules! and I watched Hugo for our date night movie. We both knew next to nothing about the film, other than it won awards and that people we knew said that it was good. So, we took a chance…

…and it was totally worth it. It was a fantastic film. I’d heard it described it as “Scorsese’s love story about movies.” And, I’d have to agree – it was definitely a movie about a man’s love and passion for movies. And it was very well done.

Stray Toasters

And, it looks as though the sun has finally put in an appearance.

Happy Easter!

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Happy Easter!

Sunday – 08 April 2012
We hope that everyone has a safe, happy and peaceful Easter!

“You can be the President, I’d rather be the Pope…”

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"You can be the President, I'd rather be the Pope..."

Tuesday – 28 February 2012
Ordinarily, today would mark the end of the month. But, thanks to leap year – or DC’s “New 52,” according to Thom Zahler – we get an extra day this month. And, at least here in the Land Behind the Zion Curtain, it’s snowy. Well, more like “flurry-y,” but you get the idea. (And, of course, by the time I got back to writing this, it’s stopped.)

Last night was fairly quiet around the homestead. We took a short family excursion to the local Babies ‘R’ Us after work — the girls now have a new activity bouncer/saucer/thingamabob. Then, back home for the girls’ bedtime. And then dinner and a little TV for SaraRules! and me. (Followed, naturally, by some MW3 time for me.)

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s topic is: African Diaspora, the historic movement of Africans and their descendants to places throughout the world—predominantly to the Americas, and also to Europe, the Middle East, and other places around the globe.

The term has been historically applied in particular to the descendants of the Africans who were enslaved and shipped to the Americas by way of the Atlantic slave trade, with the largest population in Brazil (see Afro-Brazilian). In modern times, it is also applied to Africans who have emigrated from the continent in order to seek education, employment and better living for themselves and their children. People from Sub-Saharan Africa, including many Africans, number at least 800 million in Africa and over 140 million in the Western Hemisphere, representing around 14% of the world’s population. It is believed that this diaspora has the potential to revitalize Africa. Primarily, many academics, NGOs, and websites such as Social Entrepreneurs of the African Diaspora view social entrepreneurship as a tool to be used by the African diaspora to improve themselves and their ancestral continent.

Much of the African diaspora was dispersed throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas during the Atlantic and Arab Slave Trades. Beginning in the 9th century, Arabs took African slaves from the central and eastern portions of the continent (where they were known as the Zanj) and sold them into markets in the Middle East and eastern Asia. Beginning in the 15th century, Europeans captured or bought African slaves from West Africa and brought them to Europe and later to the Americas. Both the Arab and Atlantic slave trades ended in the 19th century. The dispersal through slave trading represents one of the largest forced migrations in human history. The economic effect on the African continent was devastating. Some communities created by descendants of African slaves in Europe and Asia have survived to the modern day, but in other cases, blacks intermarried with non-blacks and their descendants blended into the local population.

In the Americas, the confluence of multiple ethnic groups from around the world created multi-ethnic societies. In Central and South America, most people are descended from European, American Indian, and African ancestry. In Brazil, where in 1888 nearly half the population was descended from African slaves, the variation of physical characteristics extends across a broad range. In the United States, there was historically a greater colonial population in relation to African slaves, especially in the northern tier. Racist Jim Crow and anti-miscegenation laws after the Civil War, plus waves of vastly increased immigration from Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries, maintained some distinction between racial groups. In the 20th century, to institutionalize racial segregation, most southern states adopted the “one drop rule“, which defined anyone with any discernible African ancestry as African.

From the very onset of Spanish activity in the Americas, black Africans were present both as voluntary expeditionaries and as involuntary laborers. Juan Garrido was one such black conquistador. He crossed the Atlantic as a freedman in the 1510s and participated in the siege of Tenochtitlan.

