No Work and All Play!!!


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Wow! So it has been such a fun week!

I’ve been back at work now for two days and I still haven’t come down from the euphoria and relaxation that was our vacation!
Libby and I took a much-needed cruise to the Bahamas/ Miami! It was one non-stop party!
First off, I should say the reason for the vacation was through her work with Rodan + Fields, Libby earned this fantastic reward from her team leaders. There were approximately 35 people (out of a team of almost 1000) that were on this trip, and I’m super proud of Libby for earning her spot. 
We took off out of Miami, but not here we were in Miami was absolutely beautiful. We got to stay in an awesome hotel right on the canals near the port. The view from our hotel was amazing!
We went out to dinner at Ceviche, a local Peruvian-influenced restaurant, with some wonderful people.
The food was fantastic, and I even got Libby to try octopus for the first time! There was a bit of talking herself into it, but she was adventurous and actually liked it!
Later on, we met up with the rest of the group for cocktails and introductions. I don’t know if you guys have had this experience before, but it is actually a lot of fun meeting people in real life that you’ve been only really interacting with on social media. At first, you’re actually a little nervous how it will be. After all, everyone came from different walks of life and different parts of the country and who knows how the could be in real life, but everyone that we met was as genuinely nice in person as they are on Facebook. They really are an extremely supportive group of successful women! 
Next day was cruise departure day! We (leisurely) made our way on board and began the party!
While Libby chatted with her ladies, I couldn’t help myself in taking in the ship’s amenities! After taking advantage of some very tasty adult beverages, I made my way to the water sports area. They had a couple of these multi-story water slides that cork-screw for a bit before dumping you in a chute of water. I’m not going to lie… I was racing little kids back up to the top so I could do it again… The coolest part though was the Flowrider. For those who have not had the privilege, it’s a surfing machine where a ton of water is being shot at high speeds and gives the effect of surfing a huge wave! I signed up and said a quick prayer that I wouldn’t just eat it in the first few seconds. I’m actually proud to say I lasted a lot longer than I thought!
The next day we went to Coco Cay, the private island owned by the cruise line. Libby and I ate lunch together on the beach, and while Libby met up with the group, I went snorkeling! I cannot understate how beautiful the water was…
The variety of fish was awesome! I even got to hold three different types of sea-stars and a sea cucumber! The sea stars crawled on my hand like a spider with a thousand tiny legs (it’s seriously creepy, but in a fun way!) and the sea cucumber was so slimy!
After snorkeling, we made our way to a sand bar with waist deep water. A stingray came up to check us out (it was huge!), and I had one of the best pina coladas I have ever had!
At night, we had dinner together with our Rodan + Fields crew. Each night, we switched tables so we never had dinner with the same people, and the food was very good.
So admittedly, I was feeling a bit under the weather, but Libby was there to PARTY! She went out to the karaoke bar with some of her friends and had an absolute blast dancing! She said the time spent hanging out with everyone after dinner was some of her favorite times of the cruise.

Libby with her headphones on for the Silent Disco!

The next day was the absolute highlight of our trip, swimming with dolphins!!! We took a small boat from Nassau to a lagoon where they had dolphins that you could interact with! We swam, we danced, we hugged, and even kissed a dolphin! They were so much fun to interact with and we didn’t want to go!
Alas, all good things must come to end… we made it back eventually to Houston, where we put our wonderful boys to bed.
A few things will stick out about this trip:
  • I’m really glad for Rodan + Fields. Libby’s trip was paid for by her sponsors and was the impetus we needed to take time for us. We were able to take this trip because of the women we’re now connected to. Libby worked hard and took advantage of the opportunity given to her by these women.
  • It’s very important to take time for yourselves. I don’t think Libby and I realized how much we needed to take this time for us. Time is something you’ll never get back. Libby and I, during the planning of this trip, realized we hadn’t taken time alone together for more than a few hours since our littlest guy was born. He’s turning two in a few weeks. Time is fleeting. Spend it wisely.
  • We’re very glad for our parents. My dad came down and spent some quality time looking after the boys and Memaw spent a lot of time too. We are so very grateful for them and letting us go on this trip!
  • Sitting around connecting with this group of hard-working and successful women and the husbands and partners who support them was the real reward of the trip. We learned a lot from them, and will always treasure this time we had.

Thanks guys for putting up with the long post! It’s been a while, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget anything!

Take care and we hope to catch up with you soon!

Derek and Libby Smith

Hurricane Harvey… Six Months On


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Hello Chroniclers!

