Union Pacific's Great Excursion Adventure

At the work week’s end…

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Friday – 06 February 2015
My niece, Grace, turned seven today:


Team DiVa and I got to talk with her – and her sisters, my sister and brother-in-law, and my dad – over Skype this evening. I believe that it was one of the most engaged conversations that DiVa has had over Skype.

Other things that made today good:

  1. Post-work/post-daycare with Team DiVa.
  2. An end-of-the-work-day chat with Sara!.
  3. Introducing Team DiVa to Undercova Funk before bedtime.
  4. Learning that Sana Amanat, former editor and co-creator of the new Ms. Marvel, got what are colloquially referred to as “big ups” as she was named Marvel’s new Director of Content and Character Development.
  5. Conversations about fashion and style with a trio of coworkers.
  6. A discussion with a coworker about my standing desk, her pilgrimage o The Garden of Sweden to acquire one… and the confused looks on the employees’ faces as they showed her their standing desk (much more expensive) and she kept telling them “That’s not it.”

Things that did not make the day good:

  1. Yet another email spam/virus outbreak at work. (Fortunately, we caught it quickly and got ahead of it before it became too widespread.)
  2. Not getting to eat lunch because of the above.

On the whole, I’d call the day a “Win.”

Stray Toasters

  • I am running a nominally Valentine’s Day-themed tournament tomorrow. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of teams my players bring.
  • I should comb through the various and sundry links that I’ve posted here, see if the links are still active, determine if I still care about them, and pin the worthy on Pinterest.
    • I may even move The Covet List from an Amazon Wish List over to Pinterest, as well.
  • The Pro Dumpster Diver Who’s Making Thousands Off America’s Biggest Retailers
  • It may just be the way I’m wired, but I’m not sure that I entirely agree with How Often You Really Need to Shower (According to Science)
  • Speaking of which, how often do you wipe down your kitchen counters?
  • Marvel, in other news, also announced a new book, spinning out of the upcoming Secret Wars: An all-female team of Avengers.
  • And, before I forget: Someone at DC seems to have had a rectal craniotomy and decided to make Starfire a little more palatable/accessible to readers, including those who mostly/only knew of her from the Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go! cartoons.
  • I might actually be one step closer to running a new Shadowrun campaign.

Time to find something to do now that Team DiVa has finally knocked out for the night.


Team DiVa Tuesday – 03 September 2013

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Team DiVa Tuesday - 03 September 2013

Tuesday – 03 September 2013
It’s time for another look at the past week in Team DiVa-dom…

Successful trip to IKEA

Successful trip to IKEA

Vanessa, doing a little light reading...

Vanessa, doing a little light reading…

Helping Daddy sweep the floor. No, really... we ARE helping!  Really!

Helping Daddy sweep the floor. No, really… we ARE helping! Really! (For the most part.)

Building a tower...

Building a tower…

Climbing on Mom at the end of the day...

Climbing on Mom at the end of the day…


“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen…”

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"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen..."

Tuesday – 19 February 2013
It’s been a busy past few days around here. But, they’ve also been good days on the whole, so, like the one-legged man: I can’t kick.

Saturday, I had the pleasure of going to work to kick a server back into… um… service. It had decided to go belly-up around mid-morning and needed something just this side of percussive maintenance to get it back in gear. The rest of Saturday was, thankfully uneventful. Sunday, Sara!, Team DiVa and I went out for brunch and a trip to The Garden of Sweden. (We went for ONE THING… and left with about eight or nine things. None of which were the one we were after.) Monday, we took the girls for their first trip to Utah’s Hogle Zoo:


Umm, Daddy… why are we just sitting here?


Sara! and Vanessa


Rob and Diana

The trip was a BIG hit. The girls went nuts for the elephants, although seeing the giraffes was a little disconcerting for Vanessa. By the time we were done, they didn’t want to leave, despite the fact that it was lunch time AND the fact that they didn’t have morning naps. There were parts of the zoo that were closed for construction, but that didn’t stop us from seeing a good number of animals. And the girls kept demanding “More! More!” I can see many more trips to the zoo in the not-distant future.

Chew on This – Food for Thought: Black History Month
Once again, playing catch-up for the days I’ve missed.  There’s a lot of information here, so let’s get to it:

  • Eleanor Holmes Norton – Civil rights activist, politician490px-Eleanorholmesnorton
    Born June 13, 1937 in Washington, D.C. A graduate of Antioch College, Yale University and Yale University Law School, Norton worked in private practice before becoming assistant director of the American Civil Liberties Union (1965–70) where she defended both Julian Bond‘s and George Wallace‘s freedom-of-speech rights.As Chairman of the New York Human Rights Commission (1970–7), Norton championed women’s rights and anti-block-busting legislation. She then went to Washington to chair the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (1977–83), and in 1982 became a law professor at Georgetown University.In 1990, Norton was elected as a Democratic non-voting delegate to the House from the District of Columbia. Currently under scrutiny, the DC Fair and Equal House Voting Rights Act (or DC Vote) would give one vote to the District of Columbia in the House of Representatives, but not the Senate. Norton is a regular panelist on the PBS women’s news program To the Contrary.
  • Floyd Patterson – Boxerfloyd_pattersonFloyd Patterson (January 4, 1935 – May 11, 2006) was an American professional boxer and former Undisputed Heavyweight Champion. At 21, Patterson became the youngest man to win the world heavyweight title. He was also the first heavyweight boxer to regain the title. He had a record of 55 wins, 8 losses and 1 draw, with 40 wins by knockout. He won the gold medal at the 1952 Olympic Games as a middleweight.Born into a poor family in Waco, North Carolina, Patterson was the youngest of eleven children and experienced an insular and troubled childhood. His family moved to Brooklyn, New York, where Floyd was a truant and petty thief. At age ten, he was sent to the Wiltwyck School for Boys, a reform school in upstate New York, which he credited with turning his life around. He stayed there for almost 2 years. He attended high school in New Paltz, NY where he succeeded in all sports.(to this day the New Paltz football field is named in his honor) At age fourteen, he started to box, trained by Cus D’Amato at his Gramercy Gym.

