Union Pacific's Great Excursion Adventure

Where in the world…?

comics and animation, everyday glory, geekery, music, the world, travel, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot...?! No Comments »
Where in the world...?

Thursday – 21 August 2014
I’ll just go ahead and apologize up front for this post now.

I found the last picture in this post – HEY! No skipping ahead! – a few years ago. It still makes me laugh. I found the other pictures over the past week, while looking for something totally unrelated.

Separately, they all have their amusing points.

Collectively, they tell something of a story.

I imagine it going a little something like this…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Namaste.

It’s the post that never ends…

books, comics and animation, event, everyday glory, family and friends, geekery, movies and TV, music, travel No Comments »
It's the post that never ends...

Tuesday – 15 July 2014 Thursday – 24 July 2014
A new week is upon us now two days old.
An even newer week is upon us… and is almost over.

That’s right, this is a post that’s been so delayed and off-put that it’s taken over a week to complete. I’m just going to leave the core of the original post in place and just append the newest additions to the end of it. Because I can.

Tw0 weekends past This was a good weekend. We kicked it off Friday evening with the Deer Valley Music Festival – Utah Symphony performed the music of John Williams. And, as if they knew that I was in the audience, they opened the concert with Superman March. The concert wasn’t solely Williams’ music;  Team DiVa even heard a song that they recognized: On the Beautiful Blue Danube, which they know from their Classical Baby DVDs. After the concert and after the girls were in bed, I played ‘Clix with coworker Adam… until the wee hours of the morning.

Which made for a short sleep cycle on Saturday, as little girls bounded into our room before 8 AM. I spent the better part of the day with them, as it was Sara!’s Saturday to play. This included letting them watch The Lion King... which lead to Vanessa singing I Just Can’t Wait To Be King Begin.

All. Night. Long.

It was more funny than annoying.

That Sunday, we got up and went to breakfast at Millcreek Cafe and Eggworks. Then it was off to run a few errands and then back home to get ready for our annual ice cream social. This year, we had more kids than we have in the past. We also prepared for this with: Ice cream cones! I am happy to report that the cones were not only a hit, but were utilized with minimal spillage!

Ten days ago Yesterday was Monday. ‘Nuff said.

This past weekend, we headed up to Idaho to celebrate Sara!’s grandmother’s 90th birthday, which was actually last November. But, as it fell right before the holidays, the family decided to hold off until (nearly) everyone would be available to convene and celebrate it. So, this summer was chosen as the “when” and central Idaho was chosen as the “where.”

I like traveling. Granted, I haven’t done a lot of it in the past few years, but I do enjoy it. With toddlers being added to the mix, there are things that you learn and accommodations that must be made in travel arrangements. Things like: Potty breaks. Before children, pit stops and bathroom breaks only occurred once every couple of hours, if that often. With kids who are on the tail-end of potty training, these breaks become more of an “ad-hoc” thing. And the ad-hoc can be pretty damned often. Case in point:

  • Sara and I have made the same trip, before kids, in a little over five hours.
  • This trip (to Idaho, at least) took roughly 7.5 hours, including six (6) bathroom stops – a couple of which I don’t even want to talk about – and a stop for dinner.
  • The trip back was about six hours – with only one stop for a potty emergency.

The trip itself was fun, though brief. We got in late Friday evening; Sara! scored us wonderful accommodations, via AirBnB. We stayed in what was effectively a mother-in-law apartment of a home overlooking the Salmon River — the river was about 50′ from our bedroom patio door:

airbnb

IMG_0160

This also offered Team DiVa the opportunity to throw rocks into the river, which they did with great aplomb.

Saturday, we spent the day with the family – aunts, uncles, cousins, kith an kin. And Sara’s  grandmother, of course.

IMG_0136

Sara made a quilt for the occasion, with hand-signed/stamped/imprinted pieces from everyone  – except the newest addition (within the past few months) – in the family:

IMG_0150

It was nice to have a chance to visit with everyone. That evening, we headed back to the apartment to put the girls to bed (well past their usual bedtime). Sunday morning, we woke up, got dressed, packed and hit the road… back into town, for breakfast. We ate at the Tea Cup Cafe & Bakery. It was an unexpectedly refreshing place. And, I would have to agree with the high ratings on Yelp.