It’s six months removed from Hurricane Harvey visiting the quaint little city of Houston, and we thought it would be a good time to remember our experiences and share what it was like for us during one of the more stressful times in recent memory.

Now, Libby and I had both been in hurricanes previously. Libby has here for Hurricane Rita. She and her family spent over 16 hours in the world’s biggest traffic jam outside of a normal weekday on the M25. I had a very different experience with Rita. After Houston, it turned north to Dallas, where I was living at the time. My friend and I took it as a great opportunity to drink hurricanes in a hurricane at the Hurricane Grill. Without question, the best hurricane I’d had the pleasure of being in! Later, the year after moving to Houston, I was here for Hurricane Ike, and it was not nearly as fun. Two days without running water was less than ideal.

The thing that struck me the most about the storm was how quickly it escalated. It seemed like Tuesday we were aware a tropical storm was moving up from the Gulf of Mexico and that might have been the first time I was aware of it. Next thing you know, it’s a category 4 hurricane headed right for us! Here was the forecast:


I mean, we had so little time to prepare for it and there was a run on pretty much all groceries at the store.


When the storm hit Thursday, it was just like a heavy thunderstorm. I mean there was a lot of wind and rain, but nothing exceptional or particularly menacing. Then it didn’t stop… It rained all day Thursday… and Friday… and Saturday… and Sunday. Our friends and family called us during this time as the storm hovered in one spot just west of us for four days, dropping over a meter (more than three feet) of rain on us!

Hurricane Harvey

We survived the rain though with flying colours. Our house was fine. Our streets were dry. We didn’t lose power. We didn’t lose the internet or TV. The boys were entertained, if a bit stir crazy. We were doing ok. Libby’s brother and I even snuck out in his truck with a huge lift and made it to a local fast food restaurant, where we ran into FEMA relief workers who came from around the country.

Then Sunday night happened…

The biggest problem that we had wasn’t the rain, but when the runoff from a 1-in-1000 year flood event began to overwhelm the reservoir. Buffalo Bayou, which our neighbourhood drains into, began to back up. When the reservoir filled to capacity, the water had nowhere to go but upstream. It was this back up that began to flood our neighbourhood. On Sunday night, we saw the water begin to rise and flood our street. By sheer dumb luck, our house happened to be on one of the highest points on our street.

That night we saw the water begin to creep up our driveway.

By the next morning, the water had risen several feet and was up to our front porch. The fire hydrant by the street was no longer visible. Monday was an extremely nervous time for us. Like many people, we didn’t have flood insurance. Why would we? We weren’t on a known flood plain, much less in one of the 1-in-500 year flood plains that would have been an automatic, of-course-we-want-insurance decisions.

That day, the rain stopped or at least ebbed. Our neighbours began to step outside and yell to each other from our little islands. The water was waist deep in the middle of the street and full of snakes and critters and other nasty things so you didn’t want to get in.


The National Guard came and evacuated some of our neighbours.



We decided to wait it out… one of the… heaviest (is the word that comes to mind) decisions that we’ve had to make. This was probably the lowest part for us. Our downstairs toilets began backing up. We were very anxious. We just sat there glued to the television and occasionally going to check if the water was up to our front door.

As a quick side note, I remember a few stories from this time, both good and bad:

I remember being very pleased with the way Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner carried himself during this period. He had a calming influence on the city during this time that I was very impressed with. I also remember seeing constant updates from this man, Jeff Lindner, from the Harris County Flood Control District:


When he came on, he would explain in a steady, matter-of-fact manner exactly how we were screwed. He would explain how the reservoirs were in danger of being overwhelmed and which areas were experiencing catastrophic flooding and where to go. Somehow, these no-bullshit answers were calming, like at least we knew what we were dealing with. I was glad to have him for Harris County during this time.

On Tuesday, it was Jeff delivered the first positive news, well at least for us. They had to release water from the reservoir downstream of us to protect the reservoir from being destroyed. Practically, this meant two things: first, our neighbourhood would start draining, like pulling the plug on a bathtub. Secondly, the neighbourhoods around the reservoir would be flooded. We felt really conflicted about this, relief with a tinge of guilt. I mean, on one hand we knew that they took the risk building next to a flood control dam, but we would only drain because they would be flooded.

That night, the waters begin to recede. By the time we woke up the next morning, the water was down to our street. I walked to our mother-in-law’s house and saw her for the first time in a week. By the end of the day, we were dry, as if nothing happened.