    Aged just 17, Patterson won the Gold medal in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics as a middleweight. 1952 turned out to be a good year for the young Patterson; in addition to Olympic gold Patterson won the National Amateur Middleweight Championship and New York Golden Gloves Middleweight Championship. Patterson turned pro and steadily rose through the ranks, his only early defeat being an eight-round decision to former Light Heavyweight Champion Joey Maxim on June 7, 1954, at the Eastern Parkway Arena in Brooklyn, New York. Most people think Patterson did enough to win, and Maxim’s greater fame at the time helped to sway the judges.

    Although Patterson fought around the light heavyweight limit for much of his early career, he and manager Cus D’Amato always had plans to fight for the Heavyweight Championship. In fact, D’Amato made these plans clear as early as 1954, when he told the press that Patterson was aiming for the heavyweight title. However, after Rocky Marciano announced his retirement as World Heavyweight Champion on April 27, 1956, Patterson was ranked by The Ring magazine as the top light heavyweight contender. After Marciano’s announcement, Jim Norris of the International Boxing Club stated that Patterson was one of the six fighters who would take part in an elimination tournament to crown Marciano’s successor. The Ring then moved Patterson into the heavyweight rankings, at number five.

    Following a series of defeats, Patterson went through a depression. However, he eventually recovered and began winning fights again, including top victories over Eddie Machen and George Chuvalo. Patterson was now the number one challenger for the title held by Muhammad Ali. On November 22, 1965, in yet another attempt to be the first to win the World Heavyweight title three times, Patterson lost by technical knockout at the end of the 12th round, going into the fight with an injured sacro-iliac joint in a bout in which Ali was clearly dominant. Ali called Patterson an “Uncle Tom” for refusing to call him Muhammad Ali (Patterson continued to call him Cassius Clay) and for this outspokenness against black Muslims. Instead of scoring a quick knockout, Ali mocked, humiliated and punished Patterson throughout the fight.
    Patterson was still a legitimate contender. In 1966 he traveled to England and knocked out British boxer Henry Cooper in just four rounds at Wembley Stadium. In comparison, Ali never scored a knockdown against Cooper in their two bouts and was nearly knocked out by Cooper in their first fight after he was knocked down near the end of the fourth round, but recovered after his corner used smelling salts on him (which was against British rules) at the end of that round. Ali would go on to score a TKO over Cooper after Cooper was severely cut in the fifth round.

    In September 1969 he divorced his first wife, Sandra Hicks Patterson, who wanted him to quit boxing, while he still had hopes for another title shot.

    When Ali was stripped of his title for refusing induction into the military, the World Boxing Association staged an eight-man tournament to determine his successor. Patterson fought Jerry Quarry to a draw in 1967. In a rematch four months later, Patterson lost a controversial 12-round decision to Quarry. Subsequently, in a third and final attempt at winning the title a third time, Patterson lost a controversial 15-round referee’s decision to Jimmy Ellis in Sweden, despite breaking Ellis’ nose and scoring a disputed knockdown.

    Patterson continued on, defeating Oscar Bonavena in a close fight over ten rounds in early 1972.

    At age 37, Patterson was stopped in the seventh round in a rematch with Muhammad Ali for the NABF Heavyweight title on September 20, 1972. The defeat proved to be Patterson’s last fight, although there was never an announcement of retirement.

    Floyd Patterson suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and prostate cancer and had been hospitalized for a week prior to his death. He died at home in New Paltz in 2006 at age 71.

  • Queen Latifah – Actress, entrepreneur, music producer, rapper, singerQueen-Latifah-Covergirl-561x700
    Queen Latifah was born Dana Elaine Owens on March 18, 1970, in Newark, New Jersey. The second child of Lance and Rita Owens, Latifah is best known for her social politics, acting skills and gift for rhyme. When she was 8 years old, a Muslim cousin gave her the nickname Latifah, meaning “delicate and sensitive” in Arabic. Latifah began singing in the choir of Shiloh Baptist Church in Bloomfield, New Jersey, and had her first public performance when she sang a version of “Home” as one of the two Dorothys in a production of The Wizard of Oz at St. Anne’s parochial school.

