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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Kevin Standlee's LiveJournal:

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Wednesday, February 10th, 2016
5:05 pm
Railroad Work is a Grind
This morning I heard the Union Pacific Nevada Subdivision dispatcher issuing track permits, but didn't know what it was about until I heard a loud noise coming down the track that wasn't the same as an ordinary passing train. I ran outside and managed to get my camera to record the passage of the LORAM rail resurfacing train.

This train grinds the rails to remove small imperfections and to give a smoother, quieter ride for trains. I've seen one of these working at night, which can be quite spectacular as the sparks fly in all directions.

Current Mood: cheerful
Tuesday, February 9th, 2016
5:58 pm
Missed Opportunity
This morning would have been excellent for train photography, such as maybe the passing westbound morning California Zephyr, because BNSF happened to have pulled every car from the two-track mini-yard in front of the house, and the Mountain of Ties is gone. However, I was too busy with Day Jobbe to spend time shooting photos. Besides, when Amtrak went by, I was busily trying to get the wood stove a bit hotter, and couldn't get outside to the porch fast enough to wave at the train as it went by.

Speaking of the temperature, we're very lucky that the temps are trending upward a bit. I've been opening the woodbox door in the morning to let the rising sun melt the ice and dry out the logs stacked in there (they got a bit wet and icy while in the utility trailer). And we haven't had to use quite as much wood to keep things warm. This is also good because I'm too busy with Day Jobbe right now to go into Reno in the mid-afternoon early enough to try out the wood supply place. Fortunately they are open Saturday morning as well, so that's our current target.

ETA: That must have been the "Fernley Flyer," not Amtrak, that went by when I was working on the fireplace. At 7:45 PM this evening, as Lisa and I headed out for a walk, the westbound Zephyr came by, almost exactly twelve hours late. The train had a Union Pacific freight locomotive on the point and only one of its usual two Genesis locomotives trailing. (Presumably the Amtrak crew would have been in the trailing cab, where they were responsible for providing "hotel" power to the train behind them, while a UP crew piloted the train westward.) That's a messy day indeed. Probably one of the Amtrak locomotives failed badly on the road, and in an inconvenient place, leading to big delays while UP dispatched a locomotive and crew to rescue them.

Current Mood: optimistic
Monday, February 8th, 2016
5:11 pm
Home Snowy Home
It has been more than a week since snow last fell here in Fernley, but it looks a fair bit like the icon, and any place that doesn't get direct sun still has up to 20 cm of snow still standing. However, we have a stretch of clear, relatively warm weather ahead, which is good for multiple reasons. The snow is starting to melt, and it's taking less firewood to keep the house warm. Lisa unloaded the last of the utility trailer this afternoon. We're considering going in to a firewood-supply company in Reno (not the place we got this current load) and buying a half-cord of their assorted hardwood. If that works out, we can see about buying a couple of cords delivered, which is surely more efficient than buying smaller loads using our small utility trailer.

Current Mood: optimistic
Sunday, February 7th, 2016
9:36 pm
Football Should Learn from Tennis
While watching the Superb Owl (online, from the comfort of my home, far away from the madness that took over the Bay Area this past week), it occurred to me that the replay challenge system in American gridiron football should take a page from the challenge system in tennis. You should continue to be charged a timeout for an unsuccessful challenge (albeit that Carolina was robbed on their first challenge; it should have been ruled a completed pass), you should not be charged anything for a successful one. In other words, if you have time outs left, you should be able to challenge. None of this, "You were right, but you're only allowed two challenges per half whether you were right or not."

The day went quite well for me, particularly inasmuch as I did not bet on the Big Game, for I would have lot my money. Instead I spent the morning and early afternoon unloading firewood from the utility trailer and doing chores around the house, then getting myself all set for game watching, along with indulgences such as pickled eggs, German sausages, good cheese, and salsa and chips. And I didn't even need to use the antacids.

Current Mood: content
Saturday, February 6th, 2016
9:37 pm
Shoes Yes, Computer Cables No
We went into Reno today to pick up a pair of shoes that Lisa had ordered from the SAS store, and also to look for a computer cable I need to make the new laptop computer work more effectively. (Specifically, a DisplayPort-to-DVI adapter.) There's no place I could find in Reno/Sparks where I can get it. There are times when I do miss being so close to Fry's Electronics. If I'd been in Fremont, I would have just gone to Fry's and picked it up. The guy at Staples said he could order one, but I said not to bother. I can live without it until I'm in the Bay Area again (and indeed, there may be some of them in my office down there). It would have just been more convenient for me.