On the way back to SLC, we stopped in Arco, ID. Why? Because there’s a submarine sail there. Why? Okay, that one, I can’t really answer.

USS Hawkbill (SSN-666)

After that, we stopped at EBR-1 for the Team DiVa’s first nuclear power plant field trip.

ebr1

No, it didn’t trigger any latent X-genes or metagenes. Unfortunately. They had a ball. We made it back home without too much incident.

Stray Toasters

  • Today is Pioneer Day in Utah.
  • Today is also National Tequila Day.
  • I find it highly amusing that the two fall on the same day.
  • On a recent trip to the party supply store, we bought superhero masks for the girls, in four different colors. Why? To keep them from stealing mine. Because they liked them. Earlier this week, they decided to wear them in the car on their way to day care.
    20140723_173552
    Sara! asked who they were.
    Diana (green mask) said, “Green Lantern!”  (Yeah, definitely my kid.)
    Vanessa (blue mask): “Somersault!”
    (Backstory: A couple days ago, their Aunt Jen was teaching them to do somersaults in the back yard. I guess it made something of an impression.)
  • I finished listening to Stranger in a Strange Land last week; it was the first time I’ve read/listened to the book in at least ten years. I read something recently that posited that Jubal Harshaw, not Valentine Michael Smith, was actually the protagonist of the book. Looking back, I can see some validity to that argument.
  • Plum Stitch. If you haven’t been there, go now. I’ll wait right here until you get back.
  • I introduced the girls to Smashmouth’s Walking on the Sun this morning last week. It went over well.
  • Coworker Brad and I have been recasting movies and TV shows today. It’s helped to make the day pass rather quickly.
  • I’ve found that watching My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic with the girls isn’t so bad.
    What is bad: When the vershluggen theme song pops into your head as an earworm.
  • One week ’til Guardians of the Galaxy. Tickets have been acquired.

That’s all. For now.

Namaste.

Team DiVa/No Bad News Thursday

engagement/wedding/marriage, event, everyday glory, family and friends, music, opera, travel No Comments »
Team DiVa/No Bad News Thursday

Thursday – 08 May 2014
First off: “Happy birthday” to my stepmother and brother!

147 456

Around the homestead, things have been good. Not to say that they haven’t been “interesting,” but the overall take is “good.” Most of the “interesting” revolves around Team DiVa. Go figure. Here are just a few examples:

  • Almost every car ride is either narrated or seranaded. If it’s the latter, it can be pretty much anything, from Wheels on the Bus (Go Round and Round) to I’ve Been Working on the Railroad (which I did not teach them, by the way) to Three Little Birds to Hourglass.
  • We went to the zoo last weekend, to check out the lions at the partially-opened African Savannah (among other animals).  The girls liked the lions, but weren’t terribly impressed. Granted, the lions were just lying there surveying things like they owned the place. And I can’t lie, I thought about this:

    …more than once. It made me grin like a fiend.
  • Sara! introduced the girls to taking showers last week. They have been a pretty big hit. I’m sure that it would also look rather comical to an onlooker. (Hell, it looks pretty comical to me when I’m giving the showers.) It’s usually Sara! or me in gym- or swimwear, and one or two very soapy and giggly little girls. This is something of a departure from just a few months ago, when the shower was very much a “nope, not me” thing for them, even if it was just to wash their hair.
  • We’ve returned to story time before bedtime. The girls pick their favorite-book-of-the-night (which can change at a moment’s whim) for us to read. A couple of nights ago, we started story time with Vanessa’s book. When it was time for Diana’s book, she informed me that she was going to read it. And proceeded to “read” it… the only thing: It wasn’t exactly the story as I remembered it, but it was awesome – and a bit hilarious – to hear her take on it.
  • Yesterday morning, we were awakened by both little ladies coming into our room to climb into our bed. At 6:30, a full hour before they usually get up. We still haven’t gotten the real reason “why,” but I suspect that someone had a bad dream. Usually, when they come into our room on the weekends, shortly after they climb into bed – and when they are done with family cuddles – they want to “do/play Globey,” which is their term for playing with the World Atlas app on my iPad. In order to (hopefully) stem the tide on that, I told them that we couldn’t do Globey since it wasn’t Saturday or Sunday. Surprisingly, they accepted that at face value and didn’t ask about it again.
  • Last night, when I came home from work, after saying my “Hellos,” I sprawled out on the living room floor. What I didn’t know, was that this was apparently the international signal for the girls to pile onto my back. At one point, it was… uncomfortable. I made this know by saying “Ow!” At this point, Diana got off my back; Vanessa, instead, stayed on my back, but kissed me on the back of my neck and rubbed my head.