Emigration from Sub-equatorial Africa has been the primary reason for the modern diaspora. People have left the subcontinent because of warfare and social disruption in numerous countries over the years, and also to seek better economic opportunities. Scholars estimate the current population of recent African immigrants to the United States alone is over 600,000, some of whom are Black Africans from the Sub-equatorial region. Countries with the largest recorded numbers of immigrants to the U.S. are Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and mostly West African Countries. Some immigrants have come from Angola, Cape Verde, Mozambique (see Luso American), Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, and Cameroon. Immigrants typically congregate in major urban areas, moving to suburban areas over time.

There are significant populations of recent African immigrants in many other countries around the world, including the UK and France, both nations that had colonies in Africa.

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

Midweek and all’s well…

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Midweek and all's well...

Wednesday – 22 February 2012
Odin’s Day is upon us once more. This also means that: The work week is half done and new comics are released today. Win-Win.

Today is also Ash Wednesday.

Last night, SaraRules! cousin, Sarah – and her son, Miles – were in town on their way to Denver.

As I recall, we haven’t seen them since last August, when they were here for Logan and Swiz’ wedding. They stopped in for a bit to visit and meet the girls.

After they left, and the girls were down for bed, SaraRules! suggested Five Guys burgers for dinner. Who was I to argue?! She also stopped at The Sweet Tooth Fairy to pick up cupcakes for dessert. We also cleared another episode of The Walking Dead off the DVR over dinner.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s person of note is Gustavus Vassa, a prominent African involved in the British movement towards the abolition of the slave trade.

According to his own account, Gustavus Vassa (born Olaudah Equiano) was born in an area called “Igbo” in what is now Nigeria, in 1745. (At the turn of the 21st century, newly discovered documents suggesting that Equiano may have been born in North America raised questions, still unresolved, about whether his accounts of Africa and the Middle Passage are based on memory, reading, or a combination of the two.) He lived with five brothers and a sister; he was the youngest son with one younger sister. At the age of eleven, he and his sister were kidnapped. At this time he endured the Middle Passage to the New World, where he was forced to work as a slave.

When their parents were out, Equiano and his sister were kidnapped by two men and a woman, African kinsmen, and sold to native slaveholders. After changing hands several times, Equiano found himself on the coast, in the hands of European slave traders. He was transported with 244 other enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to Barbados in the West Indies, from where he and a few others were soon transferred to the British colony of Virginia. Soon after arrival, he was bought by Michael Pascal, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. He decided to give him a more understandable name, a Latinised form of the name Gustavus Vassa, a Swedish noble who had become Gustav I of Sweden, king in the 16th century.

Pascal sold Equiano to Captain James Doran of the “Charming Sally” at Gravesend, where he was transported to Montserrat, in the Caribbean Leeward Islands. He was sold on to Robert King, a Quaker merchant from Philadelphia who traded in the Caribbean. King set Equiano to work on his shipping routes and in his stores. In 1765, King promised that for forty pounds, the price he had paid, Equiano could buy his freedom. King taught him to read and write more fluently, guided him along the path of religion, and allowed Equiano to engage in profitable trading on his own as well as on his master’s behalf. He enabled Equiano to earn his freedom, which he achieved by his early twenties.

King urged Equiano to stay on as a business partner, but Equiano found it dangerous and limiting to remain in the British colonies as a freedman. For instance, while loading a ship in Georgia, he was almost kidnapped back into slavery. He was released after proving his education. Equiano returned to Britain where, after Somersett’s Case of 1772, men believed they were free of the risk of enslavement.

In 1789, he published his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa the African, which had a strong abolitionist message. Equiano is often regarded as the originator of the slave narrative because of his firsthand literary testimony against the slave trade. Equiano wrote in his narrative that slaves working inside the slaveholders’ homes in Virginia were treated cruelly. They suffered punishments such as an “iron muzzle” (scold’s bridle), used around the mouths to keep house slaves quiet, leaving them barely able to speak or eat. Equiano conveyed the fear and amazement he experienced in his new environment. In fact, Equiano was so shocked by this culture that he tried washing his face in an attempt to change its color. Despite the controversy regarding his birth, The Interesting Narrative remains an essential work both for its picture of 18th-century Africa as a model of social harmony defiled by Western greed and for its eloquent argument against the barbarous slave trade.

