Union Pacific's Great Excursion Adventure

Midweek: Mother’s Day and Other Things

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Midweek: Mother's Day and Other Things

Wednesday – 17 May 2017
Stuff and Things.

This past weekend was… busy. But also awesome. Saturday saw the usual ballet and swim morning routine. I missed the swim portion, as I was judging a game tournament. Then there was a little break – filled by running a couple of errands. Next, early dinner and dropping Team DiVa off at their grandparents’ house, so that Sara and I could see Utah Opera’s Don Giovanni. Again. (We saw the final dress rehearsal, with the little ladies, but went back Saturday for opening night.) I enjoyed the production. They updated the sets and costumes to place it in a noir setting. This changed a couple of scenes, but worked for me on the whole.

Sunday, was Mother’s Day.  Sara had been wanting to go to Spiral Jetty for a while and Golden Spike National Historic Site is just a (long) hop, skip, and a jump from there. Thus, we were up early to pick up DiVa and meet friends at Golden Spike and Spiral Jetty. The first time we went to Golden Spike, the locomotives were in the Engine House for the season; that was not the case this time. We arrived just before the Jupiter made its appearance.

About half an hour later, No. 119 rolled up.

The presentation that the rangers provided also informed us that the engines were fired differently: Jupiter is wood-fired, while No. 119 is coal-fired. You could also tell this from the way they smelled as they approached – Jupiter smelled like a camp fire, No. 119 smelled like a coal-burning oven.


After a while, we made the drive to Spiral Jetty. Fifteen miles. Forty minutes. Over bumpy dirt road. The water level was a little higher this time – still not up to the jetty, but only 20 or so yards away to splash pools and just past that to deeper water.




All in all, it was good weekend.

Stray Toasters

And that’s a wrap.

End-of-the-week musings

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End-of-the-week musings

Friday – 21 April 2017
Another week comes to an end.
And, apparently, it’s been a month since I dusted off the trusty blog. I really need to get better about this…

In short: It’s been a good – and eventful – month. The highlights of the month include, but are not limited to:

  • Going on a business trip.
  • Surprising my parents by showing up on their doorstep on the first leg of the trip.
  • Meeting some new coworkers on the trip.
  • Getting to visit with my uncle towards the end of the trip.
  • Coming down with some travel-related bug that had me down for almost a week.
  • The start of baseball season and the O’s getting off to a great start. Hopefully, they’ll keep some of this momentum through the season.
  • Meeting a Twitter and Facebook friend.
  • TRAINS!  Well, getting to head up to the train.. museum(?)… and one of my favorite train shops.
  • Traveling to Boise to visit family and friends over Easter.

    Sara, Team DiVa, and Grandmother – Easter 2017

  • Watching Team DiVa hunt for Easter eggs while we were gone and seeing their surprise at discovering that the Easter Bunny had apparently left Easter baskets for them at our home while we were out of town.

I’m sure that I’m leaving more than “a couple” things out, but all-in-all, it really has been a good month.

Stray Toasters

And with that…

So Long, Farewell, Goodbye.
(Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, not “The Sound of Music”)

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


Batter up!

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Batter up!

Thursday  – 28 February 2013
A new NBN Thursday is here. So far, it’s not bad.
It’s also the end of February.

This morning, Diana was up a bit before Vanessa. In order to let Vanessa sleep a bit longer, brought her into our room. This appeased Diana… somewhat. So, I did what any father would do, I broke out the iPad and let her read/play with the Barnyard Dance book/app. This worked for a few minutes. Then, I switched over to Moo, Baa, La La La. That satisfied her for a little while, as well. Long enough for Vanessa to wake up and decide that she was ready to start the day.

Last night, Sara! and I watched Moneyball:


The characters were well-developed, not just cardboard cut-out caricatures. The dialogue was believable and realistic, not just a bunch of baseball-related cliches. The story also managed to show a bit of the off-the-field life of Pitt’s character, Billy Beane, and his journey from all-star golden boy in high school to a MLB player to general manager of the Oakland A’s.

