Union Pacific's Great Excursion Adventure

And so it was, later, as the miller told his tale…

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And so it was, later, as the miller told his tale...

Thursday – 05 January 2017
Welcome to 2017 (five days after the fact…)! So far, my fingers have cooperated in correctly typing/writing “2017,” when writing the date.

Long story, short version: Christmas and New Year were good…

…even though I had to come in to work on the last day of my break to – literally – flip a switch. Twice.

At ridiculous o’clock on 02 Jan, I got a call from our NOC saying that they’d lost the heartbeat for our fax server. (Yes, fax. Yes, 21st Century. *shrug* Don’t ask me.) I said that I’d try to access it remotely… at a reasonable hour. After the sun was up. And the office was closed on the second, anyway.

Sometime later in the morning, I logged in and tried to access the server. No go, Flight. That meant that I had two courses of action:

  1. Go in and reset it,
  2. Let it swing until Tuesday morning.

The problem with Option 2 (which would have been my preference) was that our finance department actually receives invoices via fax. So… Option 1 it was. I somehow managed to convince Sara and Team DiVa to make an excursion out of it. (This turned out to be a “good” thing.)

Went to the office. Went into server room. Flipped switch. Flipped switch again. Left server room. Called the NOC to confirm that the alert had actually cleared. Got ready to leave.

Got the building lobby and realized I’d apparently left my house and car keys upstairs in the office. *sigh*  Fine. I asked Sara to get the girls in the car while I ran upstairs to retrieve them…

…only to find, once I’d gotten to my office’s elevator lobby, that I’d left my badge in the office, as well.

::: braincramp :::

Fortunately, there were a few people from our finance department in the office; one of them let me in. I went to my desk to get my badge and keys, only to find them suspisciously not… there…

*grblsnrkx*

Yep, I’d locked them – badge-locked, of course – in the server room. Resigned, I headed back downstairs. Fortunately, we’d taken Sara’s car and she had her keys – my car and the key to it were still at home.

Ridiculous, but it makes for a good “At least you didn’t…,” laugh-at-yourself kind of story.

Other than that, things have been kind of quiet. I’m good with that.

Oh, and it snowed last night. About four-ish inches in the valley. It made this morning’s commute “fun.” And by “fun,” I mean “slow and annoying.” On the plus side, it did make the air a little less chewy.

Stray Toasters

And, that’s a wrap for now.

Namaste.

Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas!

Sunday – 25 December 2016

Christmas 2016

 

Wishing you all the best this holiday season!

May your Christmas be merry, your Kwanzaa be joyous, and your Hannukah and New Year be happy!

 

Life, in a Nutshell

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Life, in a Nutshell

Wednesday – 26 October 2016
Today marked my successful completion of another orbit of the sun while, simultaneously, eluding the grasp of The Dark Lady. In accordance with International Robert Neal Days past, I took today off from work. I also took the rest of the week off… because.

The past week was full. I don’t mean that in the sense of “I had so many things going on,” although, that’s not untrue. I mean it in the sense that I got to spend much of the week in the company of some rather fantastic people. The week started with breakfast with my high school classmate, James, and his family…

Breakfast with the Leventhals

Breakfast with the Leventhals

…then there was stuff and things in the middle of the week (mostly work)…

…capped off with a co-birthday celebration on Saturday with Alex and some of our friends. And if I want to extrapolate a bit and add this past Sunday, there was dinner with the in-laws AND Sara’s grandmother.

It was a good week. The only thing that could have made it better would have been if there had been members of my side of the family involved. (There’s a tentative “something” in the works for Thanksgiving along those lines…)

Today was a quiet day; Sara and the girls let me sleep in. And I did. Then, I proceeded to spend a leisurely day full of… well… a lot of nothing. And it was perfect. Later, Sara and the girls came home and took me to dinner at the local Outback Steakhouse. We then came home for cake and presents. The ladies got me a humidor and a box of RubySnap cookies. Win-Win!  I wound up the evening (so far) with a cigar, some whiskey, and an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. There may even be some videogaming to close out the day.

Hello, 46. I look forward to getting to know more about you.

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

Memory Dump

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Memory Dump

Wednesday – 12 October 2016
Stuff and things and whatnot.

Namaste.

 

 

 

Wait. That’s not a proper post. I really should do one of those someday…

I guess that since I’m logged in, I should make like Nike and “just do it.” Now.

