Review: Day of the Doctor

Review: Day of the Doctor

Rating: Worth the wait for any Dr. Who fan. Great starting point for anyone new to the franchise!

So, I had skipped big slices of the last two seasons of Matt Smith as the 12th Doctor. Bringing me back to the fold was the 50th Anniversary episode featuring John Hurt as wartime version of our venerable Time Lord. The other big attraction was David Tennant revisiting his incarnation of the Doctor. What had converged these three iterations of the Doctor all together, a doomsday device called “The Moment.” On the last day of the Time War, this weapon was the last unused military weapon available from the Gallifrey archives to thwart a siege of Daleks on the Gallifrey home world. Having developed consciousness, “The Moment” had decided to punch holes in space time continuum in hoping to avert John Hurt’s Doctor from performing a horrible genocide on Gallifrey.

With unfolding plot with all three Doctors in tow, they had come across another earthbound threat of an alien race called the Zygons. In finding a solution to mitigating this invading force, the 12th Doctor had realized another means of avoiding  the genocidal power of “The Moment.” From this epiphany, the audience had received a phenomenal “save the day” finale working in various versions of the Doctor. In setting up Matt Smith’s second to last episode,  Dr. Who fans had also received an unexpected cameo via a heartfelt performance by one previous Doctor in actor Tom Baker. The last 10 minutes of “Day of the Doctor” had provided so much raw emotion, I had literally jumped out of my seat in joy during a visual homage to all the previous Doctors. Uncertain anyone else had felt the same but, what a great means of indoctrinating me again as a Dr. Who fan.

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For folks missing the broadcast or a DVR, you can pickup this episode on iTunes.

BBC America had scheduled a rebroadcast “Day of the Doctor” on Wednesday, January 1st, 3:00 AM Eastern
BBC America’s Dr. Who airing schedule is available here: http://www.bbcamerica.com/doctor-who/schedule/

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Manatee Springs State Park @ Chiefland, Florida

On the last Sunday of 2013, around 4:30 am, I had received a text from a good friend while asleep. The text was the start of a conversation for selecting a pick-up time for heading out to Manatee Springs State Park @ Chiefland, Florida. By chance, I had awoke around 5:30 am responding to his text with “Ready to go in 30 minutes.” The irony, my friend and I had reversed sleeping schedules by chance. Usually, I had perked up earlier in the day; though, this morning was different. Our travel plan had evolved as early as Thursday. Since then, I had checked the weather report, water clarity, and any manatees blocking spring access; however, accommodating out of town friends and family, we had pushed back our initial target date from Saturday to Sunday. With my buddy’s arrival at 6 am, we had embarked to our water borne destination tossing my gear into his back seat.

A big concern for this fresh water adventure was air management and site selection. Neither of us had known a great deal about this locale in advance. Our tentative objective was scout the two bodies of water at the park; Manatee Springs and Catfish Hotel. Less any onsite objections, we had wanted to expend 1000 PSI (i.e. pounds per square inch) out of 3000 from our scuba tanks per body of water. Another unexpected variable was weather. During in car conversations, we had both noticed the unusually warm temperatures in Orlando, Florida. Beginning the drive, the skies were slightly overcast with little to no rain. Entering the last hour of the drive, a heavy deluge had begun falling. For the most part, passing storms in Florida had provided a shelf life of about 15 minutes. Intensifying with the sound of thunder and flashes of lighting, this front had matured beyond that characterization. For a scuba trip, we had wondered what kind of omen this might mean at Manatee Springs State Park.

After commuting just under three hours, we had pulled into the park’s main gate courtesy of my friend’s snappy driving. Flashing our Florida State Park Annual Family Pass for admission, we had cleared the gate. Though, we were immediately re-directed to diver check-in. During that process, one of the rangers had entered exclaiming, ”You are going to get your hair wet out there today.” My response was, “Somehow, I don’t think that’ll be a problem scuba diving.” Despite the dreary overcast skies, this happy banter had reinforced our cheerful road demeanor. That good karma, I had believed in manifestation of slowing the rains and an end to the thunder and lightning.

Afterwards, we had followed the road down a bit until parking. From here, we had engaged in walk-through of Catfish Hotel and Manatee Springs. Two things had immediately caught my eye. One, a sign for snakes, which in all of my Florida travels, I had seen only once before at remote beach on Honey Moon Island. The second, a layer of bright puke green algae had obscured about half of the water’s surface at Catfish Hotel. Now, I hadn’t really worried much about any snakes with the air temperatures dipping to 68 F degrees with no sun; however, the green algae had just reminded me of an out of control toilet or sewer. The notion of submerging myself into this water hole had just invoked the idea of filth. The phrase,”Ewwwh!” had epitomized my feeling exactly.