In 1792, Equiano married Susanna Cullen; they had two daughters.

Although Equiano’s death is recorded in London, 1797, the location of his burial is unsubstantiated.

Quote of the Day
Today’s quote comes from my friend, Ashley:

Today is Ash Wednesday, the day we commemorate the battle between the Evil Dead and the common man. Remember to celebrate this, the grooviest of holidays, in the traditional manner: the viewing of Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness.

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

“Mere reason alone can never explain how the heart behaves…”

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"Mere reason alone can never explain how the heart behaves..."

Tuesday – 14 February 2012
Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

And here’s a little Valentine’s Day cuteness for you:

Vanessa (l) and Diana

Last night, my mother-in-law came over to help get the girls situated for bed while SaraRules! was at a Justice League meeting. Diana has recently started skipping her late-afternoon nap… so she was “a little” tired and cranky before bed. Nothing insurmountable, though.

After the girls were down, I started getting things ready for SaraRules!’ Valentine’s Day:

  • I made chocolate and vanilla candy hearts.
  • I made a CD for her morning commute.  (That’s right. CD. Old school.)
  • And, I hid her gifts and cards, so that I could wrap them after she went to bed.

I managed to get everything but the wrapping taken care of before she got back home. Barely. But, I did. Making the candy became something of a race against time, as the meeting – which I expected to last until at least 9 PM – was over at 8:00. I was more than slightly anxious when SaraRules! called to say that she was on her way home. Fortunately, the Lords of Confection smiled upon me and allowed me to finish (and hide) the candy before she made it home.

Whew.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Black History Month
Today’s person of note is: Jessye Norman, an American opera singer.

Jessye Mae Norman was born on September 15, 1945 in Augusta, Georgia to Silas Norman, an insurance salesman, and Janie King-Norman, a school teacher. She was one of five children in a family of amateur musicians; her mother and grandmother were both pianists, her father a singer in a local choir. Norman’s mother insisted that she start piano lessons at an early age.

At the age of nine, Norman heard opera for the first time on the radio and was immediately an opera fan. She started listening to recordings of Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price whom Norman credits as being inspiring figures in her career. At the age of 16, Norman entered the Marian Anderson Vocal Competition in Philadelphia which, although she did not win, led to an offer of a full scholarship at Howard University, in Washington, D.C. In 1966, she won the National Society of Arts and Letters singing competition. After graduating in 1967 with a degree in music, she began graduate-level studies at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and later at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, from which she earned a Masters Degree in 1968.

After winning the Bavarian Radio Corp. International Music Competition in 1968, Norman made her operatic debut as Elisabeth in Richard Wagner’s Tannhuser in 1969 in Berlin. Norman also enjoyed success as a recitalist with her thorough scholarship and her ability to project drama through her voice. She toured throughout the 1970s, giving recitals of works by Franz Schubert, Gustav Mahler, Wagner, Johannes Brahms, Erik Satie, Olivier Messiaen, and several contemporary American composers. She made her American debut in 1982 as Jocasta in Oedipus Rex and her Metropolitan Opera debut the following year as Cassandra in Les Troyens. By the mid-1980s she was one of the most popular and highly regarded dramatic soprano singers in the world.

In 1990, Norman performed at Tchaikovsky’s 150th Birthday Gala in Leningrad and she made her Lyric Opera of Chicago début in the title role of Gluck’s Alceste. In 1994, Norman sang at the funeral of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. In September 1995, she was again the featured soloist with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, this time under Kurt Masur’s direction, in a gala concert telecast live to the nation by PBS making the opening of the orchestra’s 153rd season.