In her first year of high school, Latifah began informal singing and rapping in the restrooms and locker rooms. In her junior year, she formed a rap group, Ladies Fresh, with her friends Tangy B and Landy D in response to the formation of another young women’s group. Soon the group was making appearances wherever they could. Latifah’s mother was a catalyst; she was in touch with the students and the music. She invited Mark James, a local disc jockey known as D.J. Mark the 45 King, to appear at a school dance. The basement of James’s parents’ house in East Orange, which was equipped with electronic and recording equipment, became the hangout of Latifah and her friends. They began to call themselves “Flavor Unit.”James was beginning a career as a producer and made a demo record of Queen Latifah’s rap Princess of the Posse. He gave the demo to the host of Yo! MTV Raps, Fred Braithwaite (professionally known as “Fab 5 Freddy“). The recording captured the attention of Tommy Boy Music employee Dante Ross, who immediately signed Latifah, and in 1988 issued her first single, “Wrath of My Madness.” The track met with a positive response and afforded her the opportunity to launch a European tour, and to perform at the Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater. The next year Latifah released her first album, All Hail to the Queen, which went on to sell more than 1 million copies.As she began to earn money, Latifah displayed an interest in investment, putting money into a delicatessen and a video store on the ground floor of the apartment in which she was living. She came to realize that she had a knack for business, and realized that there was an opening for her in record production. In 1991, Latifah organized and became chief executive officer of the Flavor Unit Records and Management Company, headquartered in Jersey City, New Jersey. By late 1993, the company had signed 17 rap groups, including the very successful Naughty by Nature. In 1993, Latifah recorded a jazz- and reggae-influenced album titled Black Reign. While the album sold more than 500,000 copies, the single “U.N.I.T.Y.” earned Latifah her first Grammy Award in 1995.

In the 1990s, Latifah branched out into acting. She made her big screen debut in Spike Lee’s interracial romance drama Jungle Fever (1991). The following year, Latifah appeared in the crime thriller Juice with Omar Epps and Tupac Shakur. She soon landed a leading role on the small screen, appearing in the sitcom Living Single from 1993 to ’98. The comedy, which also starred Kim Coles, Kim Fields and Erika Alexander, proved to be a ground-breaking show. It remains one of the few sitcoms to focus on a group of African-American women.

A talented performer, Latifah continued to tackle both comedic and dramatic parts. She co-starred in 1996’s Set It Off with Jada Pinkett Smith and Vivica A. Fox, playing as a lesbian bank robber. Two years later, Latifah teamed up with Holly Hunter and Danny DeVito for the comedy Living Out Loud (1998). She also appeared withDenzel Washington and Angelina Jolie in The Bone Collector.

Perhaps Latifah’s most acclaimed film role to date came in the 2002 hit musical Chicago, starring Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jonesand Renee Zellweger. Her portrayal of prison matron Mama Morton gave her a chance to show off both her singing talents and acting skills. For her work in the film, Latifah earned an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress. She lost to Chicago co-star Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Latifah went on to receive strong reviews for 2003’s romantic comedy Bringing Down the House co-starring with Steve Martin. The following year, she experienced some disappointment withTaxi, which co-starred Jimmy Fallon. The comedy proved to be a critical and commercial dud. She fared better with Beauty Shop(2005) and her voice-over work in the hit animated film Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006).

In 2007, Queen Latifah again delighted movie-goers with her musical talents. She appeared as Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspraywith John Travolta. Her crime caper Mad Money (2008) with Diane Keaton and Katie Holmes received much colder reception. Returning to drama, Latifah gave a strong performance in The Secret Life of Bees (2008).

On the small screen, Latifah has made a number of guest television appearances over the years, including on the shows 30 Rock and Single Ladies. She also co-starred in the 2012 TV remake of Steel Magnolias with Alfre Woodard, Phylicia Rashad and Jill Scott. Latifah branched out in a new direction the following year. She will enter the daytime television market with a new talk show. The Queen Latifah Show will debut in the fall of 2013. The program promises to be a mix of interviews and comedic and musical performances, according to BET.com.

In addition to acting, Queen Latifah serves as a spokesperson for CoverGirl cosmetics. She even has her own line with the company: The Queen Collection.

  • Diana Ross – Actress, singer


    Diana Ross was born in Detroit, Michigan on March 26, 1944. The second-eldest child of Ernestine (née Moten) (January 27, 1916 – October 9, 1984), a schoolteacher, and Fred Ross, Sr. (July 4, 1920 – November 21, 2007), a former United States Army soldier, Ross would later say that she didn’t see much of her father until he had returned from service following World War II.

    Ross and her family originally lived at Belmont Road in the North End section of Detroit, near Highland Park, Michigan, where she was neighbors with Smokey Robinson, who first met Ross when she was eight. Despite her early life as a “tomboy”, upon her teenage years, Ross had dreams of being a fashion designer. She studied design, millinery, pattern-making and seamstress skills while attending Cass Technical High School, a four-year college preparatory magnet school, in downtown Detroit. In her late teens, Ross worked at Hudson’s Department Store where, it was claimed in biographies, that she was the first black employee “allowed outside the kitchen”. Ross graduated in January 1962, one semester earlier than her classmates. Around this same time, Ross was turned on by the emerging rock and roll music scene, and her early influences included Frankie Lymon and Etta James.

    At fifteen, Ross was brought to the attention of music impresario Milton Jenkins, manager of the local doo-wop group the Primes, by Mary Wilson. Paul Williams, then member of The Primes, convinced Jenkins to include Ross in the Primettes, considered a “sister group” of the Primes. Ross was part of a lineup that included Wilson,Florence Ballard and Betty McGlown, who completed the lineup. In 1960, following their win at a singing contest in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, the group auditioned for a spot on Motown Records after Smokey Robinson introduced the young group to Berry Gordy. Upon learning of their ages, Gordy advised them to come back after graduation. Undeterred, the quartet stayed around Motown’s Hitsville U.S.A. headquarters, offering to provide extra help for Motown’s recordings, often including hand-claps and background vocals.