*cracks knuckles*
::: deep breath :::

The past few weeks have been good. Work’s been interesting. The company I work for has been (officially) purchased by a larger entity. So far, things are remaining status quo. I also got to spend about 36 hours on the east coast, thanks to a business trip. I was pleasantly surprised at how “green” things still were – I expected to see far more fall colors. Oh, well. That was only a slight disappointment, to be honest.

Team DiVa continues to astound and entertain me.

There was even a seven-year-anniversary in there, too.

Stray Toasters

Namaste.

Independence Day 2016

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Independence Day 2016

Monday – 04 July 2016
Today is Independence Day. I hope that everyone has a safe and fun holiday.

Greetings from Paragon City…

A couple weeks ago, I suggested to Sara! that we find a hotel overlooking a site with a fireworks display. That way, we could let the ladies stay up late and watch fireworks, but also not have to fight crowds trying to exit the venue. Win-Win. After doing some searching, I noted that most places around here are doing fireworks tonight… but we wanted to be able to find something that would allow Team DiVa to see them without creating tiny monsters who refuse to wake up tomorrow for school.

Saturday morning, Sara learned that Rocky Mountain Raceway was having a post-race fireworks show. She also found a hotel about a mile (as the crow flies) from the racetrack. We called, learned that they had vacancies, and booked a room. What we did not do was tell the girls about it. Instead, we went about our previously-scheduled plans, which included spending the afternoon with friends and their kids. As we were leaving, we told the girls about a “special adventure” that we were going to take that evening. This piqued their curiosity. They were quite pleased to find out that we were going out – and that they could stay up late – to watch fireworks. We threw essentials into a bag and headed out.

The hotel is not terribly far from where I work (and even closer to some places I go for lunch). We got there, got checked in, and headed to our room. The view couldn’t have been better: We were on the top floor, facing the direction of the racetrack. As an added surprise, I went out and picked up some popcorn from the nearby movie theatre, as a fireworks-watching snack. Another win. The girls impatiently watched cartoons while waiting for it to get dark enough for the fireworks to begin. I was a little worried that they might not make it, as they’d had a rather long day. My concerns were totally unfounded; they were amped. The display started a couple minutes past 10 PM and lasted for nearly half an hour. The girls “oohed” and “aahed” and commented on how pretty the various explosions were. And, to their credit, after it was all said and done, went to sleep rather quickly. Hallelujah.

The next morning, I asked the girl if it was a fun surprise. They enthusiastically agreed that it was.

Family adventure win.

 

 

Father’s Day 2016

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Father's Day 2016

Sunday – 19 June 2016
Today is Father’s Day.

I hope that all of the fathers – whether by biology, marriage, or just inspiration – or the mothers who are filling the void for fathers who are absent (for any reason) have a fantastic day with those you love and who love you in return.

While I’m looking forward to spending the day with these little ladies…

Team DiVa at Cascade Springs

Team DiVa at Cascade Springs

…I’m also looking forward to talking with my father…

Just a couple of Roberts...

Just a couple of Roberts

…and with my stepfather…

Jay and Rob

Jay and Rob

…and my father-in-law.

Steve and Sara

Steve and Sara

Parenthood isn’t easy, but the kids who look up to and love us make it worth it… despite all of the times we might think otherwise.

Namaste.

“Hello, my name is…”

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"Hello, my name is..."

Friday – 17 June 2016

Last night, while running some errands, I picked up a couple of “squishy balls” for #TeamDiVa2016.

Balls, spikes and all...

Balls, spikes and all…

The girls “found” them in the car this morning, on the way to school. Apparently, they named them on the way to school:

  • Vanessa named hers (purple) “Fluffy,”
  • Diana named hers “Fluffy Puffy.”

As you might imagine, the names have gone through a number of permutations since this morning.

Kids. Go figure.

36 Years

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36 Years

Thursday – 16 June 2016
Not only is it #NoBadNewsThursday, but I’d like to wish a heartfelt “Happy Anniversary” to my parents…

Gwen and Jay (2009)

Gwen and Jay (2009)

 

2010

2010

…well, one set of parents, that is.

I love you and hope that you have a fantastic day!

Trip to Cascade Springs

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Trip to Cascade Springs

Monday – 13 June 2016
Yesterday, we trekked back down to Utah County and into the Uintah National Forest in an attempt to (finally) visit Cascade Springs. This time, we were successful!