On March 11, 2002, Norman performed “America the Beautiful” at a memorial service unveiling two monumental columns of light at the site of the former World Trade Center, as a memorial for the victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City.

After more than thirty years on stage, Norman no longer performs ensemble opera, concentrating instead on recitals and concerts. In addition to her busy performance schedule, Jessye Norman serves on the Boards of Directors for Carnegie Hall, the New York Public Library, the New York Botanical Garden, City-Meals-on-Wheels in New York City, Dance Theatre of Harlem, National Music Foundation, and Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

 

“Boom De Yada… Boom De Yada…”

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"Boom De Yada... Boom De Yada..."

Tuesday – 31 January 2012
It’s the end of the month. More specifically, it’s the last Tuesday of the month. That must mean it’s time for Guys’ Night Out. Amen. The only thing that could – and did – make the day better was starting the morning with cuddles from Diana and Vanessa, as well as a kiss and a hug from SaraRules! Quadruple win.

I would also like to thank Ms. Galadriel for coming over (again) last night to help put the twins to bed while SaraRules! was at a Justice League meeting. There was no wailing, moaning or gnashing of teeth. And the twins were fine, too.

My subconscious has been drawing from my memories of 70’s and 80’s TV shows. This has become especially apparent over the past few nights’ dreams.  A few nights ago, Nicholas Hammond (probably most “known” for playing Peter Parker in CBS’ prime-time, live-action The Amazing Spider-Man) made an appearance. And last night, I had a dream sequence that was like a scene from the old Lynda Carter Wonder Woman. (Although the costume was a little wrong.) It was a little odd, but amusing, nevertheless.

And, I woke up with this running through my head:

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

“Ghosts appear and fade away…”

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"Ghosts appear and fade away..."

Monday – 30 January 2012
Wow. Looks like it’s been almost a week since I posted. Long time, that. So let’s get to it…

It’s been a good week. In a nutshell, it’s included:

  • Spending time with SaraRules! and the girls:

    Vanessa (l) and Diana… with Tigger and Pooh

  • Watching Real Steel with SaraRules! (It wasn’t bad; think “Rocky Meets Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots”)
  • Kicking off a new multi-month ‘Clix event series for Dr. Volt’s… (in addition to the regular tourneys)
  • Playing a fair bit of Modern Warfare 3… and a little Gears of War 3
  • Picking up a Butterfinger-dipped caramel apple (!!!)
  • Seeing Utah Opera’s performance of Rigoletto.

Yeah, It was a good week.

This week has the possibility of being quite nice, as well.

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

“I’m back in the saddle again…”

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"I'm back in the saddle again..."

Tuesday – 03 January 2012
I’m still trying to train my fingers to type “2012” rather than “2011.”  (Or “2112,” for that matter.)

It’s the first day back at work in two weeks. I won’t lie: There’s been some struggle in getting back into “work” mode. But, there strides have been made. I’ve even managed to accomplish a thing or two.

Yesterday afternoon and last night were – as I suspected they might be – long. After the girls’ four-month checkup (which went very well), SaraRules! and I headed to Black Water Coffee Company, to say “Hi” to Jim — our former neighborhood coffee shop owner.  BWCC is the second location of Pin-up Girl Espresso… which makes it (currently) the only location, at least until IHC finishes construction of a new facility in our neighborhood. It was good to see Jim and to catch up on a few things. And, getting a frozen mocha didn’t hurt, either. As the girls started to rouse, we headed home.

Diana and Vanessa were cranky, thanks in no small part to receiving their immunizations. After trying to get Vanessa to nap around 3:00 PM, she finally nodded off around 4:30. Of course, she refused to lie down, so I wound up with on my shoulder.

On the couch.

For an hour.

Although, I was glad that she slept. She needed it, as did Diana. On the back side of the nap (and before bedtime), they were intermittently happy and fussy. And there was little to no warning as to when their moods would change. Bedtime was a welcome thing. Fortunately, the little ladies headed to The Dreaming without too much ado. They slept until almost 5:00 AM this morning, which was also quite welcome.