Things are rather busy at our usual haunts, and when, after picking up some stuff at Whole Foods Market, we saw that the restaurants at the Atlantis and Peppermill were too crowded for us (what we get for going in on Saturday instead of Sunday-Thursday), Lisa said, "Let's go to our favorite place," and without even having to ask, I took us to the Sparks Nugget and John's Oyster Bar, where the shrimp pan roast never disappoints.

Because we got off to such a late start today (and because I'd spent about six hours wrestling with computer configuration trying to get all of my files off the backup media onto the new machine), we didn't get as much done today as we expected, and that means we'll have to go in again sometime early next week to do our larger-scale grocery shopping. I do, however, have sufficient supplies for my one-man watching of the Superb Owl show tomorrow. Lisa says she'll leave me to it. And here I didn't even put down a small bet on either team, just so I'd have a dog in the fight.

I'm glad to be home.

Current Mood: cheerful
Friday, February 5th, 2016
9:58 pm
It Was Twenty Years Ago Today...
...that a relatively young company called Menlo Logistics, a subsidiary of CF Inc. (formerly Consolidated Freightways), still located in Menlo Park, California, hired me on as a regular employee, after fourteen months of various types of contract/casual employment. The company changed its name and logo several times (I didn't save the older ones; this is, I think, the third logo, and dates from the period when we were in a "virtual merger" with Emery Airfreight, before the parent company broke us up, retained Menlo, and sold Emery to UPS, who subsumed it into their international air freight operations). The parent company morphed names a few times as well, from CF to CNF to Con-Way, and then the whole company including our sister companies was purchased by someone else, and as far as I can tell, the current corporate name of the legal entity for which I work is XPO Logistics Worldwide.

It turns out that, somewhat to my surprise, I am not (yet) the Last One Standing from the relatively small Menlo Park office where I was hired as a data-entry temp back in 1994. There is at least one other employee left in the company who worked in that office with me, and she actually hit her 20-year anniversary before I did even though I showed up first because of the 14 months of contract work that doesn't count toward total time served.

There was nothing special at the Day Jobbe today nor any recognition of my anniversary. (The payroll system's time-off accrual has recognized that I've jumped to the next five-year plateau and will start earning Paid Time Off at a higher rate.) As is my usual pattern, I left around 11 (having already logged about 48 hours this week by COB yesterday) and headed home to Fernley. I had a number of errands to do along the way, including visiting my sister and the care facility where they continue to work on trying to rehab her breathing sufficient to let her go home, before heading over the mountains in lovely clear weather. I'm very happy to be home.

Current Mood: tired
Sunday, January 31st, 2016
5:28 pm
Stormy Fernley
Lisa left me a message this afternoon letting me know that as of this afternoon, there was at least 12 cm accumulated snow on part of our front porch at Fernley House. Now this is nothing for those folks on the US East Coast who had Snowpocolypse Now recently, but it's a lot of snow by our local standards. She has been working to keep the sidewalk shoveled and swept. It's wet, gunky snow, she says. It wouldn't make a good snowman, according to her. Otherwise she's keeping warm, and the house is well stocked for supplies, in keeping with our standing policy. The snow should taper off tonight, and the next week is forecast to be clear, so it's unlikely the snow will have any lasting impact.

I wish I was home so I could do my part to keep the walks cleared, but if I had to be on the road, I'm glad I did it on Friday and not today. For a while, there were chain controls between Fernley and Sparks, let alone over Donner Summit. Those are gone now, but there are still chain restrictions off and on along I-80 between Reno and eastern California.

I went to the office today and got work done ahead on a Day Jobbe project so I can leave on Friday morning with a clear conscience.

Current Mood: accomplished
Saturday, January 30th, 2016
6:06 pm
Ahead of the Weather
To my surprise, the storm that dumped a pile of rain on me as I came west yesterday did not drop enough snow on Donner Summit to cause chain conditions to be imposed, although looking at the next 24 hours' forecast, I still expect that had I waited until Sunday (my usual departure day) to make the trip, I would have gotten stuck on the wrong side of the mountains.