And, I should probably throw a couple of pictures of the girls up here, as well:

photo 2

photo 1

…and, if I can get this to work, even a video:

Fun with Meerkats!
[KGVID width=”568″ height=”320″]http://blog.echopulse.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/IMG_2380.mov[/KGVID]

Stray Toasters

And with that…

Namaste.

“Now is the little girl a bride…”

dining and cuisine, engagement/wedding/marriage, event, everyday glory, family and friends, food for thought, kids, style and fashion, travel, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot...?! No Comments »
"Now is the little girl a bride..."

Monday – 17 June 2013 Tuesday – 18 June 2013
This has been a wonderful (and wonderfully taxing, at times) trip. In doing the pre-vacation math, I figured out that I haven’t been home in three years (NC) or five years (MD). That is far too long. If it’s within my power, it won’t be so long between visits the next time. And hopefully not nearly as harried, either.

The impetus for this trip was to see my youngest sister get married. (And to be in the wedding, too, but that wasn’t the main point.) On Saturday, Kristen jumped the proverbial broom. Jeff, her new husband, has been nothing but a stand-up guy in my encounters with him; I’m happy to welcome him into the family. I could not be happier for nor prouder of Kristen. And I feel all the more privileged by the fact that I was able to be a part of her special day.

Jeff and Kristen

Jeff and Kristen

But, let’s backtrack a bit…

We left the Zion Curtain behind in Wednesday. We got up, out and on the way to the airport for Team DiVa’s first trip on an airplane and their first visit to the Right Coast. I can happily say that they did very well on the ride, although Vanessa had a bit of a meltdown about 20 minutes before the plane landed.

The girls have talked with my father on Skype on many occasions, but Wednesday was the first time they met him, so there was a bit of “we think we know this guy” warm-up time involved. But after that, Vanessa would hardly let the man out of her sight. It was a constant barrage of “Ga’pa!” “Ga’pa!” Morning. Night. And if we went out, the first person she wanted to see when we got back was… you guessed it… “Ga’pa!”

Vanessa and Grandpa - BFFs

Vanessa and Grandpa – BFFs

Thursday, we ran out to visit my aunt, who also babysat me when I was the girls’ age. We actually paid her and my uncle a surprise visit. It was exactly the reaction that I expected and totally worth the trip. There was also a sense of… a “Circle of Life” kind of completion, I guess… in having the girls running around and playing in the same place I played as a kid.

20130617-003940.jpg

20130617-004153.jpg

Thursday afternoon, Rana came into town and brought Grace, Sophia and Leila up to meet the girls.

Bit, Pixel, Rana and Widget

Bit, Pixel, Rana and Widget

Bit and Pixel

Grace and Sophia

Other than the occasional video chat, I haven’t seen Grace or Sophia since Sara! and I got married and I’d never met Leila. All three are fine young ladies. Grace, being three-and-a-half years older than our girls, was more patient than I had expected. (Of course, having two younger sisters probably factors into it somewhere…) Sophia was the mediator, trying to calmly settle “I want this toy now” fights by saying that they all had to share. Leila, being the same age ( plus two weeks) as Team DiVa, just wanted to know “Who are these new kids and why are they playing with my toys?!” The eight off us went out for a late lunch at Earth Wood and Fire.

Friday, we got up and hit the road for North Carolina. We got a slightly earlier start than I had originally planned and it was a good thing: Traffic was snarled in a few places and we had to make longer-than-I-was-used-to stops with toddlers. The car ride was not as idyllic as the plane ride had been – there were mini-meltdowns along the way. Add to this, the fact that we were under the gun, with respect to time, as I needed to pick up and try on my tuxedo (in Greensboro) before heading to the hotel (in Winston-Salem) and on to the wedding rehearsal. Ugh… But, we made it. I was late to the rehearsal, but I was there. I also finally got to meet my niece (Kris’ daughter), Kennadi, for the first time:

Kennadi

Kennadi

The rehearsal dinner was at a nice event center/art gallery. The girls did fairly well, putting up with being fawned over with their usual aplomb until they hit the wall and were just done width everyone. It’s worked out well for Sara! and me: We took the opportunity to stop at a nearby Bojangle’s for Cajun Filet Biscuits and seasoned fries. (Vanessa helped herself to about a quarter oh my sandwich.)