    In January 1961, Berry Gordy agreed to sign the young act under the condition they change their name. Each member picked out various names from friends. Eventually they settled on The Supremes, though Ross initially had apprehensions toward the name – she felt the name would mistake them for a male vocal group. But Gordy agreed with the new name and signed them on January 15 of that year. During the group’s early years, there was no designated lead vocalist for the group as they had agreed to split lead vocals between their choice of song material; Ross favoring the uptempo pop songs. That changed in 1963 when Gordy assigned Ross, who had already sung lead on the majority of their early singles, as the main lead vocalist, considering that her vocals had potential to reach Gordy’s dreams of crossover success. Between August 1964 and May 1967, Ross, Wilson and Ballard sang on ten number-one hit singles, all of which also made the UK top forty. The group had also become a hit with audiences both domestically and abroad, going on to become Motown’s most successful vocal act throughout the sixties.

    In 1968, Ross started performing as a solo artist mainly on television specials, including The Supremes’ own specials such as TCB and G.I.T. on Broadway. In mid-1969, Gordy decided to have Ross leave the group by the end of the year and Ross began sessions for her own solo work that July. One of the first plans for Ross to establish her own solo career was to bring in a new Motown recording act. Though she herself didn’t claim discovery, Motown pinned Ross as having discovered The Jackson 5. In November, Ross confirmed a split from the Supremes on Billboard. Ross’ presumed first solo recording, “Someday We’ll Be Together”, was eventually released as a Supremes recording and became the group’s final number-one hit on the Hot 100. Ross made her final appearance with the Supremes at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas on January 14, 1970.

    After her obligations with the Supremes were fulfilled, Ross signed a new contract as a solo artist in March 1970. Two months later, Motown released her eponymous solo debut, which included the hits, “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” the latter song becoming her first number-one single as a solo artist on the pop and R&B charts, also becoming an international hit reaching the UK top ten, and winning Ross her first Grammy nomination. Ross only released one solo recording in 1972. She reemerged in 1973 with “Touch Me in the Morning,” which became her first single to reach number-one in three years. The album of the same name became Ross’s first non-soundtrack studio album to reach the top ten, peaking at #5. Later that year, the Diana & Marvin album, her duet album with Gaye, was released, and spawned five hit singles, including three released in the United States and two in Europe, gaining an international hit with their cover of The Stylistics’ “You Are Everything.” In 1973, Ross began giving out concerts overseas where she immediately sold out at every concert venue she performed at. That year, Ross became the first entertainer in Japan’s history to receive an invitation to the Imperial Palace for a private audience with the Empress Nagako, wife of Emperor Hirohito.

    Ross’s follow-up albums, 1977’s Baby It’s Me and 1978’s Ross, however, both faltered on the charts, mainly due to lack of promotion and a period of growing tension between Ross and Gordy, stemming from an incident in 1975 after Ross struck him after the two engaged in an argument on the set of Ross’s film, Mahogany. In 1977, Ross starred in her own one-woman show at Broadway, titled An Evening with Diana Ross. Her performance later resulted in her winning a Tony Award.

    After catching the group Chic at a concert where she attended with her daughters, Ross advised to the leaders of the band, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards to work with them in New York on her next album. They agreed and, in 1980, Ross released the Diana album. The album became her highest-charting solo album and her most successful, featuring hits including the number-one hit, “Upside Down,” her first song to reach the top position in four years. Another song, “I’m Coming Out,” became equally successful; its hook would later be sampled for “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.” Diana would become Ross’s final studio album under her Motown contract. She would later work on four songs to complete her contractual obligations for the compilation album, To Love Again, which would be released in May 1981. Though Ross had sought to leave Motown in 1980 shortly after the release of Diana, she discovered, just as she was planning to leave Motown, that she only had up to $150,000 in her name despite helping Motown to earn millions of dollars with her recordings in the twenty years she had been signed to the label. Ross signed with RCA on May 20, 1981, and her $20 million deal in 1981 became then the most lucrative contract of any recording artist at the time. After leaving, Ross achieved her sixth and final number-one hit with Lionel Richie on the ballad “Endless Love” around the same time Ross left the label.

    In 1971, Diana Ross began working on her first film, Lady Sings the Blues, which was a loosely based biography on music legend Billie Holiday. Some critics lambasted the idea of the singer playing Holiday considering how “miles apart” their styles were. At one point, Ross began talking with several of Holiday’s acquaintances and listened to her recordings to get into character. During an audition to acquire the role, Ross would act on cue to the film’s producers’s commands, helping Ross to win her part. When Berry Gordy heard Ross perform covers of Holiday’s material, he felt Ross had put “a little too much” Holiday in her vocal range, advising Ross to “put a little Diana back into it.”

    Ross also talked with doctors at drug clinics in research of the film, as Holiday had been a known drug addict. Ross would later make a crucial decision when it came to interpreting Holiday’s music: instead of flatly imitating Holiday, she only focused on Holiday’s vocal phrasing. “Lady Sings the Blues” opened in theaters in October 1972, becoming a major success in Ross’s career. Ross’s role in the film won her Golden Globe Award and Academy Award nominations for Best Actress. Alongside Cicely Tyson, who was nominated for her role in the film, Sounder, they were the first Black actresses to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress since Dorothy Dandridge. The soundtrack to “Lady Sings the Blues” became just as successful, reaching #1 on the Billboard 200 staying there for two weeks and breaking then-industry records by shipping 300,000 copies during the first eight days of its release. At nearly two million in sales, it is one of Ross’s best-selling albums to date.