Post our walk-through, we had suited up selecting the deepest body of water, my favorite of course, Catfish Hotel. Moving down the steps for entry, much to my relief, my buddy had entered first. He had inadvertently caused a wake clearing a path in the algae. In this wake, I was now able to see clear water below. With this opening, I had mitigated my earlier disgust. Putting off use of my regulator, I had swam out to the center of the water. Agreeing once more to general subsurface plan, we had descended into Catfish Hotel. We had maneuvered into the base of the depression moving to threshold of the cavern going to Manatee Springs. Throughout our 12 minute dive, we had seen various fish including, yes, hand sized catfish. Coming about to 40 feet in depth, we had pulled parallel to the cavern opening. After pivoting off some submerged tree logs, I had come within view of a corner pocket off this cavern threshold. In this pocket, I had seen a medium school of small fish. Because of the lack of surface light penetrating the darkness, I wasn’t able to get a make on a specific type of fish. With a maddening curiosity, I had wanted to investigate them further. Though, due to my lack of cavern diving credentials, I had redirected to ascending into the middle of water column. During that moment, I had recalled recent discussions of mishaps by unqualified divers and swimmers dying this year at Wekiva Springs, Silver Glen Springs and Eagle’s Nest. Later in the day, my dive buddy had forwarded a great YouTube video summarizing the dangers of cavern diving by the untrained called, ”A deceptively easy way to die.” The point of the video was the mental seduction of what appears safe to the inexperienced precipitating in a life ending event.

After an allotment of time for a safety stop, we both had resurfaced switching out our regulators for snorkels. Out of the water, I had turned down to see my friend pulling himself up an exit ladder. A layer of green algae had covered the top of his body. Luckily, I was spared a similar fate by following in his wake to the water’s edge. Walking to Manatee Springs, he had told me of his misfortune of sucking algae into his mouth from his snorkel. He had described the sensation as extremely unpalatable. To freshen up, we had quickly immersed ourselves into the pristine clear blue waters of the Manatee Spring boil. From the spring head, we had used our snorkels to acclimate to the physical layout of submerged area. After going back up against the current, we had took a moment to rest to our heart rate before switching back to our tanks. Soon after, we had descended into the spring.

The main attraction for this 25 foot deep area, the strong underwater current. To close out the day, I had decided to place myself directly in path of this raw power. After equalizing a few times, I had grabbed firmly upon a rock at the threshold of the spring opening. The pressure forcing me back was substantial. My right hand had flexed to maintain a firm grip. After a moment, I had shifted to two hands onto a larger rock. Wanting to share in the experience, I had signaled my friend down. I had encouraged him to hold onto the adjacent rock. After settling on the bottom, we had felt the current’s force breach our masks with noticeable amount of water. Periodically, we had exercised pushing the water out with air from our noses. Despite the display of nature’s unbridled will, the current was extremely relaxing, almost enthralling.

With air starting to run low, I had perched myself  atop another submerged log. After catching my friend’s attention, I had made a few hand signals mimicking sexual gestures for humor sake. In response, my friend had motioned to the surface. He wanted to share in the beauty of the light rain breaking the surface tension. The cascading effect from below had appeared almost like drops of silver.  After this observation, we had concluded with another scuba safety stop. Leaving the water this time, we had packed our equipment for departure.

This day was marked by grey clouds and spattering of rain. Raining days were defined by most people as depressing in general. This one was different. Reflecting on the whole experience now, it had took the mundane into the realm of magnificent. This experience was rooted above and below the water in appreciation of physical exploration, mental renewal, and joyful friendship.”If everyday had ended that way,” I had thought,”Text me whenever! I’ll be ready to go in 30 minutes.”

Manatee Springs State Park
Address: 11650 NW 115 Street, Chiefland, Florida 32626
Phone: (352) 493-6072

Read More:
Manatee Springs State Park (Florida State Parks)
A deceptively easy way to die (YouTube)

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Sponsored by Seminole Scuba

fishtall2

Get to know Paul Shepherd and his competent team at Seminole Scuba in Lake Mary, Florida, whether getting certified or making a once in a lifetime trip like AFRICA 2014.

More Information:
website: www.seminolescuba.com
phone:  407-333-8856

Springer Mountain, Georgia on the Appalachian Trail @ Chattahoochee National Forest

Measuring life in metrics, getting to the top of Springer Mountain was 8.3 miles from starting at Amicalola Falls State Park for travelers unfamiliar with the journeying to the Appalachian Trail; however, I had traveled so much further beyond maps or miles. I had carved out a mental image from films, a friend’s listing of favorite books, and a mutual wanderlust. The objective of the day was reaching the southern terminus, aka tip, of the Appalachian Trail (AT) on this mountain top.

At the start of this Sunday, the view atop Amicolola Falls had gave way to the Blue Ridge mountain range below a clear baby blue sky. The mind’s eye aside, climbing Amicalola Falls’ steps a second day in a row had become a welcome break from hiking in the cold damp darkness of the night before. After soaking in this gaze for a few moments, we had quickly retraced about two miles of progress from the previous evening. We had reflected on the decision to turn back momentarily being the “right choice” and “smart choice.”  With that in mind, the next revelation of the day had come in the discovery of a clearing for an open air camping area. It was just past the previous night’s turnaround point. Any second guessing our decision had quickly washed away with daylight illuminating a clear sight of stout mountains and leaf less trees. The day’s hike had continued from there in a rhythmic manner; ”up”, “then down,” “up,” and “up again.”

During our first major mountain ascent, this pattern was interrupted by a descending party of about ten people. Out of common courtesy and easy passage, we had pulled to the side of the trail. While eating a snack of pop tarts, a little blonde girl stepping down the path had wished us a Merry Christmas. This innocent act had colored our physical activity in a different range of emotions. A common bond of community had asserted itself beyond our solitary activity. Before starting up again, an elderly gentlemen had asked about the trail below. In his response, my travel companion had described the steep decline and his preference for stark inclines instead. The gentleman’s response was, “You’re going to get plenty of that shortly.” So we had begun our hiking rhythm again. Until late afternoon, we had marched taking impromptu breaks for water, food, bathroom, and of course photographic evidence!