All told, it was a good film.  Sara! enjoyed it… though she qualified it by saying that it still wasn’t enough to make her like baseball.

baseball baseball baseball baseball baseball baseball baseball

Chew on This – Food for Thought – Black History Month
I didn’t get as many days filled in as I had hoped, but I could not let the month end without an entry:

  • Daniel Hale Williams, Surgeon

    Daniel Hale Williams III was born on January 18, 1856, in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, to Sarah Price Williams and Daniel Hale Williams II. The couple had several children, with the elder Daniel H. Williams inheriting a barber business. He also worked with the Equal Rights League, a black civil rights organization active during the Reconstruction era.

    After the elder Williams died, a 10-year-old Daniel was sent to live in Baltimore, Maryland, with family friends. He became a shoemaker’s apprentice but disliked the work and decided to return to his family, who had moved to Illinois. Like his father, he took up barbering, but ultimately decided he wanted to pursue his education. He worked as an apprentice with Dr. Henry Palmer, a highly accomplished surgeon, and then completed further training at Chicago Medical College.

    Williams set up his own practice in Chicago’s Southside and taught anatomy at his alma mater, also becoming the first African-American physician to work for the city’s street railway system. Williams—who was called Dr. Dan by patients—also adopted sterilization procedures for his office informed by the recent findings on germ transmission and prevention from Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister.

    Due to the discrimination of the day, African-American citizens were still barred from being admitted to hospitals and black doctors were refused staff positions. Firmly believing this needed to change, in May 1891, Williams opened Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses, the nation’s first hospital with a nursing and intern program that had a racially integrated staff. The facility, where Williams worked as a surgeon, was publicly championed by famed abolitionist and writer Frederick Douglass.

    In 1893, Williams continued to make history when he operated on James Cornish, a man with a severe stab wound to his chest who was brought to Provident. Without the benefits of a blood transfusion or modern surgical procedures, Williams successfully sutured Cornish’s pericardium (the membranous sac enclosing the heart), becoming the first person to perform open-heart surgery. Cornish lived for many years after the operation.

    In 1894, Williams moved to Washington, D.C., where he was appointed the chief surgeon of the Freedmen’s Hospital, which provided care for formerly enslaved African Americans. The facility had fallen into deep neglect and had a high mortality rate. Williams worked diligently on revitalization, improving surgical procedures, increasing institutional specialization, allowing public viewing of surgeries, launching ambulance services and adding a multiracial staff, continuing to provide opportunities for black physicians and nursing students.

    And in 1895, he co-founded the National Medical Association, a professional organization for black medical practitioners, as an alternative to the American Medical Association, which didn’t allow African-American membership.

    Williams left Freedmen’s Hospital in 1898. He married Alice Johnson, and the newlyweds moved to Chicago, where Williams returned to his work at Provident. Soon after the turn of the century, he worked at Cook County Hospital and later at St. Luke’s, a large medical institution with ample resources.

    Beginning in 1899, Williams also made annual trips to Nashville, Tennessee, where he was a voluntary visiting clinical professor at Meharry Medical College for more than two decades. He became a charter member of the American College of Surgeons in 1913.

    Daniel Hale Williams experienced a debilitating stroke in 1926 and died five years later, on August 4, 1931, in Idlewild, Michigan.

    Today, Williams’s work as a pioneering physician and advocate for an African-American presence in medicine continues to be honored by educational institutions worldwide.

Stray Toasters


It’s almost February…

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It's almost February...

Thursday – 31 January 2013
I woke up this morning to this:


Yeah, waking up to a warmer temperature than most days’ highs over the past few weeks is a good thing. Even with a 30% chance of snow.

I know that there were no Team DiVa Tuesday photos, but Sara! was quick enough – and kind enough – to snap a picture last night before the ladies went to bed, so that there’s a Team DiVa No Bad News Thursday picture:

Story time!  Diana (l), Vanessa (r)

Story time! Diana (l), Vanessa (r)

Reeling By On Celluloid
Last night, Sara! and I watched Seven Psychopaths:


This was an odd movie. This is not to say that it wasn’t a very enjoyable movie, though. It was riotously funny at points. It was poignant at points. And, to be honest: There were a fair number of “What.. just.. happened…?” moments, too. In many ways, it reminded me of Pulp Fiction or Go, in the way that it combined a number of seemingly disparate arcs into one story. (And, like Pulp Fiction, this movie had Christopher Walken. Win-Win.)