Saturday, we headed to Greensboro to meet Don, Christine and their boys for lunch at Five Guys. It was great to see them and to be able to catch up with what’s been going on in each others’ lives. After lunch and a quick shopping run, it was back to Winston-Salem to get ready for the wedding.

Dressed. Up. Out.

Until the wedding pictures are back, this is the only picture I have of me in my wedding tuxedo.

Until the wedding pictures are done, this is the only photo I have of me in my wedding tuxedo. (Along with my Godsister, Tammy)

The venue was only a couple of blocks from the hotel, so we walked over. Unfortunately, there was a bicycle race going on between both places. Thus, we had to wait for breaks in the action – and the go-ahead from local law enforcement – to walk across the streets. When we got to the event center, I headed off to find the wedding party, leaving Sara! to wrangle Team DiVa by herself.

Things did not go well.

Why? Well, between me posting pictures of the girls in various places and my mother doing the same, there were A LOT of people who wanted to meet the girls in person. Let’s look at a few simple facts:

  • Two toddlers,
  • One long plane ride,
  • One long car trip,
  • Off-kilter sleep schedule (especially naps), and
  • Dozens of people who want to pinch/poke/prod/kiss/cuddle/you-name-it the girls.

Yeah, you add those things up and they can only equal one thing: Meltdown.

And that’s exactly what happened. They hit their threshold for dealing with people – especially a bunch of people they didn’t know – and just hit the wall. And Sara! had to deal with it. (I really do have the Best Wife Ever.) Here’s a picture she managed to get between episodes:

DiVa_meltdown

Sara managed to intermittently calm the girls down with crackers and water. This was one of those moments.

The three of them missed the ceremony and the reception. I missed most of the wedding party photos because we took the girls back to the hotel after the the ceremony; Sara! sent me back to the reception. (To my credit, I did bring her food and cake when I got back to the hotel.)

Sunday, we left Winston-Salem and headed back to Greensboro. On the way, I stopped in to see William and Charlie. They and their family are doing well. From there, it was on to Harlem Bistro for a small brunch for Kris and Jeff before they jetted off on their honeymoon.

Kristen, Kennadi and Jeff

Kristen, Kennadi and Jeff

We headed to Reidsville to get a hotel room for the night and to let Team DiVa get a nap. It partially worked. We got the room and they got a nap, but they never made it to the room for their nap. I wound up driving them around town while the room was being prepared. Go figure. Since the girls were up, we headed to my mother’s house for a bit. They discovered Mom’s piano. Mom, in turn, asked when we were signing them up for lessons.

Monday, it was back over to Mom’s before hitting the road again. We picked up breakfast and spent a little time with the North Carolina parental units before piling back into the car for the journey to the Baltimore parental units’ house. Team DiVa not only rediscovered the piano…

Is anyone really surprised by this...? I think not.

Is anyone really surprised by this…? I think not.

…but they also played with Kennadi…

Team DiVa and Team Kennadi, just hanging out...

Team DiVa and Team Kennadi, just hanging out…

…at least as much as an 8-month-old can play with two year-and-a-half old toddlers. But, they made it work. All too soon, it was time to say goodbye.

On the way back to Baltimore, we stopped off to visit Sara!’s cousin, Katie, Royce and their kids. Turns out that they don’t live too far from Rana and John. (Good to know for the next time we’re on this side of the country.) The visit was nice not only because we got to see Katie and company, but also because Team DiVa had someone to play with for a bit.

We finally made it back to Baltimore and reunited Vanessa with her BFF. And all was well.

Tomorrow Today, I have some running around to do, but I also get to spend a little time with Bret, whom I haven’t seen in at least five years, and some of my classmates from Park, whom I haven’t seen in 25 years.

It should be a good day.

Namaste.

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen…”

boxing, business and economy, comics and animation, computers, education, everyday glory, food for thought, geekery, health, history, IKEA, movies and TV, music, people, politics and law, space, sports, style and fashion, the world, travel No Comments »
"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:

IMG_0006

Umm, Daddy… why are we just sitting here?