Approaching the final three miles of our trek, we had started to experience cold gusts and snow flurries. At first, I had thought the snow some form of fungus or tree decay. Not seeing snowflakes since the age of 18, it had provided a degree of personal wonderment and euphoria. In contrast, the brooding grey clouds had sparked some personal concerns. Having lived in tropical zones most of my life from Florida, the Bahamas and Singapore, I had wanted to limit my exposure to the elements with the onset of dusk. The elevation and chill were one set of tenable question marks. I had thought, “What of water in its various forms; sleet, rain, snow?” Water had offered the greatest potential for transforming this rocky landscape into something seductively dangerous. Regardless of the answer, I had not wanted to find out in the dark of night.

Fortunately, we were close to reaching one of two trail shelters and our final destination. The first landmark denoting our proximity to this first shelter was a wooden blue sign pointing down to water. Navigating down the slope to a tiny creek, my friend had graciously volunteered for water extraction duty. At the creek, he had used a manual filter pump for collecting water. While waiting for his return, my mind had drifted into mischief. Up to this point, I was channeling a certain degree of seriousness, unwieldy for such an adventure. The idea of mooning him from a downed log had popped in my brain; however, the biting cold wind gusts had wiped that idea clear into oblivion.

With my buddy topside, we had walked about another half mile to signs pointing to the first wooden shelter. Scouting out the shelter for a few minutes, another pair of hikers had converged on our location. We had exchanged information relating to portions of the trail. After deciding to press forward, my friend had leveraged this opportunity for maxing out our water supply near this shelter. With the three of us remaining, we had stopped any physical activity while chatting. The immediate impact, we had all begun getting painfully cold in our hands and feet. During my wait, I had started moving about in circle compensating for walking on the trail. With my friend’s return, we had headed out on the last two miles of journey.

After picking up our walking tempo, we had arrived in short order at the demarcation for the southern terminus of the AT. In this clearing, two metal plaques had adorned rock along with a log book and statue. The only disappointment were the clouds obstructing the mountain top overlook. After breaking from photo ops, we had pushed on to the final destination for the day, a mountain top shelter. At this multi-level wooden shelter, we had encountered several other travelers. They had placed a tarp over the front opening to reduce the wind gusts. They had also attempted building a fire; however, the cold wet wood  had kept the fire from being viable. As far as sleeping for the night, the other travelers had conceded the elevated loft area for my friend and me. After eating some food, we had prepped our sleeping bags and clothes for slumber. During the night, I had focused on trying to keep my fingers and toes warm. I was bit paranoid with the rating on my Coleman sleeping bag. Before sundown, the temperature was around 30 degree F. What I hadn’t known, according to someone else’s gauge, the temperature dipping into the 20s.

Eventually, daylight had returned to the mountain top with warmer temperatures. Also returning, was our desire to move on from Springer Mountain. Our next destination, Hawk Mountain, was already brewing an image in our mind’s eye. Measuring life in moments, this was a start to another great day of wanderlust on the AT.

Read More:
Springer Mountain (Wikipedia)
Springer Mountain (GeorgiaTrails.com)
Review: Appalachian Impressions (GarzaFX)
Review: National Geographics’s America’s Wild Spaces: Appalachian Trail (2009) (GarzaFX)

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Sponsored by Seminole Scuba

shrimptall

Get to know Paul Shepherd and his competent team at Seminole Scuba in Lake Mary, Florida, whether getting certified or making a once in a lifetime trip like AFRICA 2014.

More Information:
website: www.seminolescuba.com
phone:  407-333-8856

Office 365 configuring a user to not expire via powershell

For those mentally transposing commands from Active Directory and Exchange via PowerShell, I had thought this might be useful in avoiding some pitfalls in your daily Azure admin tasks.

Before we had started, double-check the following pre-requisites for running Windows Azure Active Directory Module for Windows PowerShell.

a. Review software requirements.

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj151815.aspx#BKMK_Requirements

b. Install the Windows Azure AD Module for Windows PowerShell.

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj151815.aspx#bkmk_installmodule

So let us begin!

1. Under Microsoft Online Services, run as administrator the Microsoft Online Services Module for Windows PowerShell.

2. Enter; Connect-msolservice

3. When prompted, enter login credentials for an Office 365 administrative account.

4. Locate the User Principal Name for the account for editing.

NOTE: If unsure, export your entire list of users with the following command: Get-MSOLUser -All | export-csv c:\getusers.csv.

5. Run the following command, Set-MsolUserPassword to set a password. Reference the following example:

Set-MsolUserPassword -UserPrincipalName ellen.ripley@lv426.onmicrosoft.com -ForceChangePassword $False -NewPassword “Xenomorph#1”

6.  Setting user password not to expire, Get-MSOLUser | SetMsoluser. Reference the following example:

Get-MSOLUser -UserPrincipalName ellen.ripley@lv426.onmicrosoft.com | Set-MsolUser -PasswordNeverExpires $true

The key variable that had needed qualifying –UserPrincipalName. In Exchange and Active Directory, I had left  this open ended or closed with the –identity switch in PowerShell. Also, I had gotten tripped up with Boolean data for reference for –ForceChangePassword $False instead of “False” or False.