Sara! brought up the point that she’d want to watch it again, as there were a couple of things early on – before she grokked the rhythm of the movie – that she’d like to see, with the understanding of how things unfold. I’d gladly be down for watching it again. And, I happily recommend this movie.

(I would have given it seven bricks – to keep with the “Seven Psychopaths” theme, but it was an eight-brick movie.)

Stray Toasters



The Tenth Month

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The Tenth Month

Monday – 01 October 2012
October is upon us and, as it is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the blog has “Gone Pink for October.”

In an odd twist, it’s Monday night and there’s football… but, I really don’t care about tonight’s game. Of course, maybe that’s because the Ravens played last Thursday but – and won – and neither the Panthers nor the Dolphins could find their way to a “W.”

In other entertainment news: I finally got to watch “The Angels Take Manhattan.”

Well played, Steven Moffat. I think that I might be a Doctor Who fan. Again. For the first time in over 20 years. (Although, I’ve been told that I should check out the Eccleston and Tennant Doctors, as well.) And, I am thinking of picking up “The Angels Kiss” e-book tie-in, too. Just because.

Stray Toasters

  • Baltimore is in the playoffs. As my friend, Liz, posted:
    Congrats to the O’s on making it to the 2012 MLB Playoffs!
  • Fait accompli. I could be wrong, but I think that I am finished with the taping/mudding of the train room. As of this evening, I actually think that the room is ready for primer and paint… after a little sweeping and mopping, that is.
  • The GQ Guide to Suits
  • What in the Hell is happening in this Bears-Cowboy game!? Three Four Five INTs?!
  • Birchbox Men.  ‘Nuff said.
  • The VW Passat commercial with Rush’s Fly By Night in it makes me chuckle. Every. Time.

That’s good for now.


“It’s already here.”

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"It's already here."

Thursday – 17 May 2012
It’s another NBN Thursday in the valley. This one even came equipped with sun (with a slight chance of rain). So far, it’s been a good day… and there’s still a lot of day to go.

Last night, SaraRules! and I watched Where the Wild Things Are for Movie Date Night.

I thought that it was pretty good. I was a bit surprised in that I was expecting something… a little closer to the book, at least in some respects, but the differences didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the movie.  It was also helpful to watch one of the special feature short pieces which highlighted the collaboration of author Maurice Sendak and director Spike Jonze.

The movie is rated “PG,” but there are a few scenes that might be scary for younger children. Nevertheless, I recommend it.

Stray Toasters

That’s good for now.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stray Toasters



Almost done…

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Almost done...

Friday – 20 April 2012
It’s my “on” Friday. And, it’s also “4/20.” (Insert your own jokes here.)

Last night was my night to fix dinner. After wracking my brain over what to fix, I decided to head up to the local Whole Foods and see what they had in their meat counter. I returned home with four good-sized Parmesan Chicken breasts. While they were in the oven, I prepared some rice in chicken broth (and a little lemon pepper, for flavor). I added a salad for our vegetables and we called it a meal.

We watched Castle while we ate; it was a fun episode, with Nathan Fillion’s Firefly costar, Adam Baldwin, as a guest star. After dinner, I joined a couple of coworkers online and played a little MW3. And had my virtual ass handed to me. Repeatedly. But, it was still fun… despite the ego-bruising.

Stray Toasters


“Think Different.”

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"Think Different."

Thursday – 25 August 2011
It’s another fine NBN Thursday in the valley.

It’s been busy… in a good way. Hectic, but good. Meetings. Stuff. Things. And whatnot.

For those who may have missed it elsewhere: We have a date for the arrival of the twins: Assuming that she doesn’t deliver before, SaraRules! will be induced on the 06 September. Which means that in twelve (possibly thirteen) days, we’ll be parents. Holy cow.

Stray Toasters

And tonight: The Ravens take on the Redskins on Thursday Night Football.


“The trick is to keep breathing…”

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"The trick is to keep breathing..."