IMG_0008

Sara! and Vanessa

IMG_0007

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.jpg-6303

    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.

Namaste.

‘Clix, Opera and the AFC

business and economy, dining and cuisine, event, everyday glory, family and friends, football, games, history, house and home, movies and TV, opera, style and fashion, travel, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot...?! No Comments »
'Clix, Opera and the AFC

Monday – 20 January 2013
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

martin-luther-king

mlk2005_noline

This past weekend was a good weekend.

Saturday, I judged a HeroClix tournament. I set up an event for my friend, Keith, who is in town on vacation. Keith was the judge for ‘Clix tournaments when I first started playing, so I was happy to do it. There was a good turn out for the game – we wound up with 12 players.

After the game, Sara! and I headed out for the evening.

IMG_0023

That’s right, time to break out the tuxedo..

It was the opening night for Utah Opera’s staging of Florencia En El Amazonas:

IMG_0029

This is a fairly “new” opera, first staged in 1996. The set design also included a projected background, which changed over the course of the opera, making it appear that the boat (the main piece of scenery) was traveling on the Amazon River.

The Utah Opera costume shop also did an outstanding job of outfitting the cast. There was also a big of… whimsy in some of the ladies’ dress designs. I was particularly taken with the costuming of one of the male leads, to the point of wanting a couple of the pieces for my own wardrobe.

The music for the opera was well-suited to the story. It wasn’t oppressive or heavy; on the contrary, it was lively and, quite frankly, beautiful.

Something else that I enjoyed was that the libretto was amazingly well done. The stories in many operas are fanciful and often rely on some “magical thing” to happen to wrap things up by the coda. That wasn’t the case in this opera. Far from it, in fact. It was easily one of the – if not THE – most realistic bit of storytelling I’ve seen in an opera. The characters were… human, not just characters and far from being caricatures. Their motivations and reactions were incredibly well-grounded.

I haven’t determined exactly where it falls, but this is definitely on my favorite opera list. I highly recommend  seeing it to any and every one.

Sunday, or at least the early part of it, was mostly spent around the house. The afternoon, however, was dedicated to football. Brad and Keith came over to watch the AFC Championship Game…

Instant Replay: Football

Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots
28 – 13
The Ravens headed to Foxboro, Massachusetts to take on the New England Patriots in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship:

  1. The Patriots beat the Ravens in last year’s matchup.
  2. The Ravens beat the Patriots in Week 3 of the regular season.
  3. Coming into today’s game, Tom Brady was 5-2, all-time, against the Ravens.
  4. The Pats were 9-point favorites.

There was a lot of expectation that tonight’s game would turn out like last year’s…

…but the Ravens and their fans knew that they didn’t want Ray Lewis’ “Last Ride” to end in New England.

The game was close in the first half, with New England drawing first blood with a field goal. Baltimore answered with a touchdown in the second quarter. New England put up another FG in the 2nd and the teams went into halftime with the Pats up 13-7.

The second half belonged to the Ravens. They put up another 21 points while keeping the Pats out of the end zone and out of field goal range.

On the Pats’ last drive, Brady was moving his team downfield well. It looked like they were about to put 6 points on the board until Cary Williams picked off a pass.

Joe Flacco was able to take a knee and send the Ravens to their first Super Bowl in 12 years.

ravens_afc_champs

Congratulations to the Ravens on a fantastic and well-played game.

On to New Orleans, where the Ravens and Head Coach John Harbaugh will face the San Francisco 49ers, coached by former Ravens QB Jim Harbaugh… John’s brother.

20_FinalStop_home

Stray Toasters

Yeah, my team is going to the Super Bowl. Boom!

Namaste.

And then there was Friday.

art, comics and animation, computers, event, everyday glory, games, geekery, kids, movies and TV, the world, travel, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot...?! No Comments »

Friday – 11 January 2013
Today has been a good day. Even with all the snow.

The morning commute was about a half-hour long, give or take. The drive was made a little better with the addition of two fifty-pound bags of salt to the trunk. (I have a rear-wheel drive car that apparently puts out A LOT of torque at low speed.) But, on the whole, it was uneventful.

The evening commute was slower than expected, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as last night’s two-hour journey. I made it home in about 45 minutes.