    After the film, Ross returned to her music career, reemerging with another film in 1975 with Mahogany, her second film, in which she starred alongside Billy Dee Williams and whose costumes she designed. The story of an aspiring fashion designer who becomes a runway model and the toast of the industry, Mahogany was a troubled production from its inception. The film’s original director, Tony Richardson, was fired during production, and Berry Gordy assumed the director’s chair himself. In addition, Gordy and Ross clashed during filming, with Ross leaving the production before shooting was completed, forcing Gordy to use secretary Edna Anderson as a body double for Ross. While a box office success, the film was not well received by the critics: Time magazine’s review of the film chastised Gordy for “squandering one of America’s most natural resources: Diana Ross.”

    In 1977, Motown acquired the film rights to the Broadway play The Wiz, an African-American reinterpretation of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The film initially was to include the stage actors who had performed on the play. However, the role of Dorothy, which had been performed onstage by Stephanie Mills, would be given to Ross after she convinced film producer Rob Cohen to cast her in the role of Dorothy. This decision eventually led to a change in the film’s script in which Dorothy went from a schoolgirl to a schoolteacher. The role of the Scarecrow, also performed by someone else onstage, was eventually given to Ross’s former Motown label mate, Michael Jackson. The film adaptation of The Wiz had been a $24 million production, but upon its October 1978 release, it earned only $21,049,053 at the box office. Though pre-release television broadcast rights had been sold to CBS for over $10 million, the film produced a net loss of $10.4 million for Motown and Universal. At the time, it was the most expensive film musical ever made. The film’s failure ended Ross’s short career on the big screen and contributed to the Hollywood studios’s reluctance to produce the all-black film projects which had become popular during the blaxploitation era of the early to mid-1970s for several years. The Wiz was Ross’s final film for Motown.

    Ross had success with movie-themed songs. While her version of Holiday’s “Good Morning Heartache” only performed modestly well in early 1973, her recording of “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)” gave Ross her third number-one hit, in late 1975. Three years later, Ross and Michael Jackson had a modest dance hit with their recording of “Ease on Down the Road.” Their second duet, actually as part of the ensemble of The Wiz, “Brand New Day,” found some success overseas. Ross scored a Top 10 hit in late 1980 with the theme song to the 1980 film It’s My Turn. The following year, she collaborated with former Commodores singer-songwriter Lionel Richie on the theme song for the film Endless Love. The Academy Award-nominated title single became her final hit on Motown Records, and the number one record of the year. Several years later, in 1988, Ross recorded the theme song to The Land Before Time. “If We Hold On Together” became an international hit, reaching number-one in Japan.

    In 1984, Ross’s career spiked yet again with the release of the million-selling Swept Away. This featured a duet with Julio Iglesias, “All Of You,” which was featured on both the albums they had then released—his 1100 Bel Air Place as well as her Swept Away. It and the title selection both became international hits, as did the chart-topping ballad, “Missing You,” which was a tribute to Marvin Gaye, who had died earlier that year. Her 1985 album, Eaten Alive, found major success overseas with the title track and “Chain Reaction,” although neither of the songs became the best-sellers she was once accustomed to in America. Earlier in 1985, she appeared as part of the supergroup USA for Africa on the ‘”We Are the World“‘ charity single, which sold over 20 million copies worldwide. Ross’s 1987 follow up to Eaten Alive, Red Hot Rhythm & Blues, found less success than the prior album. In 1988, Ross chose to not renew her RCA contract. Around this same time, Ross had been in talks with her former mentor Berry Gordy to return to Motown. When she learned of Gordy’s plans to sell Motown, Ross tried advising him against the decision though he sold it to MCA Records in 1988. Following this decision, Gordy offered Ross a new contract to return to Motown with the condition that she have shares in the company as a part-owner. Ross accepted the offer.

    Despite its heavy promotion, Diana’s next album, Workin’ Overtime, was a critical and commercial failure. Subsequent follow-ups such as The Force Behind the Power(1991), Take Me Higher (1995), and Every Day Is a New Day (1999) produced similarly disappointing sales. Ross had more success overseas with the albums than she did in America. In 1994, Ross performed at the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup, hosted in the USA. Her performance has become a running joke in football circles due to her obvious miming and for missing the goal from close range. On January 28, 1996, Ross performed the Halftime Show at Super Bowl XXX.

    In 1999, she was named the most successful female singer in the history of the United Kingdom charts, based upon a tally of her career hits. Madonna would eventually succeed Ross as the most successful female artist in the UK.

    In 2004, after spending several years away from the spotlight and after a stint in jail for committing a DUI, Ross returned to live touring, first in Europe and then in the United States all within the same year. In 2005, she participated in Rod Stewart‘s Thanks for the Memory: The Great American Songbook, Volume IV recording a duet version of the Gershwin standard, “I’ve Got a Crush on You“. The song was released as promotion for the album and later reached number 19 on the Billboard’s Hot Adult Contemporary chart, marking her first Billboard chart entry since 2000. Ross was featured in another hit duet, this time with Westlife, on a cover of Ross’ 1991 hit, “When You Tell Me You Love Me”, which repeated the same chart success of the original just fourteen years before.

    In June 2006, Universal released Ross’ shelved 1972 Blue album. It peaked at #2 on Billboard’s jazz albums chart. Later in 2006, Ross released her first studio album in seven years with I Love You. It would be released on EMI/Manhattan Records in the United States in January 2007. EMI Inside later reported the album had sold more than 622,000 copies worldwide. Ross later ventured on a world tour to promote I Love You which garnered rave reviews. In 2007, she was honored twice, first with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the BET Awards and later was one of the honorees at the Kennedy Center Honors.