If you hadn’t typed the commands properly, expect some of the follow automated errors:

Get-MsolUser : A positional parameter cannot be found that accepts argument

Set-MsolUserPassword : Cannot convert ‘System.String’ to the type ‘System.Nullable`1[System.Boolean]’ required by parameter ‘ForceChangePassword’.

Read More:
Set-MsolUserPassword (Microsoft TechNet)
Get-MsolUser (Microsoft TechNet)
Set up user passwords to never expire (Office365)

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Unwrapping the holiday spirit of Christmas

Returning from Jacksonville, Florida, I had reflected on the hours of Christmas day with my immediate family. I had stellar time sharing in food, conversation, affection and a film; however, a few thoughts had come to mind during the commute from Orlando, Florida on the morning drive.

Those thoughts had encompassed three different ideas in the holiday spirit; reaching out, forgiveness, and returning love.

1)       Reaching out

What I had meant here, the act of reconnecting with someone for whatever reason you no longer speak with, whether a year, decade or more. In life, I had thought people make artificial barriers preventing a connection with friends, family and other loved ones. The artificial barriers I had alluded to, space and time. Speaking from personal experience, I had felt a little embarrassed for not keeping up with some folks after moving to a different town or a career change. The opposite was also true for some folks as well from raising kids, marriage or another “life event.” What I had known, regardless if some inquiries go nowhere, others rekindle relationships worth the effort in light of any failure. So, take chance on reaching out to someone that had enlightened your life. You might just be surprised what comes about from a call, letter, or even social media shout out.

2)      Forgiveness

With self or someone else, this tenant of Western theology had cleared the way for redemption, whether physical, mental or a combination thereof. I was not saying forget life, just let go of the emotion, move on!

3)      Returning love

Love back those that truly love you, I think I had heard that phrase before. To this point, a few years ago, a good friend had landed in the hospital sick. He had reached out for a hug. Honestly, I had stood there slow to respond. He had commented,” Get over here, I know you don’t like being touched and give me a hug.” Seriously, I was wrapped a bit too tight to really communicate on that level. Perhaps, I had thought it a sign of weakness as a man. What I had learned since then, save the stoic bit for when in the coffin. It was true gift to connect on such a level whether verbally or physically. Putting ego aside, what greater gift was there than the act of validating a loved one’s existence with the same level of intimate communication.

So with this day almost gone, I had wanted to share these moments in the spirit of Christmas with you. Hopefully, it had provided greater insight into myself, yourself.

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Amicalola Falls State Park @ Dawsonville, Georgia

On the morning of Saturday, December 14th 2013, I had embarked on 8 hour plus drive to Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville, Georgia. What had made this destination so alluring after a prolonged business trip? An unrepentant desire had filled my head with a need for physical adventure serving as counterpoint to the mundane nature of work in IT. Why now? For some of the road trips earlier in the year, sometimes the amount of “time off” hadn’t allowed the proper conclusion for random excursions. This go around, I had requested a whole week off. Earlier in the year, I had visited Vogel State Park, Georgia and some of the surrounding hiking trails. It was one of the best times outdoors ever because of precarious descent of up-tempo mountain side hiking despite, tempting fate with one wrong slip at dusk. Yet, beyond the scope of that hike was the untapped desire for convergence onto the Appalachian Trail by way of Blood Mountain. This idea had sat dormant after the last road trip into Georgia. As with any good master plan, the seed for a return was planted long ago in my friend’s mind. All that was required, a response to the question,”Wanna do anything this weekend?” Of course, I had formed the answer to the question well in advance. Free will was a beautiful thing. Now, the specific details for this hiking trip, I hadn’t mastered at all but, enter my buddy’s advance preparation. Even without that consideration, I had probably signed up in my current mental state for anything outdoors sans nuclear war.

After a supply stop in a Cumming’s Georgia Walmart, we had pushed for the final portion of our drive. Arriving in the state park off-hours, we had registered with park’s log book for hiking the A.T. Around 8 PM Eastern, we had headed out to the park trail going toward Amicalola Falls. With light from my friend’s head lamp, we had forged toward the sound of falling water. At the base of ascent, we had seen a sign cautioning strenuous activity of 175 steps. I had figured,”Not too bad.” Though, in my haste to get moving, I had left the top portion of hiking bag chest strap undone. This oversight had doubled the amount of effort on the ascent. At the beginning, I had enjoyed the exertion on my body; however, at the end of the night, it had caused some cramping in my right calf. In contrast, it had still beat sitting in car or airplane for hours on end. After clearing the 175 steps, we had both worked up good amount of perspiration. Completing the 175 steps and a walk across a wooden bridge, we had seen another sign for strenuous activity a few moments later. That sign had outlined a step count of 425. I had thought, ”You got to be kidding?” With some angst, we had eventually cleared those steps as well. About 2 miles later into the hike, we had started the approach trail toward our final destination of the A.T. With the cold wet dark night, we had let common sense prevail agreeing to double back to beginning of the park until daylight. Staying on premises, we had camped out in the first shelter to make way for the next day.