The trip started off well enough, driving into the canyon. As the road ascended slightly, things continued to proceed apace. As the road climbed higher and we started hitting more switchbacks, I became “a little less okay.” A little bit of backstory:

  • I grew up in states that are, for the most part, pretty damned flat.
  • When, in these states, roads rise (reasonably) in elevation and/or border a sharp drop, there are guard rails on the shoulder.
  • On one of my first visits to Utah, I was taken up Little Cottonwood Canyon, to Snowbird. It was on this trip that I discovered what I considered – and continue to consider – Utah’s laissez faire attitude towards winding roads and guard rails. I found this mildly disturbing.
  • A year or two after moving here, I was taken for a picnic overlooking the Bingham Canyon Mine. The road to the picnic spot was roughly a car-and-a-half wide for two-way traffic; I didn’t deal with that very well. (I’ve been told that it’s amusing/disturbing to see a black man white-knuckling the “Oh Shit Bar” over the window.) I was disturbed enough by the ride up that I did to not want to eat, though I did look at the excavation pit. And it was a very quiet ride back down.
  • Years later, I went for a drive up to the C Overlook, in Cedar City. Again, no guard rails. I wasn’t exactly thrilled, but the road was wide enough to give me a modicum of comfort.
  • Shortly after that, Sara took me up to Cedar Breaks, near Cedar City. Most of that ride was fine, although there were a couple of sections of road that had far more of a “scenic view” than I generally care for, but I managed the trip alright.
    • I got a measure of revenge a few year later by inflicting that same ride on my brother-in-law, John. He had the same rough reaction that I did, so I felt nominally better about things.

All of that to say that I have a healthy respect for gravity and my as-yet undiscovered ability to fly without an airplane. (I’m absolutely fine with traveling in planes, though.) That, combined with a lack of rails and only small berms on the sides of the roads, meant that I was “quiet and pensive, my thoughts apprehensive…” for portions of the trip.

Apparently, that’s a trait that Vanessa has inherited from me, as she was rather vocal about her displeasure and discomfort over some sections of the roads we had to take. Diana, on the other hand, couldn’t have cared less… other than “it [was] taking too long.”

Sara and I reassured her that she had nothing to worry about. (True, although I fully grokked her apprehension.) But, we both dealt with it – I’ve always said that Vanessa would make a great Green Lantern – and finally reached our destination.

Team DiVa at Cascade Springs

Team DiVa at Cascade Springs

Pictures of our walkabout can be seen here.

It was a very nice spot and we only walked the smaller loop, as the longer one would have been a bit long for the little ladies. Then we were done and ready to head home. Vanessa and I steeled ourselves for the trek back to civilization. until we noted that there was another road that headed over a different ridge and came out near Midway and Heber. At this point, Sara was up for it and I figured that it couldn’t be much worse than the trip in…

…and it wasn’t!

Sure, the road was once more guard rail-free AND it was a dirt road, but it was about three car widths wide in most places. Hallelujah! We made the bumpy not-nearly-as-fast-as-we’d-expected journey down the mountain. We ate lunch at the Hub Cafe, just off the main drag in Heber. After lunch, it was time to head home.

All-in-all, it was a good trip, but if we do it again, I’d probably opt for taking the road through Heber, rather than the forest.

Gemini

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Gemini

Tuesday – 07 June 2016
Today is my mother’s birthday.

IMG_0028

Mom and my stepfather

 

The Diva meeting Team DiVa...

The Diva, meeting Team DiVa for the first time…

I am usually pretty good at crafting words into the shapes that I desire. Even so, I don’t think that I could adequately express how blessed and fortunate I am to have her as my mother or appropriately convey the sheer number of things that she has done, not only done for my sister and me, but for countless others – family, friends, students, and strangers.

wpid-IMG_0051.ASM8BLIgWkrT.jpg

At work…

Suffice it to say that my world is a better place because she is my mother.

And, I’m happy to celebrate her birthday… even from the other side of the country.

With Mom...

Namaste.

“Don’t Panic.”

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"Don't Panic."

Wednesday – 25 May 2016
Today is Towel Day.

“…it has great practical value – you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you – daft as a bush, but very, very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.”

 

Stray Toasters

  • I visited my brother and his kids a couple of weeks ago. Despite the fact that we’re (only) 6 hrs apart, by car, and that neither of us really considers that a long drive, it’s only the second time we’ve visited in two years. Still, I had a great time. He and the kids are doing well.
  • DC Rebirth. I have many thoughts about this… soft-boot?
    REBIRTH-splash-small
  • I have my second Raspberry Pi. I’m contemplating setting it up as a media machine for TeamDiva2011…
  • The season finales of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Flash have left me with many questions.
    • I’m still pushing for The CW to call their 4-part crossover “Crisis,” in some manner or other.