    In 2010, Ross embarked on her first headlining tour in three years titled the More Today Than Yesterday: The Greatest Hits Tour. She dedicated the entire concert tour to her late friend, Michael Jackson, who died in June 2009. Ross has garnered critical success as well as commercial success from the now two-year tour. In February 2012, Diana Ross received her first ever Grammy Award, for Lifetime Achievement, and announced the nominees for the Album of the Year. In May, a DVD of Ross’ Central Park concert performances, “For One & For All”, was released and featured commentary from Steve Binder, who directed the special.

  • Dred Scott – Civil rights activistdredscottDred Scott was born in sometime around the turn of the century, often fixed at 1795, in Southampton County, Virginia. Legend has it that his name was Sam, but when his elder brother died, he adopted his name instead. His parents were slaves, but it is uncertain whether the Blow family owned them at his birth or thereafter. Peter Blow and his family relocated first to Huntsville, Alabama, and then to St. Louis Missouri. After Peter Blow’s death, in the early 1830s, Scott was sold to a U.S. Army doctor, John Emerson.In 1836, Scott fell in love with a slave of another army doctor, 19-year-old Harriett Robinson, and her ownership was transferred over to Dr. Emerson when they were wed. In the ensuing years, Dr. Emerson traveled to Illinois and the Wisconsin Territories, both of which prohibited slavery. When Emerson died in 1846, Scott tried to buy freedom for himself and his family from Emerson’s widow, but she refused. Dred Scott made history by launching a legal battle to gain his freedom. That he had lived with Dr. Emerson in free territories become the basis for his case.

    The process began in 1846: Scott lost in his initial suit in a local St. Louis district court, but he won in a second trial, only to have that decision overturned by the Missouri State Supreme Court. With support from local abolitionists, Scott filed another suit in federal court in 1854, against John Sanford, the widow Emerson’s brother and executor of his estate. When that case was decided in favor of Sanford, that Scott turned to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    In December 1856, Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech, foreshadowing the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, examining the constitutional implications of the Dred Scott Case.

    On March 6, 1857, the Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford was issued, 11 long years after the initial suits. Seven of the nine judges agreed with the outcome delivered by Chief Justice Roger Taney, who announced that slaves were not citizens of the United States and therefore had no rights to sue in Federal courts: “… They had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” The decision also declared that the Missouri Compromise (which had allowed Scott to sample freedom in Illinois and Wisconsin) was unconstitutional, and that Congress did not have the authority to prohibit slavery.

    The Dred Scott decision sparked outrage in the northern states and glee in the south—the growing schism made civil war inevitable.

    Too controversial to retain the Scotts as slaves after the trial, Mrs. Emerson remarried and returned Dred Scott and his family to the Blows who granted them their freedom in May 1857. That same month, Frederick Douglassdelivered a speech discussing the Dred Scott decision on the anniversary of the American Abolition Society.

    Eventually, the 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution overrode this Supreme Court ruling.


Stray Toasters

And, with that, what has to be the post with the longest gestation time comes to an end.


Father’s Day 2012

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Sunday – 17 June 2012
It’s my first Father’s Day. And, so far, it’s been quite good.

I’d like to wish a “Happy Father’s Day” to the fathers out there, as well.

The day started with Team DiVa waking up at 7:00. It was slightly earlier than I had wanted to get up, but that’s the way it goes with twin-fants. That was followed by breakfast and play time, which translates (roughly) as: “Climb all over Mommy and Daddy Time.” But, they are cute. And learning to walk:

…so that helps make it a lot more bearable. (And, despite the workout, it’s fun.)

I’m not sure what the middle of the day holds, but I’m hoping for a trip to the Garden of Sweden.  This evening, we’re having Sara!’s parents over for dinner. And tonight, there may be some gaming: I’ve had an itch to play/finish LEGO: Batman.

Stray Toasters

Team DiVa will be up from their nap soon, so I should probably wrap this up.

In like a lion…

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In like a lion...

Thursday – 01 March 2012
March kicks off with an NBN Technical Friday.

And there’s snow; granted it’s from last night…

… but it’s still snow.

After getting Adventure Babies to bed last night, SaraRules! and I settled down to pizza and a movie. Yes, it was “Pasta and Movie Date Night,” but we decided to call an audible and have pizza instead. For our movie, we watched The Thing (2011), a prequel to the 1982 movie. It wasn’t awesome, but it was far from the worst movie that I’ve seen.

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Quote of the Day
Today’s nugget of wisdom comes by way of Texts From Last Night:

A houseboat for a bachelor party is a terrible idea, we nearly die when on dry land, so how the hell are we supposed to survive a 3 day binge on a massive lake?


“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.

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The not-so-bad Monday

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The not-so-bad Monday

Monday – 02 January 2012
A new week begins… but the new work week doesn’t begin until tomorning. I’m good with that.

We had a good New Year’s Day, despite a rather curious start to the (wee hours of the) morning. Utah recently changed their statutes on fireworks, making it permissible to have – and detonate – fireworks on New Year’s Eve. (It had previously been permissible on the Fourth of July and Pioneer Day.) As someone who’s set off fireworks at midnight on NYE in other states, I had no problem with this.

In theory.

In reality, it’s something quite different when you have two infants who are trying to sleep and the neighbors are whooping it up in the street, setting off all manners of fireworks.


Even then, I don’t think that I would have had an issue with it had it not been for a few things:

  1. We had gone to bed, pre-midnight, in anticipation of getting up in the middle of the night for a feeding.
  2. I had actually fallen asleep a little before midnight
  3. One group of neighbors apparently missed “midnight,” and started setting off some rather loud fireworks at 12:10.