The good news the following morning, the views of the falls were astounding on ascent. The great news for you, there was road side access at the base and top of the falls for those with less of an inclination to cover the 600 combined steps. Amongst the four waterfalls in Georgia and Florida I had seen, Amicalola Falls, claims a special place in my memory with backdrop of the surrounding mountain range. That view had kicked off the 2nd of 5 days in Georgia. If you had decided to travel the Southeast, strongly recommend taking a trip out to Amicalola Falls State Park @ Dawsonville, Georgia.

Amicalola Falls State Park
Address: 240 Amicalola Falls State Park Road, Dawsonville, GA 30534
Phone: (706) 344-1500

Read more:
Appalachian Trail (National Park Service)
Amicalola Falls State Park (Georgia State Parks)

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Perfect Day @ 42

On Friday, December 13th, 2013, I had awoke two hours into a red eye flight back to Orlando, Florida. Being in a plane crash when twelve years old, sleeping in-flight had become a foreign concept until now. After an exhausting 80 hour work week in California, I had fell asleep with earphones on listening to the all too familiar, Tron Legacy Soundtrack. The big bonus of the early morning was discovering the flight time being four hours versus, the initial westbound trip of five. At 3 am Eastern, I had already thought, “Good way to start the day.”

Getting home from the airport around 5:30 am, I had wanted to generate a self-induced insulin spike for another round of sleep. Scarfing down a banana, a big spoon of peanut butter, a magnesium pill and cup of orange juice, I had set course for slumber on my Spartan two inch mattress pad on the bedroom floor. For those unfamiliar with this Spartan affair, it was physical and mental conditioning for various road trips for the back of my ’96 Ford Explorer or some hiking shelter. Plus, I had experienced feline fluids once too often on a decent mattress but, urine that’s another story for another day. Fading quickly into unconsciousness, I had received the best sleep in two weeks in two hours. Waking up a few hours later, I had begun unpacking my luggage before heading to 10 am doctor appointment. Before leaving my place, I had received some impromptu affection from my cat Patch. Stroking Patch’s soft orange white ears, I had reflected, “Great to be home again!”

After a quick interlude reviewing blood work with my family doctor of 13 years, I had started driving to Altamonte Springs AMC Movie Theater for a noon showing of “The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug.” En route, I had fielded a call from a good friend. Taking a moment from his workday, he had sung “happy birthday to you” in his low masculine southern inflection. With his father’s passing about a year ago, I was moved. Think the act had meant a lot two both of us. After all, only my mom had called to wish such tidings that way. Wrapping up the call, I had thought, ”The Hobbit can suck, it’ll still be a good day!”

Arriving at the AMC Movie Theater with another friend, I had purchased my ticket going straight to the overpriced concession stand.  There, I had mentioned receiving a free big soda on your birthday; however, the line employee had wanted an actual print out of the email offer. With some managerial escalation, I had coaxed them into scanning the barcode directly from my iPhone. With the elation of victory, I had clinched my fist with arm halfcocked blurting out the phrase, “Money!”

Returning from the movie, I had wanted to finally watch, BBC’s 50th Anniversary episode of Dr. Who, “Day of the Doctor.” Though during the morning, I had accumulated quite a few well-wishing messages from Facebook, email, texts, and voice mail. Some people, I hadn’t heard from in a few weeks to a quite a few years. I had concluded time better spent exchanging responses before becoming self-indulgent. Dr. Who being a “Time Lord”, I had thought in Yoda speak, “He understands changes to space time continuum, yes!”

With personal affairs in order, I had turned on my Apple TV and LCD television to watch Dr. Who. Needless to say, I hadn’t kept up with the last two seasons of Matt Smith as “the Doctor.” The anticipation for this episode had come from fellow fan feedback and John Hurt as special guest star. Without providing any spoilers, I had completed the episode with joyful smile and even a semblance of a tear. As the late Lou Reid had sung, “Oh, what a perfect day!”

With the theme of Dr. Who fresh in my mind, I had headed out to pick up another friend for Karaoke. Arriving at the bar around 10 PM Eastern, we had discovered the facility closing without an ounce of entertainment. Improvising, my friend and I had gone around the corner to another restaurant with live music. With a ginger ale and margarita in tow, we had hatched a gestating idea. That idea was going back to Georgia the next day to hike part of Appalachian Trail. With excitement of the idea keeping exhaustion at bay, I had figured,”Why not?”

I had started the day with just wanting to be home and get to a doctor’s appointment. The irony, I had experienced so much more in moments than any wrapped gifts can contain. Think a lot of people had characterized me in my 20s and 30s as being stoic, inward and dark. Trolling around in my early 40s, I had hoped to be a catalyst for illumination. To my blog’s refrain of “What is inside you?”, on 12/13/13, on this day, it was a “Perfect Day @ 42.”

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Read More:
Lou Reed, Perfect Day (Wikipedia)
Appalachian Trail Conservancy (Appalachian Trail Conservancy)

Returning from Off The Grid

Sometimes life and adventure require your full attention! In an effort to slow down moments in time, that’s exactly what I choose to do, unplug. Updates forthcoming:

1. 5 day road trip to Georgia, including: a taste of the Appalachian Trail.

2. Review: The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

3. Perfect 42, how does your birthday make you feel?

4. Review: Day of the Doctor

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The Arrival @ Anaheim, California

This past Saturday, with my hiking bag popping out onto the luggage pickup carousel at LAX, I had arrived in California. Texting my friend for pickup, I had waited on the side street like a tired, desperate hustler or hooker. Despite pulling more hours on the road this year in a day, I had still felt like a caged animal sitting in economy class, Row 29, Seat B on Delta flight 1061. Standing in the cool crisp 50 F degree air was a welcome break before hopping into my friend’s car heading to Anaheim. Punching the destination into his navigation system, we had embarked onto a 30 minute ride across LA’s darkened highways.