Namaste.

A few thoughts on family and funerals…

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A few thoughts on family and funerals...

Wednesday – 05 April 2016
I am writing wrote this on an airplane. I spent the last three days at home in Maryland. I went home for a grandparent’s funeral – my stepmother’s mother. It wasn’t completely unexpected, but it is never pleasant. Of my step-grandmother, I can honestly say this: At no time in the forty odd years that my father and stepmother have been married, she never treated me differently than any of her other grandchildren. Ever. And she was a loving great-grandmother to my girls, as well. She was a lovely woman and a genuinely good person. She will be missed. Greatly.

grandma anderson

Taken a three years ago…

I didn’t make any concrete plans while I was in Baltimore… for the most part. Of course, I was going to get crab cakes – living in a landlocked state made that something of an imperative. But, I also wanted to get together with a few people, schedules permitting. That part worked out reasonably well. I wasn’t able to connect with a few of my former classmates, but I was able to spend time with family. And, that was fantastic.

Sunday night, when I got in,  was able to spend three-plus hours talking with my father and brother. Opportunities like that are far and few between, as we live in different parts of the country. The conversation ranged over a number of topics, but it was great to just be able to sit in the same room and talk with the two of them.

Monday, after the funeral proceedings, I went out to visit an aunt and uncle. I didn’t them that I was in town, nor that I was coming out for a visit. That might sound a bit presumptuous, but I have what I consider a very good reason for that:

Before I moved out west, I would occasionally take a day trip to my paternal grandmother’s; she lived about three hours from where I lived. I would show up and there would be a spread of food laid out for me. I appreciated that, but hated that she went to the work for me to be there for an hour or two.  So, I stopped calling before heading to her house. That served a few purposes:

  1. She didn’t worry about me being on the road,
  2. She didn’t spend part of her day preparing a meal for me,
  3. I got to give her an unexpected surprise, and
  4. If she wasn’t at home – as happened a couple of times – she didn’t feel bad about missing me AND I got a great afternoon’s scenic excursion out of the deal.

So, as I noted, I didn’t tell my aunt and uncle I was coming by. This turned out to be equally fortuitous. Apparently, my aunt was having a kind of a “down” day and needed a boost, which she said my visit provided. (WIN!) I also got to sit and talk with them for a couple of hours, which was fantastic. I got to hear a few stories about when I was little and I was also treated to a story from (and about) my uncle that neither I nor my aunt had heard before.

Tuesday was a little more open-scheduled. We slept in and then met another aunt and cousin for lunch. We were going to go to one of my old haunts, but it wasn’t open for lunch. My sister suggested a nearby option, that also had seafood. Good call. Actually, excellent call. After that, my brother and I decided to walk over to the Inner Harbor and do a little shopping. We also had a chance to talk one-on-one, face-to-face. We also walked up Federal Hill, to get pictures of the skyline.

The Inner Harbor (taken from Federal Hill)

The Inner Harbor (taken from Federal Hill)

 

That evening, I made plans to meet my god-sister at her parents’ house. We talked for about an hour and a half, before she had to leave. After that, I sat and talked with my godparents for the next four hours. Again, I got to hear stories and learn a few things. I consider it time well-spent. By the time I got home, it was well after midnight… And my entire family was still awake. That was a not-so-minor surprise. And we proceeded to talk for the next couple of hours.

This morning Yesterday, my parents, siblings, and I went out for breakfast. I can’t recall the last time that the five of us – just the five of us – were able to do that.

Breakfast with the family...

Breakfast with the family.

It has to have been nearly twenty years, if not more. Again, time well-spent. We said goodbye to the ladies at the restaurant and headed to the airport with my father. All too soon, my time at home was at an end.

Despite the reason for us getting together, I had an amazing time with family and extended family. It also punctuated how valuable they are to me. It also made me even more appreciative of the fact that Sara, the girls, and I were able to go to Boise over Easter and visit her grandmother… who has become my sole remaining grandparent.

Namaste.

Scenes from a Saturday

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Scenes from a Saturday

Saturday – 05 March 2016
I like sleeping in as much as the next guy. Being the father of twin four-year-olds, however, opportunities to do so is rare. (Granted, I can often extend some weekend sleeping by letting Team DiVa play Starfall or color on the iPad for 30 or so minutes…) This morning, I slept in until 10:30. It was glorious. It was also very necessary.