Having come down two days early and thus having 2 1/2 days to make a trip that usually takes me about 8 hours meant a lot less travel stress. I slept in this morning by my standards. Any residual fears I might have had about being rousted from the Yuba City Walmart parking lot (not all Walmarts allow overnight RV parking; it's a store-by-store policy, contrary to popular notions) were laid to rest when I got up this morning and saw five other RVs nearby, one of which that had deployed the slide-out on their fifth-wheel travel trailer.

As seems typical for me, I forgot a couple of small toiletry items (I left the bag in which they were stored behind), but they were all things I could replace easily in the store, and I thus again paid a fair-by-my-lights price to Walmart for them allowing me the use of their parking lot overnight. Alas, no Bay Area Walmarts are this generous; however, there are on-street parking locations in several places where I feel generally good about parking overnight, especially if I don't spend consecutive nights there.

Having arrived with plenty of time this afternoon, I took the opportunity to get the oil changed in the Rolling Stone this afternoon. It had been 5000 miles since the last oil change and about 17,000 miles since we bought the RV. I initially estimated that I'd log about 15,000 miles/year in the Rolling Stone, but it's working out to less than that. I probably should go talk to our insurance agent about that and probably simultaneously increase the miles traveled on the Astro on account of we seem to be making at least one long road trip per year.

I've taken advantage of the wi-fi at Suju's Coffee in Fremont this evening, and feel no guilt at all about it, inasmuch as besides the coffee and scone I just had, I bought a pound of their coffee beans for use when I get home next week.

Current Mood: relaxed
Friday, January 29th, 2016
8:58 pm
Not Complaining About the Rain
The weather forecast for this weekend called for lots of rain over the Sierra Nevada today, turning to snow tonight and heavy snow throughout the weekend. I can drive in rain, but not in snow, and therefore after a long video conference call at work this morning, I told everyone that I was heading out today lest I not get to the Bay Area at all next week, and I left a bit after Noon.

There were heavy gusty winds through the Truckee River canyon, and that's not good for a high-profile vehicle like the Rolling Stone. It's a good thing I didn't have to head south, because I-580/US-395A were closed to RVs and big rigs due to high winds. When I got to Reno, I met the rain coming the other way, and climbing up toward Truckee the high winds and rain combined to make for an unpleasant drive. I slowed down, as is my wont in bad weather. I found myself behind a big truck going about 45 mph, and I was happy to follow him as far as the California Department of Agriculture inspection station.

At Donner Summit, the rest area was open, and despite the rain, I stopped to use the facilities. There was more than two meters of snow packed up around the rest area, but there was no snow falling at the time, just lots of rain. (The prediction was for over 80 mm of rain today.) I carefully and slowly worked my way back down the mountains and onto CA-20 toward Grass Valley, descending into a bunch of fog to go with the rain, but the cleared up as I descended toward Marysville/Yuba City.

In Yuba City I visited my mother who is periodically staying at my sister's house keeping the house alive while the medical professionals continue to try and find a way to get my sister to the point where she can come home again. For a change I was not under any time pressure, which was nice. After a few hours I bade Mom good night and headed over to Walmart (Yuba City's Walmart is one of those that allows overnight RV parking) and buttoned up for the night. I did also buy some small groceries from Walmart, as it is my policy to not shop there except when I'm using their parking lot for RV parking.

Tomorrow I'll make my way down to the Bay Area, but I won't be in any hurry.

Current Mood: relaxed
Thursday, January 28th, 2016
5:31 pm
Wood Worries
For the last three winters, we have been relying for heat on firewood purchased from Big R Ranch & Home in the form of half-cord pallets of Douglas fir. The wood looks like it is mill ends of fence posts, without bark and all about the same diameter and cut to about the same length, packed tightly on pallets. With about a week's worth of wood left in the wood box, I called Big R yesterday to find out if they had any in stock. They informed me of the bad news: not only did they have none, but they weren't going to get any more, ever, as their supplier stopped selling it. I don't know why. The guy from Big R says he's sorry they can't get it anymore, because it sold pretty well.

Well, that's not good. There's nobody in Fernley that appears to be selling firewood, and the place from which we bought split pine in Fallon is no longer in business. We did a search and found a couple of places in Reno, but they won't deliver out as far as Fernley, so we had to hitch up the utility trailer and drive to Reno yesterday afternoon. We went to a tree-service company that also sells wood and bought from them half a cord of mixed soft/hardwood. It cost more than the half-cord pallets, not even including the cost of driving between Fernley and Reno. But it will keep us warm for a few weeks while we contemplate further action. Thank goodness Lisa had cash on her, because they were a cash-only business, and I didn't have the $145 on me that we needed.

