2015 was a pretty good year by all accounts. Started out pretty quiet, and ended with a flurry of activity. The activity continues in 2016, but I'm anticipating it will be another good year too, especially with a new house to move in to.

Nala turned 11 a few days ago, and Simba will turn 10 next month. They're both a little more gray around the muzzle and their paws, but they stlil don't act their age, especially Simba.

It's a rainy start to the new year and now it's time to go start the Lord of the Rings marathon.

Hope everybody has a great 2016!

Papal Basilica: St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter's Square/Oval is impressive. It's big, it's grand, it's busy, and there are lots of things to see.

To get into St. Peter's Square required passing through security check points and sending things through x-ray scanners (like at the airport). Once inside, the square (really an oval shape) is pretty big. The size of the "arms" that wrap around most of the square make it seem not as large though, but you could definitely fit a few football fields in there comfortably.

While you're busy looking up and admiring all the sculptures at the top of the arms looking down on the square, don't forget to look down. In a few places you'll see stone medallions embedded in ground marking various things. Around the central obelisk are markers for 8 cardinal compass points, while slightly off to either side of the obelisk are markers that indicate the center point of each of the arms.



There are also markers for the astrological signs, positioned where the shadow of the obelisk falls at noon of the day each sign starts.


A marker marks the spot where Pope St. John Paul II was shot


The Basilica is huge. HUGE. You can find plenty of stats and lots of pictures about it online, but it's one of those things that until you see it in person, it's hard to appreciate the enormity of the place. Seriously, it's really big.


Look at all the tiny people!

Everything in the Basilica is just stunningly beautiful. Murals, sculptures, paintings, everything. Take your time wandering around.


The feet of the statue of St. Peter are pretty worn from people rubbing them.


The main altar, built over top of the tomb of St. Peter. The baldichin (the canopy over the altar) is 20m tall!


If you can, make sure to go on the Scavi tour (the necropolis underneath). It's quite a fascinating tour that takes you beneath the Basilica and to the tomb of St. Peter. You need to book it well in advance and the tours are limited to small groups.


It's also worth the effort to climb up to the cupola at the top of the dome of the Basilica. Tickets are pretty inexpensive, and for a little bit extra you can pay for the elevator ride up to the dome level and climb the stairs the rest of the way. Totally worth it I think. It's a lot of steps to climb even after the elevator, but it's definitely worth the effort.



Rome: Churches

The churches in Rome are without a doubt, spectacular and breath-taking. Even the simplest and smallest churches there that I saw made the ones I've seen here in the US seem plain looking by comparison.

We visited the four papal basilicas, the Pantheon and stopped in at a few random churches we happened to be walking by. It's not hard to find a church in Rome. They're more numerous than Starbucks in the US. Seriously, you can't walk past more than a few buildings without encountering a church.

One of the first churches we wandered in to was Basilica dei SS Ambrogio e Carlo on Via del Corso.





Most of the other churches were similarly decorated. If you leave Rome without having stepped into a church or two, you've missed out on admiring a lot of artwork.

Christmas moving

This year, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were spent moving us out of the house and into an apartment where we'll be staying for the next few months.

Despite having gotten rid of and donated a bunch of stuff (especially the big things), there was still a lot of stuff to pack up and move. I've accumulated a lot of stuff over the years in the house. We'll end up donating and giving away more before everything is over.

We're working on emptying the house so that minor renovation work can proceed unimpeeded: filling in a couple of walls where openings were made, replacing counter tops, carpet and vinyl flooring, repainting and a few other things.

We have stuff stashed in the garage, which will eventually be moved into a storage unit.

Once the work on the house is done, it will officially go on the market, and then we cross our fingers for a quick sale so that we can use the proceeds to pay for the new house (which is currently under construction).

Anybody want to buy a house? 1880 square feet, 4 bedrooms, large spacious living room, at the end of a cul-de-sac.

Easement work

SCE&G had some workers out today doing some work on the power line easement behind the house. Over the afternoon, they took out a fair number of trees to widen the easement. Not sure what the reason was for all the tree removal, if it was just for moving the tree line back from the power lines, or something related to the planned move of the power lines that's supposed to be happening further up the street.

Whatever the reason, it sure left a mess behind the house.


New power supply

Ordered a new computer power supply after we got back from Rome to replace the old one that flaked out. Went with a 750W EVGA SuperNOVA G2 supply from Newegg based on favourable comments at The Tech Report and jonnyGURU.

The power supply came in a nice sturdy box, and was securely packed inside.



All the cables that can plug into the power supply along with some cable ties, screws and a testing plug that lets you test the power supply without having to plug it into a computer.


It's a pretty slick looking power supply that comes in a nice black finish.


The modular connectors are all labeled so it's easy to figure out what cables go where.


Plenty of ventilation holes out the back for the fan to push hot air through. The ECO ON/OFF switch toggles a power saving mode that turns on the fan only when the power supply needs additional cooling. The fan is pretty quiet and I can't hear it over the noise of the other fans in the system.


After about 30 minutes of routing and re-routing the cables, I got the power supply installed. Installation was pretty easy. The cables are all labeled, so there's no guess work about what cables are used where.


Turned the power on and everything came up without any smoke appearing. The cable routing is pretty messy right now. At some point if I get motivated enough, I may tear everything apart and re-route everything to make it look nicer (the insides need a good cleaning anyway). For now, everything works and I'm happy to have an operational system again.

Rome: Je ne parlo Italiano

Connie taught me a few words and phrases in Italian before and during our trip, so by the end of our trip she was able to send me out to get groceries or food. I managed well enough, and most of the people I encountered could speak English well enough so that there were no significant miscommunication.

My brain, however, would constantly slip into trying to reply to people in what little French I still remember, because it's the only other language I kinda sorta know. I think at one point I might have actually responded to someone in a mix of French and Italian.

I kind of surprised myself with how much French I still remember though.