With lights from descending airplanes piercing the night time sky, we had started talking about upcoming travel plans. My friend had rattled off quite a few states for the upcoming year including; Washington and South Carolina. Myself, I had spoken only to the trip before me in California. In casual talk of work and living in LA, we had soon drifted to health. The conversation had gone into detail about my friend’s confrontation with testicular cancer. After verifying a self-diagnosis, he had one of his testicles removed around 5 years ago. For a man still in his late 30s, I was shocked a bit. Normally, I had imagined men in their golden years for such a diagnosis. Then again, I was not a medical professional.

Arriving in Anaheim, we had started joking around with sexual and other politically incorrect humor. I hadn’t hung out with my friend in years but, in 30 minutes, we didn’t miss a beat. With the ride over, I had gathered my belongings heading toward check-in at the Disneyland hotel. On Delta flight 1061, I had wandered down to the onboard restroom. There I had seen an icon for tampon dispenser. With all the challenges of this work week, I had whined about the crazy work hours, jet lag, and indigestion. In the context of ride to Anaheim, I had reflected on the fortune of having two testicles versus my buddy. Regardless of the disappointment of seeing more of local topography, I had thought important to insert my mental tampon for the remainder of the visit. If this trip was about that 30 minute moment with my friend, then time well spent.

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Eggs Benedict over White Wolf Cafe @ Orlando, Florida

Before heading out to Anaheim, California, I had wanted to eat up breakfast at White Wolf Cafe in downtown Orlando. With the stress of an upcoming business trip, I had figured,” Why not get a special treat?” A treat for myself had meant a meal requiring special skills and/or ingredients. In this case, my order had included poached eggs, avocado, crab cakes, and Hollandaise sauce of course. Upon arriving at my table, I had placed a rush order on White Wolf’s eclectic home fries. Impatiently waiting, my starving mind had already drifted to the monster, Audrey 2, from Little Shop of Horrors declaring, “Feed me Seymour!”

With that howl still echoing in my brain, the waiter had expeditiously brought out the side dish. I had wasted no time before savoring the first forkful of breakfast. Across my taste buds, I had felt the textures and flavors of white onions, Idaho and sweet potatoes, with a touch of oil, salt and pepper. It was enough to hold me over until getting my full order of eggs Benedict.

Waiting for the order, I had recalled four years passing by since my last visit to White Wolf. A lot had changed in that time; a few surgeries, a friend’s passing at age 33, and of course the global recession of 2008. Despite some of the past few years’ challenges, plus some on the horizon, I had a lot to be grateful for in life. At 10,000 feet in air, missing a flight today was grounded in reminiscing about the avocado, crab cake, and poached eggs of the early morning.

Read More:
White Wolf Cafe (website)
Little Shop of Horrors (IMDB)
Eggs Benedict (Wikipedia)

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On the road to friendship from Florida to California

This upcoming week, I had volunteered to head out to California for work. First, I had loathed traveling for business. Over the years, job opportunities had come across my email, most including more pay and lots of travel. Sure money had provided a better means of living but, at what cost to prime time with family, friends and other loved ones. My motivation for California had stemmed from seeing some great topography and a good friend.

Earlier in the year, my friend and I had talked about catching up but, competing Labor Day plans did not allow us to. The irony regarding our Labor Day plans, we had come within 50 miles of each other in West Florida. Unknown to me, his fishing trip had remained on shore because of bad weather. Go fish, pun intended! The great thing about friendships, with a little effort, hanging out had always seemed to materialize.Tomorrow, I had looked forward to documenting my free-time adventures in Cali, sans Disneyland. The big payoff though was just reconnecting with my friend, Joe.

There will be blood!

Until recently, I had experienced a certain degree of squeamishness watching blood draws from a phlebotomist. Receiving a call from the doctor’s office, the time had arrived for another joyous extraction from my body. In commuting to work today, I had debated whether or not to blog about this bloody affair. On one hand, by sharing the experience, I had figured speak to freewill, fear and health. On the other hand, I had coveted the opportunity to maybe gross out someone with a description and/or depiction of fluid squirting into a vial. With the titillation of documenting a blood draw, I had decided to face my own phobia while providing a specimen.

Scheduling the appointment Wednesday, I had thought about the various friends and family with varying degrees of health issues. With all of these folks, blood had played an instrumental role in providing feedback for possible treatments. Each one of those people had experienced one form of blood defect or another; anemia, bad cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, HIV and beyond. Perplexing to me, the number of people with good health care that had avoided any type of medical care, let alone leveraging the results. Maybe some folks had romanced the idea of dying at their desk? Maybe not?

Walking back from a work break yesterday, I had engaged in conversation with a fellow coworker speaking to a mutual love of food. The man had talked about his quality of life deriving from all the wonderfully fattening food out in the world. My mind’s eye had quickly filled with images of BBQ ribs, pizza, hot dogs and fries. All of a sudden, my food selections for the day; bananas, protein shakes, and tuna had seemed awfully bland. Before breaking for his desk, the slightly obese man had made another comment,” I know what I got coming. I just wanna enjoy life while I am here.” Morbid? Yes; however, catching me at vulnerable moment of hunger, I had thought, ”Awe yah! Real food!” I responded verbally with the following,” I have seen quite a few skinny sad faces out there. They just might be happier with a burger and a milkshake.” The point was a familiar theme, freewill to determine one’s quality of life.