The wood we bought burns hotter but longer, and also leaves more ash, probably because of the bark. The Douglas fir was very clean-burning, and we've almost never had to dig out ashes. It was nearly as convenient as a wood pellet stove. Speaking of which, the reason we don't get a pellet stove is that they don't work in case of power failure. We have a fireplace insert inside the big stone fireplace in our living room, and it will produce heat even without electric power. We've even cooked on it, after a fashion.

We'll need to investigate our options. There's a place over near Carson City that looks somewhat promising, assuming their delivery charges on, say, two cord of wood (a cord is a 4x4x8 foot stack) aren't too awful. Although the wood box Lisa build holds only 3/4 cord, we have the concrete pad behind the house (it used to be a dog kennel; all that's left is the concrete pad) where the rest can go, and that's what we did the first year we were here and "Flame-O's Firewood" in Fallon was still in business.

Current Mood: worried
Wednesday, January 27th, 2016
10:45 am
Cowboy Bebop on Ice
Canadian ice skater Kevin Reynolds did his routine in the Canadian national championships using the theme music (Tank!) to the anime series Cowboy Bebop while dressed as Spike, one of the lead characters from the series.

According to the io9 article where I saw this, he placed third despite a fall during his routine.

Current Mood: amused
Tuesday, January 26th, 2016
10:11 pm
As part of the work to make the kitchen at Fernley House usable, we needed to replace the garbage disposal unit. After she discussed it with our plumber, Lisa made a decision on what we needed, and this evening after work, we drove into Reno to buy the model she wanted, as it wasn't available in Fernley. After dealing with that required errand, we went over to Baldini's Casino, which advertises all-you-can-eat pasta Monday-through-Wednesday nights. It's not bad, and the serving sizes are so large that you almost don't need to make it all-you-can-eat, although we did both try second helpings because they have two different pasta types (spaghetti and penne) and two different sauces (meat/marinara or butter-and-garlic).

One odd thing was how rarely we drive into Reno from Fernley at night. It's usually daylight when we're heading west. Driving after dark meant that what should be a highly familiar stretch of road wasn't familiar at all.

Current Mood: content
Monday, January 25th, 2016
9:47 am
Sometimes There Is A Free Lunch
I had a coupon good for $10 in free slot play at the Wigwam Casino (two blocks from my house) with purchase of a meal from the Wigwam Restaurant, so yesterday morning, I walked up and had lunch (actually a late breakfast) there. (Lisa is still trying to get over a cold and told me to go enjoy myself.) The meal was $13 including tip. After eating, I showed my restaurant receipt and they applied the $10 free play to the machine of my choice (in this case the blackjack machine). You can't cash out free play; however, after running through $10 worth of bets, I found that there was $13 on the meter. I decided to not be greedy and cashed out.

I think that's the best conversion of free play to spendable money I've ever managed. And the food was pretty good, too. Thanks, Wigwam!

Current Mood: cheerful
Sunday, January 24th, 2016
9:58 pm
Worldcon Hotel Bookings Open Monday
Hotel booking for this year's World Science Fiction Convention, MidAmeriCon II, will open at 12:00 Noon CST on Monday, January 25. (That's 10 AM PST, 11 AM MST, 1 PM EST) (and also 18:00 GMT)

See the MAC2 Hotel Page for more information.

I do not speak officially for MidAmericon II. I am a mere staff member passing on information announced in multiple places. Don't send me questions about the hotels. I don't run hotels. I am Assistant Videographer of the Business Meeting. Send your complaints about Worldcon hotels to the MAC2 Hotels people, not me.

Current Mood: hopeful
4:56 pm
On the last trip home from the Bay Area, I realized that the windshield wipers on the Rolling Stone needed replacing. Furthermore, I observed for the first time that they were really a bit small for such a large windshield. I had a coupon from O'Reilly that was useful for such purchases, so today Lisa and I went over and bought replacement wipers. Lisa replaced the 16-inch wipers with 20-inch wipers, and they do indeed cover a lot more of the windshield and do not hit the edges. That will be good for the next trip in the rain, which is likely just a few days away.