Stray Toasters

And that’s a wrap.

Namaste.

“I am the law.”

comics and animation, everyday glory, games, LEGO and Rokenbok, movies and TV, office antics, the world, travel No Comments »

Wednesday – 09 January 2013
It’s midweek…
New comics (and maybe a ‘Clix or two) day…
And Movie Date Night!

The workday has been… busy. Not cripplingly so, but enough to keep me engaged for the better part of the day.

Last night, Sara went off to Girls’ Night Out, so I stayed home with Team DiVa, had Chinese food for dinner and watched three episodes of the Christopher Eccleston Doctor Who.

This morning, my mother in law posted the following Team DiVa video:

Tonight’s Movie Date Night fare: Dredd.  (So far, it’s not bad.)

Stray Toasters

Yeah, that’s going to do it for now.

Namaste.

 

Three years and one day.

dining and cuisine, engagement/wedding/marriage, everyday glory, family and friends, movies and TV, trains/model railroads, travel No Comments »
Three years and one day.

Thursday – 04 October 2012
First off, let me wish my Godsister, Tammy, a very happy birthday.

Next, I have to say that Sara! and I had a great third anniversary yesterday. And, we’d like to say “Thank you,” to our well-wishers.

My in-laws came over to watch the girls so that Sara and I could enjoy a day off together. We spent the late morning and early afternoon on the Heber Valley Historic Railroad.

Knowing my love of trains, Sara! thought that I would enjoy a scenic train ride.

She was right.

We rode on the Provo Canyon Limited. The trip is a little over sixteen (16) miles, each way, but takes roughly three hours to complete. The train was even “robbed” at one of the stops. Michael, our tour guide, and Greg, our conductor, also provided historic information about the train and some of the places that we passed through.

And, on the whole: It was a lot of fun. Pictures of the trip can be seen here.

After the train trip, we drove up to The Sundance Resort for lunch at The Foundry Grill. Although I’ve been in Utah for… fourteen years, as of yesterday… it was my first time at Sundance. It was quite nice, especially with the fall foliage. For lunch, I had a steak sandwich with garlic fries; Sara had a Reuben with sweet potato fries. We both thought that our respective meals were good.

After we returned home, we picked up the girls and headed out to The Cheesecake Factory for anniversary dessert. We returned home with four kinds of cheesecake:

  • Chocolate Mousse,
  • Dulce de Leche,
  • Pumpkin, and
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cake Cheesecake.

After dinner and the girls were put to bed, we fired up Stardust (a movie we both enjoy), opened a bottle of champagne and set to work on the cheesecake. We made it through the movie, but only  half of each piece of cheesecake. So rich. But, oh so good, too.

All-in-all, it was a great way to end the day.

Namaste.

“There and Back Again” (…or something to that effect)

bowling, event, everyday glory, family and friends, kids, travel No Comments »
"There and Back Again" (...or something to that effect)

Monday – 09 July 2012
And, we’re back.

Thursday night, we packed up Team DiVa and drove to Idaho. This marked the girls’ third road trip in three-and-a-half months. We went for a memorial service for Sara!’s grandfather.

We also unlocked a few achievements on the trip:

  1. Achievement Unlocked: #TeamDiVa‘s First National Park/Monument +10 Points
  2. Achievement Unlocked: #TeamDiVa‘s First Trip to Redfish Lake
  3. Achievement Unlocked: Add “Idaho” to the “States I’ve Bowled In” list. +10 points

All-in-all, it was a good trip… a little tiring, due to its whirlwind nature, but good.  And the girls traveled well, once again.

I will most likely post more pictures of the weekend later.  But for now…

…on to the week!

Namaste.

Father’s Day 2012

art, business and economy, event, everyday glory, exhibits, games, history, IKEA, kids, LEGO and Rokenbok, movies and TV, music, space, style and fashion, travel, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot...?! No Comments »

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.
Namaste.

The Green… Nightlight?

comics and animation, computers, dining and cuisine, event, everyday glory, games, geekery, health, history, kids, LEGO and Rokenbok, movies and TV, robots and AI, science and technology, space, the world, travel, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot...?! No Comments »
The Green... Nightlight?

Thursday – 14 June 2012
Not only is it another NBN Thursday in the valley, but today is also Flag Day.