To that freewill part, I had arrived at my appointment for blood draw this morning. I was starving like a rapid bear. I had asked the phlebotomist about recording her routine. She had gracefully granted my request. Sitting down, I had focused a mobile phone camera upon my elbow. Wrapping a tourniquet tightly around my upper right arm, the phlebotomist  had proceeded to wipe down my skin with an alcoholic pad. Flipping my thumb across my phone’s camera options, I had gleefully recorded some pictures and video. For a change, I had lost focus of the small needle pinch to the skin. With each passing second of recorded video, the stomach curdling feelings of watching blood squirt away had vanished. All I had needed to work on now, suppressing my lust for food!

Read More:
dying @ your desk (GarzaFX)
Eat According to Your Blood Type (Men’s Fitness)
Human Anatomy: Blood – Cells, Plasma, Circulation, and More (WebMD)

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Music by GarzaFX.com

Automating export of Exchange mailboxes and deletion of Active Directory User Accounts

Automating export of Exchange mailboxes and deletion of Active Directory User Accounts

In a march forward to process refinement, I had wanted to automate a manual process. The process had started at the end of employee termination after an AD account becomes disabled. With that in mind, I had outlined the objectives for the automated scheduled task.

  1. Export Exchange mailboxes from an OU to PST.
  2. Export a list of users from an OU with the last logon date of a 30 day interval.
  3. Delete a list of users from an OU with the last logon date of a 30 day interval.

Prerequisites:

  • A Windows 7 system added to your domain (i.e. garzafx.lcl)
  • Install  Microsoft Office 2010 or Office 2013.
  • Exclude Windows 7 system from automatic windows updates. The reason for the exclusion, periodically an Office update breaks the export process from client export from Exchange.
  • Install Exchange Management Tools matching the version number on the Exchange server.
  • Download and install “Remote Server Administration Tools” on Win 7 [KB958830: http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=7887]
  1. Create a folder named C:\psts.
  2. Create a powershell file labeled export-mail.ps1 inside C:\psts
  3. Copy and paste the below, then into export-mail.ps1

#Adding Exchange Snap In to execute Exchange CmdLets in this script

Add-PSSnapin Microsoft.Exchange.Management.PowerShell.Admin

# Get mailboxes for disabled users, add rights for service account

Get-mailbox -OrganizationalUnit “Disabled Users” | Add-MailboxPermission -User “garza\powershell” -AccessRight FullAccess -InheritanceType all

# Export mailboxes with no confirmation to directory setting a limit for corrupt items to 10,000

Get-mailbox –OrganizationalUnit “Disabled Users” | Export-Mailbox –PSTFolderPath “C:\PSTs\” -Confirm:$false -BadItemLimit 10000

# Enable Active Directory Powershell then, get AD Users over 30 days old from Disabled Users OU, export to file with date stamp, then delete

Import-Module ActiveDirectory

get-aduser -Searchbase “OU=Disabled Users,DC=lkm,DC=sungardps,DC=lcl” -filter * | where { $_.lastLogonDate -lt (get-date).adddays(-30) } | export-csv c:\psts\delete_ad_users_lkm_$((Get-Date).ToString(‘MM-dd-yyyy_hh-mm’)).csv

get-aduser -Searchbase “OU=Disabled Users,DC=lkm,DC=sungardps,DC=lcl” -filter * | where { $_.lastLogonDate -lt (get-date).adddays(-30) } | remove-aduser

4. Create a service account with the appropriate rights for powershell@garzafx.lcl (i.e. Domain Admins and Exchange Organizational Admins).

5. Create or relabel an OU for DISABLED USERS in the root of Active Directory. This can be whatever you want, just modify the script as necessary.

6. Create a scheduled task labeled: export-mail.

7. Run under service account (i.e. powershell@garzafx.lcl).

8. Select option to,”Run whether user is logged on or not.”

9. Choose, “Run with highest privileges enabled.”

10. Select trigger options (i.e. every day, 7am) and verify status, enabled.

11. Under Actions tab, select,”Start a Program.”

12. For Program/script enter: C:\Windows\system32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\powershell.exe

13. Under Add-arguments,”-file -Command “& ‘C:\psts\export-mail.ps1′”

14. Click OK and enter credentials when prompted.

The key objectives for the task were to provide daily routine to export mailboxes, write a copy of the expiring accounts to csv and then delete 30 day old accounts. The process had served as a primer for other tasks. The main change here was adding the Exchange permissions and the time stamp on the daily csv file.