Wednesday – 17 August 2011
Midweek and all’s pretty well…

…unless you’re this guy:

I’m talking about the car in the middle of the picture. It appears to have broken down in the median. It’s also been there for a few minutes. I watched as (at least) two patrol cars drove past it — in the left lane — without stopping. *shrug*

After about 40 minutes, another car pulled up behind it. People got out. They stood near the first car. A couple of minutes later, they both pulled off. I’m not sure, but it may have just been a case of running out of gas.  But, I’m still a little… concerned/bothered… that the two police officers just drove past it like nothing was wrong.

Yesterday, I was in the south office. One of my tasks for the day was to join peoples’ computers to the corporate network. In and of itself, not a terribly difficult assignment. Or so you’d think. After all, the computers spoke the same language – Windows – albeit different dialects (XP/Vista/7).

Theoretical Concept: Easy.
Practical Application: *grblsnrkx*

Let’s say that there was a lot of “hurry up and wait” along with the obligatory questions from the engineers of: “Which login do I use?” and “Should I try this?” and “Huh…?!” But, I got a few of the guys taken care of… without bloodshed.

Last night was game night with and crew. It was a good time. Especially as none of us died in the course of adventuring.

Groove. Boogie. Sway.
A couple of songs that helped to get this morning started were:

There were others, but these two were the prime movers of the day.  Oh, yeah, and this one:

It has gotten back into the public eye ear(?) as the background music for the Blackberry PlayBook commercial.

Stray Toasters

Quote of the Day
It’s been a while since I’ve had a good story about my nieces. Fortunately, my brother-in-law posted one yesterday:

Lady, looking at Sophia, dressed in pink with a pink headband: “Oh how cute, is it a little girl?”
Me: No lady, “it” is a duck.
Lady: Well you’re rude.
Me: Well you’re not very bright.
Sophia: QUACK, Daddy! QUACK!

Sophia is just shy of her second birthday.


“I cut so much, you thought I was a DJ…”

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"I cut so much, you thought I was a DJ..."

Wednesday – 20 July 2011
Today marks the 42nd anniversary of the first time that a man set foot on the moon (1, 2) .

As taken from the Purdue University Facebook page:

Today in history: On July 20, 1969, Purdue graduate and astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. That one small step has been inspiring Boilermakers and the rest of the world ever since!

That’s right, a Boilermaker did that.

Last night was D&D 3.5 game night with and company. It was a good session. We encountered an odd group of people at a desert oasis. They were – or at least seemed – friendly enough. And they were… helpful… in that they helped us find a city that we were seeking. And by “helped us find” I mean,”they gated us to the city, which turned out to be of the ‘long-lost’ and ‘floating-in-the-air’ variety. And that’s where we’re picking up next time.

I considered hitting the gym after gaming, but as it was late (after 2300) and I had an early – and long – day on the agenda for today, I opted out. Today is rather full with: A doctor’s appointment (for the twins) this morning and a screening of Captain America this evening… oh, yeah, there’s work on both sides of that doctor’s appointment, too.

::: break for appointment :::

Post-appointment update: SaraRules! and both kids are fine. (And her doctor won’t let her go past 38 weeks.)

Groove. Boogie. Sway.
This morning’s music selection has been varied and quite good:

Not a bad way to kick off a Wednesday, at all.

Stray Toasters


“Haven’t you always wanted a monkey?”

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"Haven't you always wanted a monkey?"

Thursday – 14 April 2011
It’s another glorious NBN Technical Friday. This morning started with clouds and a little snow… but it looks as though the sun is trying to put in an appearance. We’ll see how that goes.

Last night was D&D 4.0 night with and company. We adventured. We got loot. We walked right into the middle of a war between factions in a city… and had to choose sides. Hopefully, we chose well.

After the game, I headed home and occupied a nice and comfy spot on the couch, as my stomach decided that it wanted to try out a new acrobatics routine. I am attributing it to “The Revenge of Lunch!” Fortunately, by the time I got ready to call it a night, it was better. I attribute that to milk and Tums.

Stray Toasters



Sun..? On a… Sunday?! Sign me up!

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Sun..?  On a... Sunday?!  Sign me up!