In Team DiVa news: The girls apparently want to skip crawling and go straight to walking:

Vanessa (l) and Diana

They are “cruising,” where they’ll hold onto something and attempt to use it to toddle around. But, anything that makes a sound sometimes distracts them, which leads to a problem with that pesky “balance” thing that they haven’t managed to overcome yet… and most often winds up with a gravity-induced sitting down.

Diana will… pseudo-crawl… but that’s usually only under duress and/or to get closer to someone who will hopefully pick her up. Go figure.

Last night, Sara! (a.k.a. “She Who Still Rules”) and I watched John Carter (not to be confused with Coach Carter) for Movie Date Night.

I haven’t read Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars yet, so I don’t know how faithful or far afield the movie’s plot was from the source material. But, it was an enjoyable film. Yes, we did wind up MST3K-ing parts, but… *shrug*… what’re ya gonna do?

Stray Toasters

Friday: Stuff, Things and What-not

books, business and economy, environment, event, everyday glory, house and home, kids, space, travel, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot...?! No Comments »
Friday: Stuff, Things and What-not

Friday – 08 June 2012
It’s not just Friday…
Nor is it only Diana-Vanessa-Daddy Day…
Today is also the day that Vanessa turns 9-months-old:

The girls are taking their morning nap. After that, there will be some playtime. Then lunch. Then we’ll figure out whether we’re going somewhere before or after their afternoon nap. Most likely, it will be a post-nap excursion.

Stray Toasters

Twins are up… and after a longer-than-I-expected nap.  Back to hanging out with them.

Namaste.

Wednesday and all’s well…

books, computers, environment, everyday glory, food for thought, games, geekery, health, house and home, LEGO and Rokenbok, movies and TV, science and technology, the world, travel, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot...?! No Comments »
Wednesday and all's well...

Wednesday – 06 June 2012
Midweek.
New comics day.
Pasta and Movie Date Night… maybe.

Yesterday, the destruction of the grotto demolition of the gazebo was complete. There’s now just a slight depression (and a little debris) where the gazebo once stood. Pictures here. Now, we just need to decide what we want to do with the space.

Last night, Logan and Sanaz came over to watch the girls so that SaraRules! and I could have an actual, out-of-the-house date night. It was glorious. We went to see The Avengers – second time for me, first time for SaraRules… and it was just as much fun the second time around. While she enjoyed the movie, I had to ‘splain a few things about characters to SaraRules! after the movies. (Comics, go figure.) But, it was a great way to spend a Tuesday evening.

And, yesterday also saw a notable dip in temperatures around here.  It was in the upper 90s on Monday; yesterday barely made 60.  And last night, we actually had to turn on the furnace. Yeah. Welcome to June in Utah.

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

A pre-summer Monday…

cars, comics and animation, computers, education, event, everyday glory, food for thought, geekery, health, house and home, kids, movies and TV, music, politics and law, space, style and fashion, the world, trains/model railroads, travel, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot...?! 3 Comments »
A pre-summer Monday...

Monday – 04 June 2012
A new week is here.

The weekend was good – and fairly busy – weekend. We started with a pancake breakfast/car show, supporting the local Boy Scout troop. Next, SaraRules! went to quilt club while I stayed home with Team DiVa. After she got back, I headed out to judge a ‘Clix tourney. And, if that wasn’t enough: We also attended a friend’s birthday party.

Saturday night has now unofficially become “Action Movie Saturday Date Night.” We didn’t know what we wanted to watch, so we left it up to the Fickle Finger of Fate method of “Hey, what does Netflix have to offer?” We wound up watching Trollhunter:

It was surprisingly fun. And funny. We went into it with no real expectations or assumptions, but were quite well entertained by the time the credits rolled. I also found that I liked what they did with some of the mythology of the creatures.

Sunday was a little more relaxed… although it did start early: We hit the Wasatch Front Farmers Market. The rest of the day was spent mostly hanging out with SaraRules! and Team DiVa. I wrapped up the evening upgrading my game box from Windows XP to Windows 7. Finally. And by “upgrading,” I mean “I did a clean install on a bigger hard drive.” Now, I just need to reinstall the games. And remember to copy my bookmarks over.

And, speaking of Team DiVa:

Diana (in her custom Batgirl onesie)

Vanessa (in her custom Flash onesie)

Stray Toasters

Namaste.