After feeding the girls, I went back to bed. For reasons that I have yet to figure out, let alone explain, I had Will2K stuck in my head.

Yeah. Didn’t make it easy to fall asleep. But, I did and when the 6:30 alarm went off… I ignored it.  And the 7:00 alarm. And the 7:10 snooze. I finally got up at 7:30. I was good with that.

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

“Ninety-nine and a half won’t do…”

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"Ninety-nine and a half won't do..."

Thursday – 29 December 2011
Another NBN Thursday is under way and I have already been to – and returned from – the airport. My uncle came to town Tuesday night for a post-Christmas visit and to meet the new additions to the family:

It was a short visit, but a very full one. The girls, who’ve been a bit fussy with new people lately, took to him fairly quickly; he took to them immediately. It was fun watching the three of them interact.

We also managed to squeeze in a trip to see the Lights on Temple Square last night. We bundled the girls into their bear suits and car seats and set off for downtown. We got there around the time that the girls are usually beginning to wind down before bed. But, with so many things to see – and all of the sounds – they were awake and staring at all the sights. About two-thirds of the way through our stroll, Diana started to fade; Vanessa was still going strong… until we got to the car. Then they traded: Diana woke up and Vanessa napped. We got home, changed and fed them and put them to bed. Diana faded out somewhat quickly; Vanessa, however, got a second wind and decided that bedtime was the perfect time to tell SaraRules! all about the adventures she had during the day. It took her almost an hour to wind down and fall asleep. On the “plus” side: They slept until almost 5 AM.

After the girls went to bed, my uncle and I went to Pawit’s to pick up dinner. He, SaraRules! and I ate and we introduced him to TopGear (UK). It was a good way to wind down the day and his visit.

Stray Toasters

I just put the girls down for a nap. Let’s see how this goes.

Namaste.

“Give me steam… And how you feel can make it real…”

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"Give me steam... And how you feel can make it real..."

Wednesday – 30 November 2011
Not only is it the middle of the week… or new comics day… or the date that Michael Jackson’s Thriller album was released… it’s also the last day of the month. A month that seemed like it just started a few days ago. How the time flies.

Last night, SaraRules! and I attended the opening night auction for the 2011 Festival of Trees. We were looking for something – not a tree – to add to our holiday decorations; we settled on looking for a centerpiece for the living room table. We found – and bid on and won – one that will go nicely with the tree we got last year:

We also saw a number of really nice trees and gingerbread houses. More pictures can be seen here. If you have a chance to visit the Festival of Trees, do so. It runs through Saturday, 03 December 2011; admission is:

  • $5.00/adults
  • $3.00/children age 2 to 11
  • $4.00/senior citizens.
  • Children under age 2 are free

All proceeds benefit Primary Children’s Medical Center, so it’s a very worthwhile cause.

After the Festival, we picked up the girls, took them home and put them to bed. Then SaraRules! kicked me out of the house… to go to Guys’ Night Out.  (Have I mentioned: “Coolest wife ever” recently? She is.) It was nice to hang out with the guys over beer (Black and Pumpkin!) and food. It was a good way to wrap up a rather good day.

Stray Toasters

And, that should be good for now.

Namaste.

 

Time to make the doughnuts…

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Time to make the doughnuts...

Monday – 28 November 2011
Waking up and getting up has never been easy…

…especially after a five-day break. But, we do what we must. The alarm went off and up I got. On the plus side: I have fourteen (14) working days until Christmas break. I’m Ivory Soap sure that I can make it.

The weekend was a good one. There was some productivity. A good bit of laziness. And the upstairs Christmas tree (and some lights) are up. I might work on the downstairs tree tonight during Monday Night Football.

And, I neglected to post a picture of the girls in their Thanksgiving dresses. That shall be rectified now:

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

“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.

Namaste.

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.

Namaste.