Current Mood: accomplished
Saturday, January 23rd, 2016
7:22 pm
Books and Shoes
Today Lisa and I went into Reno for me to return/exchange two of the books I bought with my Christmas gift card that turned out to be duplicates, and to go to the SAS Store to turn in one pair each of our shoes to be sent for resoling. After stopping at the Sparks Nugget for a nice breakfast at Rosie's Diner (they have a seafood omelet Lisa likes), we dealt with the other two errands. It turns out to the the pair of my shoes that I brought them was too badly worn on the uppers for them to repair them; however, that was not a problem inasmuch as I just swapped them for the pair I was wearing, which was repairable. The cost of refurbishing the shoes is half that of a new pair, and considering that these shoes have lasted for years already, it's very cost-effective.

We had some vague ideas of doing other shopping as well, but Lisa is not feeling well and after we dealt with the shoes, said, "Let's go home," which we did.

While I was in Reno, my mother called. We discussed my idea of popping down to see her tomorrow, weather permitting, and after discussing it for a while, she said not to do so as a special trip, but instead to do so as part of my next regular trip to the Bay Area. When that will be is unclear. I'm supposed to go down there a week from tomorrow, but current week-ahead weather forecasts suggest that snow will get in the way. I may have to leave on Friday afternoon and go first to Yuba City that day, then on to the Bay Area, in order to dodge snowstorms. Somewhat ironically, it has warmed up sufficiently in Fernley that electric heaters are sufficient and we let the wood fire burn out for the first time in a week. (This did give me a chance to clean the stove, something you can't easily do when it's hot.)

I'm delighted that we're getting lots of snow in the mountains, but it's definitely personally inconvenient for my Nevada-to-Bay-Area commuting.

Current Mood: relaxed
Friday, January 22nd, 2016
8:31 pm
Low Activity
Lisa is not feeling well, and aside from Day Jobbe, I'm mostly keeping quiet myself. There's weather heading this way, although the snowstorm moving over Donner Summit tonight is apparently nothing compared to the Snowpocolypse in the East. If Lisa is feeling well enough to do so, we do have errands to do in Reno tomorrow.

Current Mood: quiet
Thursday, January 21st, 2016
7:16 pm
Keeping the Stone Rolling
I didn't write about it at the time, but I had two mechanical problems with the Rolling Stone during my last stint in the Bay Area. Both were fortunately not total show-stoppers, but they were annoying, and they needed to be fixed.

Broken ToiletCollapse )

Besides the toilet issue, the driver's seat had developed an alarming amount of wobble during the two weeks. When I described it to Lisa, she told me to stop turning the driver's seat at night (I get more legroom while sleeping when I do so) and she tackled that issue this afternoon.

Cheaper Fix Than the ToiletCollapse )

I'm very relieved that we have the driver's seat not wobbling around as I drive, and that the toilet is working again. I'm also relieved that the total cost of the repairs was relatively low, and is "paid back" with two nights sleeping in the RV rather than staying in a motel when I'm working in the Bay Area. Now if only the building security at the two offices at which I work would change their minds about people sleeping in their vehicles overnight.

Current Mood: accomplished
Wednesday, January 20th, 2016
11:08 am
Mouse in the House
A few nights ago, I went into the kitchen and startled a mouse that had been on the kitchen counter. It scurried away as mice do. The next morning, I found where it had chewed into a package of instant oatmeal. At Lisa's suggestion, I poured some of the rest of the package into the "tin cat" humane mouse trap we have in the kitchen and put the trap near where the box of oatmeal had been.

Last night, I heard clanking sounds coming from the kitchen. When I went into the kitchen and turned on the light, the sounds stopped, but when I picked up the trap I could feel that the mouse was in the box as it skittered around in distress. (The trap has one-way doors; mice can get in but not out.) I walked across the road into the outskirts of the railroad yard and lifted the lid. The terrified little mouse was trying to hide in the door where it had come in, but was betrayed by its tail. When I poked at its tail, it jumped out of the box and ran off into the sagebrush.

I hope the mouse won't make its way back into the house. It's welcome to try and make its way in the railyard, if it can avoid the feral cats and a few raptors in he area. I have no problem with field mice. It's house mice that I don't want.

Current Mood: accomplished
Tuesday, January 19th, 2016
8:24 pm
Night and Day
I find that I can put on the replay of the night session (starts at Midnight Pacific time if watched live) of the Australian Open in the background while I'm working, and then watch the day session (4 PM PT start) in the evening, without fretting over missing something.

The Australian Open is the only one of the major tennis tournaments with three closable roofs, and they've needed it today as the early days' heat was replaced with rain.

Current Mood: content
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