Sunday – 10 April 2011
Today is my brother-in-law’s birthday, well… one of my brothers-in-law, that is:

…and a classmate’s:

…and my friend, A.J.’s (one of the opera residents):

This morning started early. With a 0450 phone call from corporate… telling me about a continuation of yesterday’s problem. Nothing like the surge of adrenaline one gets from being jarred out of sleep by your phone ringing and then racing into another room to pick it up only to find out that it’s work calling. After answering a few questions and making a couple of command decisions, I put the phone down and got back into bed. It took me a few minutes to wind down enough to fall asleep again.

The sun has been trying to put in an appearance this morning. This song was the first thing that went that went through my head:

This was the second:

I’m not sure which amused me more.

Yesterday, I spent four hours at work, dealing with the aforementioned problem. At first, I was pretty annoyed about the whole deal. After a little while, I gained a different perspective: I was being paid to wait for service technicians to come in and work on the problem… AND… it means that I’m already eight hours into the upcoming week’s schedule. In other words, by the time I leave work tomorrow, I’ll have 17 hours on the clock already. And, this is my “off” Friday, to boot. Coming to those realizations made having to work a little better.

SaraRules! was kind enough to bring me lunch yesterday. The original plan was for me to run to work, assess what was wrong, fix it if possible, run an errand and then meet SaraRules! and her parents for lunch. That whole “four hours” thing blew that to Hell and back. So, the Best Wife Ever brought lunch to me.  And she even hung out while we – my coworker, Cade, came in also – sorted out the problem.

After I got back home, I decided to run down to The Train Shoppe. It was a trip with a two-fold purpose: 1) I wanted to see if they’d gotten anything new, and 2) I needed them to take a look at the couplers on one of my locomotives. I managed to walk out empty-handed. Barely. My next stop was Borders. It’s become a scavenger pit. If my math is correct, I believe that they will be closed as of this coming Saturday.

After my excursion, SaraRules! and I took in a movie. We saw Hanna. It was… interesting. We both kind of enjoyed it, but we agreed that it could have used a bit more plot and background development. The story revolved around a girl, her father and the intelligence agency operative who apparently wanted them both dead. Oh, yeah… the girl had been raised to be an assassin. A very effective assassin, at that. It was also something of a coming of age movie, as well: Hanna had been raised alone in the woods by her father, with no contact with the outside world. And her adventure took her across Africa and Europe, where she was introduced to many new things… like electricity, music, and computers. As an action movie, I’d give this pretty high marks, but on the whole, its shortcomings/oversights drag it down a few pegs.

Stray Toasters

And now, off to brunch with the lovely SaraRules!


Ponderables for a Wednesday morning

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Ponderables for a Wednesday morning

Wednesday – 06 April 2011
It’s mid-week again, which also means that it’s new comics day and D&D 4.0 night. I’m good with all of those.

Yesterday’s Utah County excursion wasn’t too bad. The monkeys were fairly quiet; I did, however, get a little tired of people asking me when someone else was going to be in that office. After the third time, it got harder and harder to retort with a smart-assed answer. *sigh* On the plus side, I managed to squeeze in a trip to The Hobby Stop during lunch. Hey… it’s train stuff. Go figure.  🙂

I got home a little later than I had planned, had dinner and was back on the road again. Last night was D&D 3.5 night with and company. We accomplished a few things which were good/necessary and have nominal plans for the next part of our adventure.

Chew on This: Food for Thought – Personal Hygiene
When a person is getting ready for work in the morning – or even the night before – isn’t that the “ideal” time for them to take care of things like clipping their nails?

As opposed to, say, waiting until they get into the office…?!

There are a few possible exceptions to this:

  • Salon workers
  • Spa workers
  • Veterinarians

I’m not someone who gets squidgy at the sound of someone clipping their nails, but it just seems that it is something best done at home. With that in mind, there are times when I think a quick trim/cut are acceptable, the prime example being when someone chips, cracks or tears a nail and needs to trim it down. But that’s (usually) just one nail. Not all ten.

I suppose that I should just happy that I have neither seen nor heard (that I know 0f) anyone clipping their toe nails on the clock.

Stray Toasters