ps

Thoughts on FSU being #1

Watching Florida State over the past decade, since the departure of Mark Richt, I had developed a fairly stoic appearance at home or at Doak Campbell Stadium. Underneath the facade, I had stored pent up energy stewing over blown calls, dropped passes, a crowd killing QB in Chris Rix and uncreative offensive playbook courtesy of Jeff Bowden. Cumulatively, I was unsure of Jimbo Fisher’s potential after mediocre offensive performances during the last three years of Bobby Bowden’s tenure. After Fisher’s final ascension to head coach, more questions than answers had remained. Ringing hollow the mantra of “We’re back”, the team had consistently lost mental focus ending with losses over previous seasons to Oklahoma, UF and NC State. In 2009, I had viewed an anemic offensive playbook against the Gators in the Swamp. The same weekend, I had watched high quality play calling from Auburn’s offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn. Despite their record and eventual loss, Auburn had pushed Alabama. In contrast, FSU’s loss was simply a pathetic offensive outing. I had pondered, ”Is Jimbo really the right fit? How about this guy, Gus Malzahn?” Since then, Gus Malzahn had helped Auburn to a BCS championship in 2010. In 2013, as the head coach for Auburn, Malzahn had engineered a great turnaround with only one loss to LSU. This success had culminated this past weekend in Alabama’s last minute defeat at Jordan-Hare.

So, had my opinion changed about Jimbo Fisher recently? The answer was no. Coming into this season, I hadn’t known the effect of having Jeremy Pruitt as Defensive Coordinator from Alabama would mean. I hadn’t also known the impact of Jameis Winston. Moving into FSU’s ACC schedule, they had a close call with a win over Boston College (48-34). The team had realized, by their own admission, the necessity to be ready every week. From a coaching perspective, that had seemed obvious; however, the players themselves had decided to steward their destiny with pride in their effort and focus. Accruing one sided victories over Clemson, UF and Miami, I had started to become impressed with the chemistry and consistency of the team. Echoing championship caliber runs from FSU in 1992 and 1999, the team had embodied a certain collective fire on the field.

Over the past few weeks, news stories had surfaced relating to possible impropriety of Jameis Winston off the field. After the revelations of Penn State, the charges, in the context collegiate athletics, were not overly shocking. The amount of time the investigation had taken for maturing, concerning to be sure. I had discussed this with fellow alumi, family and friends. Why had these charges taken so long to come to closure? In my opinion, there had seemed to be some undue external political influences (i.e. alumni, boosters). The common man had probably expected having a trial or charges with a few months, not a year. During this past Thanksgiving, my brother-in law, a Hurricane fan, had blurted out commentary to the case, “Winning is the only thing!” The tone of this statement had repainted FSU’s run for BCS championship. I had directed a great degree of criticism at Penn State for their administrative shortcomings.  My growing enthusiasm for this year’s run had weighted down with the possibility of criminal charges for FSU’s quarterback.

With the long developing legal issue for Winston, I had concluded,” Is this the reason Fisher for pulling Winston and the 1st team out so quickly during the season?” I had not known the answer but, without Winston, FSU’s odds for winning do change. This week forget the ACC and BCS Championship game, the big obstacle had remained off the field to be #1. For the sake of the other remaining players, I had hoped Winston’s legal woes to be untrue. If charges become a reality, if FSU still wins the BCS, Fisher and the team will had solidified their place in college athletics. For today, with the rest of the Seminole nation, I had continued to intently follow the fate of this QB, the coach and the remaining team.

Read More:
FSU hires Alabama assistant as new defensive coordinator (Jacksonville.com)
Decision on Jameis Winston charges could come this week or next, assistant state attorney says (Orlando Sentinel)

fsu

Revisiting Tandem Hang-Gliding Flight @ Groveland, Florida

November 2013 had ended with revisiting Groveland, Florida for Tandem Hang-Gliding at Quest Air field. Earlier this summer, during my first visit, spotting weather had given rise to a concern about wind shear. Signing on for a third aerial excursion, I had worked out any nervousness about falling from the sky, like Icarus from Greek mythology; however, my pilot, Donny, had acknowledged my previous suspicions relating to wind anomalies. His response regarding the flight, he had stated pragmatically, “I want to live too!” After deciding on different flight agendas for my friend and me, a company jeep had hauled us out to the grass airfield.

Arriving at a blue glider, I had started to get into the top portion of the tandem harness. Donny had wasted no time joking, saying, ”I am I getting raped here?” With my left eye brow rising, I had thought to myself, “That’s not ever happening!” He quickly had followed up the quip with, “Just busting your chops man! Par for the course the third time out.” Passing the time with idle chatter before the flight, I had mentioned scuba diving at Devil’s Den the previous day. Donny had expressed some concern to Spinner, the other glider pilot. He was concerned about the possibilities of “the bends.” After responding to the concern with passage of time (i.e. 24 hours) and a limited depth of 30 feet, everyone was ready to go.

Getting into the air first, Donny had waited until the tow cable release from the skiff, before proceeding with four acrobatic rolls. These aerial maneuvers were more thrilling than any roller-coaster ride, absolutely stunning. After those moves, Donny had passed control of the glider to me. Being my third outing, he had suggested focusing on a silver roof of a house below. Taking well to direction this go around, I hadn’t spiraled down like a diving kite like before. Between both pilots, Spinner and Donny, I had finally eased mentally into guiding the glider. Before heading out to this trip, I had wondered, ”How different will this flight be? Worth 105 bucks?” Those doubts were silenced thanks to the cumulative efforts of the folks at Quest Air. Now, I had felt comfortable with the notion of maybe pursing glider training in 2014.

Read More:
Tandem Hang-Gliding Flight, Groveland, FL at Quest Air Soaring Center (GarzaFX)
Wind shear (Wikipedia)
“the bends” (howstuffworks.com)
Icarus (Wikipedia)

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