Yeah, the 12:10 fireworks were loud enough to immediately rouse me and set me dashing into the girls’ room to make sure that they were still sleeping. Or approximating some semblance of sleep. They were. And, I don’t think that I’ve ever appreciated their sound machine (think: “white noise generator”) so much.

Yesterday wound up being a fairly low-key day. We started the morning with breakfast at Millcreek Cafe. From there, we made the year’s first pilgrimage to The Garden of Sweden. Amen. Back home for a bit and then we did some errand-running, before calling it a day. SaraRules! and I wound down the day watching a movie called Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. SaraRules! had wanted to see it since missing it at last year’s Sundance Film Festival; it showed up in our Netflix Instant Queue, so we watched it. It was, quite possibly, one of the best comedy/horror movies that I’ve seen in some time… if not ever. Sure, there were ridiculously silly points in the movie, but it was a lot of fun. I recommend it.

And, if you should need another reason to view it: It has Alan Tudyk in it.  (Browncoats will remember him from a little show called Firefly.)

Stray Toasters

The girls have their 4-month check-up in a little bit. More immunizations. This could make for an interesting afternoon.


It’s not “rainy,” “blue” or “manic,” but it is Monday.

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It's not "rainy," "blue" or "manic," but it is Monday.

Monday – 05 December 2011
Another work week sets upon us. And the day has been fairly busy, so far. I guess that’s a good thing. “Idle hands…” and whatnot.

The weekend was good. And, as weekends tend to be, too short. Highlights of the weekend included:

  • Spending time with the girls, while SaraRules! went to her quilt club.
  • Getting to judge a ‘Clix tourney for Dr. Volt’s Comic Connection.
  • Sunday morning breakfast at Millcreek Cafe with SaraRules! and the girls
    • Added bonus: Christy, one of our former Pin-up Girl Espresso baristas, was there!
  • A trip to The Garden of Sweden.
  • The Ravens won.

All those – and a few other – things combined for a good weekend.

Another thing from the weekend: Sunday was National Cookie Day. As readers may (or may not) have noticed, I’ve become “something” of a fan of RubySnap cookies. They’re pretty amazing cookies. ‘Nuff said. SaraRules! took the girls there on Saturday and picked up a couple of this month’s cookie, Noelle: a sweet potato maple with milk chocolate & pecans, topped with a dallop of maple cream and a pecan half.


SaraRules! and I both agreed: It was a seriously fantastic cookie. If you haven’t tried RubySnap cookies, I’m strongly suggesting – pretty much near insisting – that you do yourself a favor and stop in. Get a Noelle and see for yourself. You can thank me later.

Stray Toasters


“You’ve got to be a football hero…”

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"You've got to be a football hero..."

Monday – 07 November 2011
Another week begins. Fortunately, it’s my 9/80 short week.

And, today, Ms. Diana turns two-months-old:

The weekend was a good one.  Highlights included, but were not limited to:

  • SaraRules!’ birthday (yesterday)
  • Spending time with the girls
  • The Ravens beating the Steelers in the closing seconds of their game last night (!)
  • A trip to The Garden of Sweden
  • Picking up Gears of War 3

And then some.

Instant Replay: Football

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
23 – 20
The Ravens traveled to the Steel City to take on Big Ben, Troy Polamalu and the rest of the Steelers at Heinz Field.It was a slow, mostly defensive game – which fans pretty much expect from these two teams – with all of the scores in the first half coming from field goals. The Ravens went into halftime with a 9-6 lead.

After the half, Baltimore scored a TD in the third quarter to open up a 16-6 lead. And then,Pittsburgh went to work. They scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter…

…until, with 0:08 left in the game, QB Joe Flacco hit rookie WR Torrey Smith in the back of the end zone for the game-winning 26-yard touchdown — just five plays after dropping what would have been an even longer game-winning reception for touchdown.

Or, to put this in movie terms, I’ll take a line from Nick Fury in Iron Man 2:

Nick Fury: Whoa, whoa, whoa. He took it? You’re Iron Man and he just took it? The little brother walked in there, kicked your ass and took your suit? Is that possible?

Yeah, it was just. Like. That.

And this may be the best post-game quote that I’ve seen so far:

“Heinz Field emptied faster than a runny ketchup bottle.” – John Eisenberg

With this win, Baltimore has swept the Steelers for the season.

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“I don’t need no one to tell me about Heaven…”

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Sunday – 25 September 2011
On Friday night, SaraRules! and I did something that we haven’t been able to do in almost three weeks: Sit down, have dinner and watch a full hour of a TV program. It was a very nice slice of “Life will be like this again, someday.” That said, I wouldn’t give up parenthood – sleepless nights and all – for anything.

I slept in yesterday morning. It was both lovely and necessary, as I didn’t get a lot of sleep Thursday night and Friday night’s sleep was somewhat disrupted by making sure that a stuffed-up little girl could get comfortable and get some sleep herself. So, sleeping until 10:00 was a lovely thing. In the afternoon, we took the girls on their first trips to The Garden of Sweden and In-N-Out Burger. They handled it with their usual aplomb.

Two-and-a-half weeks. Wow.  And, how would I sum up my feelings about the twins? Probably a little like this:

Yeah, like that.

Stray Toasters


“In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight…”

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"In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight..."