Yesterday, I was up at 7:30, worked all day, went to rehearsal, and came home… only to get a call from our monitoring company, saying that a system wasn’t allowing users to access shares and files. I wound up having to go back to the office at 11:45 PM. I didn’t get home until almost 3 AM. By the time I got home, I was completely drained.

The drawback to sleeping in was that I lost a couple hours of my day. At this point, I’m considering that a necessary evil. On the plus side, I was awakened by little girls who wanted me to take them outside to play. If you need a reason to get up and start the day, that’s a pretty damned good one, I’d say.

I got up, had a quick bite to eat, grabbed a shower, and took the ladies outside. They “chopped down trees” with axes (curved branches that had fallen off the corkscrew willow). They played on their balance beams. They put up an obstacle course with cones. And, they “climbed” trees… with a little help.

Tree-climbing001

Learning to climb trees

This picture was taken a week or so ago, but you get the gist. The sheer joy they had from “climbing” in the trees made getting out of bed worthwhile.

Namaste.

Thursday Night Something-or-other

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Thursday Night Something-or-other

Thursday – 11 February 2016
Today was supposed to be #NoBadNewsThursday. It started that way. About a hour-and-a-half into it, however… not so much. One of the servers at work decided to try a new trick:

  • It was powered on.
  • It could see – and transmit to – the network.
  • NOTHING on the network could see it or any of the traffic it generated.

And, to make things even more interesting: This was tied to a production (as in “manufacturing”) system. So, it was “kind of” important.

To quote Dr. Sam Beckett: “Oh, boy…”

I – and a couple of network engineers – troubleshot it for about an hour before we came to the inescapable conclusion that it was not a network problem. Digging into things a little further, I saw that it was pending a reboot. That didn’t solve things. Next up: Check its updates queue. There were a few sitting there that needed to be run. So I let ’em fly. Reboot 2: Electric Boogaloo. Nothing. Well, that’s not entirely true. It started rolling back the updates. (That’s usually not a good sign.) I checked update error messages when it came back up and saw that they failed because the hard disk was full. As in “Zero. Bytes. Free.” There was a good bit of cursing on my part, to be honest. Then it was a dive into the storage array and VM systems to make space appear. Then present it to the server. That all worked. Then I tried the updates again. Lo and behold, they all went through with no problems. (There may or may not have been a few “Amens” and “Thank yous” that went up at this point.) And, almost automagically, networking traffic all worked again. I verified with one of the network guys and an end user that all was right with the world again… and it was. Selah.

Part of getting through the day included being taken to lunch by networking vendors. It was not only a good change of pace, but it brought my day back from the Precipice of Doom.

After work, I picked up Team DiVa from daycare. Home. Dinner and dessert. They even got in almost 20 minutes of Disney Infinity playtime before it was time to start bedtime prep. Selah.

Carve Away the Stone
I’ve made halting steps at getting back to the gym. Last night, I considered going… then I opted out, because it was damned cold outside. I did, however, still manage to get in a bit of a workout, courtesy of my dumbbells, Swiss ball, and a couple of suggestions from YouTube. Was it quite the same workout I would have gotten at the gym, no. But, I wasn’t just sitting on my duff doing nothing, either. I’ll call that a win.

Stray Toasters

Alright, that’s it for now. I think I’m going to catch up on a show or two before calling it a night.

Namaste.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

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"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

Monday – 18 January 2016
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the United States.

martin-luther-king

On this Martin Luther King Jr Day of Service, we reflect on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. through a national day of service across the country. Share your story of service throughout the day on social media using #MLKDay and follow the impact on all of our official accounts.

mlk2005_noline

The venue where I have normally done volunteer work is closed today, so I’m spending it with Sara and Team DiVa, talking with the girls about Dr. King and his work. Some of the ideas and concepts are a bit broad for four-year-old comprehension, but we do the best we can to break it down. We also found a great book that helps explain Dr. King and his mission, in language that kids can easily digest: I am Martin Luther King, Jr. (Ordinary People Can Change the World). I can’t recommend this enough if you are looking for a way to introduce your young children to Dr. King.

IAmMLK

Sara and I are also taking some time to go through our things and set aside items for donation – service to our community.

Please take some time to reflect on the day and what it means and how we can work to bridge the gaps between us to build better relationships, a better country, and a better world.

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Namaste.