Tuesday – 26 July 2011
Day two of the work week finds me down in the south 40 again. Unfortunately, I am braving it alone, as Minion #2 is on vacation this week. I shall persevere.

Last night, SaraRules! and I made a pilgrimage to the Garden of Sweden. All was well. We also decided to grab dinner at the local In-N-Out Burger. And, after we returned home, I set about migrating my MacBook from Snow Leopard to Lion. So far, it seems pretty decent. I’ll need to poke around under the hood a bit and see just how similar or different it is.

Chew on This: Food for Thought
Both of today’s items come by way of my friend, Janie. She’s found a couple of items in the news that are somewhat thought-provoking and pretty much straight out of the “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot…?!” file:

Stray Toasters

Quote of the Day
Today’s nugget of wisdom comes from Top Gear‘s own Jeremy Clarkson:

“Speed has never killed anyone. Suddenly becoming stationary, that’s what gets you.”


“There’ll be blue skies over Dundalk when I break your heart…”

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"There'll be blue skies over Dundalk when I break your heart..."

Monday – 27 June 2011
Another work week begins… as June draws to a close. Where does the time go? It seems as though June just started.

This was a good and rather busy weekend. And, it was productive, to boot: The yard has been mowed and edged. Another of the great wild shrubberies in the front yard has been introduced to the Sawzall. I have become a fan of the pruning blades for the Sawzall, might I add. And, the consolidation of SaraRules!’ and my offices has begun.

We also managed to hit the Utah Arts Festival; we went on Saturday, with our friend, Jana. The weather was quite nice and perfect for an afternoon in the sun. I picked up a few railroad-related prints while there. Imagine that. And, I also managed to come home with a half-pound of cinnamon-roasted almonds.

Yesterday was a somewhat l0w-key day. We went to the Wasatch Front Farmers Market in the morning. We ran into my friend, Peggy, and her family, which was a rather unexpected but pleasant surprise. We also made a pilgrimage to the Garden of Sweden. And had dinner with the in-laws.

Friday, I made it to the gym.  I think that I remember what I did…

  • Elliptical: 20 minutes, 1.9 miles (I averaged somewhere between 5.5 and 6.0 MPH)
  • Bench Press: 3 sets/8 reps, 155 lbs
  • Curls (dumbbell, seated): 3 sets/10 reps, 25 lbs
  • Lat Pull-downs: 3 sets/10 reps, 100 lbs
  • Leg Extensions: 3 sets/10 reps, 60 lbs
  • Leg Curls: 3 sets/10 reps, 60 lbs
  • Calf Raises: 3 sets/10 reps, 60 lbs

My left calf is still a bit sore. It’s made going up and down steps… fun… over the weekend.

Stray Toasters


Sunday, quiet and relaxed…

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Sunday, quiet and relaxed...

Sunday – 12 June 2011
It’s been a great day, so far… and it’s barely half done.

Last night, SaraRules! and I saw Super 8.

It’s definitely a classic J.J. Abrams production, in the vein of Cloverfield.  That said, I’ve seen enough variations in Mr. Abrams’ style to feel comfortable saying that I don’t think that he will become the same kind of one-trick pony that M. Night Shayamalan appears to have become.

This morning, I managed to sleep in (until 0830) and then decided to take a nice hot soak, while SaraRules! slept. After that, we got ready to meet Swiz and Logan at Wheeler Historic Farm for a visit to the opening of the Wasatch Front Farmers Market. It was a small affair – about 1/4 to 1/3 the size of the Downtown Farmers Market – but it was nice. We think that it’s still a little early in the season for vegetables, so there should be some growth as Spring moves into Summer. After wandering around the Market, we strolled around the animal areas for a bit. (It wasn’t the longest or most strenuous walk ever, but I’m counting it as today’s exercise.)

After we left Wheeler Farm, SaraRules! and I headed to Old Mill Park to take a look at the Spring run-off. I made a short video of it.

I’m not sure what the rest of the day holds in store… aside from a trip to The Garden of Sweden.

Stray Toasters

That’s good for now.  Time to get out and enjoy the rest of the day…


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


Monday, Monday…

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Monday, Monday...

Monday – 09 May 2011
It’s a rainy night in Georgia day here in the Land Behind the Zion Curtain. (But, at least it isn’t snowing, like it is in the southern part of the state.)

Yesterday was a long day. Not because I had so many things to do. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I had so much free time that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.

I started by sleeping in. That was followed by mowing the lawn (before it started raining). After a quick shower, I was hit with the first bout of indecision over what to do. I passed the time by surfing the Internet. When I finally got it in mind to get something to eat, it was early afternoon. I decided to head up to MacCool’s Public House. I had Finn’s Skins, along with the Buffalo Shepherd’s Pie… and a pint o’ Guinness. After lunch, I stopped in to wish

Back home for Round 2 of “What Do I Do Now?” (That, again, translated into some more surfing.) I also started looking at a couple of books that contained some ideas that I want to incorporate into my train layout. Yes, I believe that the layout – or at least half of it – might get a bit of an overhaul in the next few days. Around 6:15, I decided to have some more limited human interaction by heading over to the local Barnes & Noble and doing some drawing. Fortunately, I decided to look up the store’s hours before driving there: The store closed at 7:00. Feh. More surfing. I remembered that I still needed to do some grocery shopping, so I did that.

After I returned home, I put away the goods, ran a load of dishes and treated myself to a snack and some TV time. I caught up on a little more Human Target – and cleared a bit more space on the DVR – before calling it a night.

Stray Toasters

And now… Lunch from the Chow Truck!