We checked on our neighbours. As it turned out, the houses on either side of us flooded. Some houses across the street had water enter their houses. By sheer dumb luck and not by any foresight on our part, we were in the high spot and remained dry throughout.

Harvey was a trying time. I felt so lucky to have been in Houston during this time, because I can only imagine what a wreck Libby and I would have been if this had happened while I was in Kazakhstan. I believe we will look back as the nervous time we dodged a major bullet.

Thanks for listening, and we hope you’re doing well!


Derek, Libby, Duke, and Earl

Kazakh Cultural Moment – After the Food


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Hello Chroniclers!

Happy Thursday! I trust all of you are doing well!

For this time, I decided to take a break from our normal updates of cute baby pictures and fun games of ‘Where in the world are they now?’ to share a bit of a cultural moment with you from my travels to Kazakhstan.

If you recall previously, I spent some time discussing various parts of the culture, including holiday celebrations and local food. Today, I’m going to discuss something a little more… indelicate. Today, I’m going to discuss the thing that always struck me as one of the weirdest experiences and one I never got used to… the bathroom.

NOTE: For those of you with sensitive constitutions, feel free to skip to the cute baby photo at the end!

My first experience with the Kazakh bathroom was on my first visit to Tengiz. This involves a long, rather boring four hour ride through the steppe.



The Kazakh steppe – your view for hours


The view pretty much remains the same the entire way. I try to sleep or watch movies on the iPad to pass the time, but during this trip, there is one rest stop along the way. This is not the lovely Buc ee’s rest stop with restrooms inside a nice clean place where you can buy sodas and snacks on your way out. Nay nay… you’re greeted by this beauty!



His and Hers – a room with a view!


That’s right… a good ol’ fashioned outhouse! I’m not kidding you when I tell you that there was a ‘his’ and ‘hers’ set of outhouses. I took a picture of only this side for two reasons. Firstly, there are no doors on this outhouse, so while you’re doing your business, you’re exposed to the world. Secondly, there was no toilet paper there, so you can only imagine what it looked (and smelled!) like. I’ve had the displeasure of experiencing the freezing conditions during winter and the baking sun in the summer. Generally, you’re reduced to standing outside the outhouse by about a foot to avoid the smell or the ice. It’s not something I’ll forget any time soon.

There was another very similar rest stop on the other side of the road, but the building you see was locked and only the transport for the client personnel had the key.


Once you get to site, which is shared by predominantly Kazakhs, Turks, and westerners, you’re greeted by a two wholly different types of toilets… each with their own hazards. The first one you come across is the restroom for the crews.

That’s right… it’s a hole in the ground with places to stand on either side. First off, these toilets are contained in a converted shipping container. These are not temperature controlled, which means the building is baking the smell of the place in the summer and the pipes on the outside would have tendency to freeze and back up in the winter. Additionally, since you’re wearing several layers of clothing, there’s a certain amount of undressing you have to do in order to prepare yourself for business. Quite simply, unless I really, really, REALLY had to go, I gave this option a miss. It was too much for my delicate, western constitution.

The second option was similar to the western throne (the one God intended).


I say similar, because it too came with its own peculiarities. First off, the room was in yet another shipping container, but it was a small room with only three toilets. Secondly, if you look closely, someone fashioned a makeshift bidet out of instrument tubing. At least someone had made an effort to prevent freezing of the pipes by taping exposed heat tracing tape to the pipes. Thirdly, as Kazakhstan has a significant Muslim population, you would find this small bathroom crammed with people cleaning themselves head to toe for daily prayers. After a very short time there, you learned when you could realistically take care of business and when you would be affected by prayers preparation, closing for cleaning, or simply post-lunch crowds (the food wasn’t always the best…).

Lastly, there were signs in three languages reminding you to flush the toilet, another asking you to please throw used paper in the trash cans because the toilets weren’t man enough to handle toilet paper in toilet, and sometimes signs explaining how you can tell if you were not drinking enough water.


There was another, as it turns out, very important sign as well.


The reason for this sign was because very often the crew would come in and use the sitting toilet as a squat toilet. This would mean work boot prints on the seat and often people missing.

However, the sign was most important for the safety hazard it inadvertently warned against. The seats were flimsy and would often break. I say this sign was important to safety because I experienced one time where it was not heeded. Picture this… early winter morning… crispness in the air due to the -20o weather, and I’ve got to take care of business. I go to sit down, and then it happened. I was viciously attacked by the toilet seat! Someone had stood on it and cracked the back of the seat. Whenever I sat down on it, the toilet seat pinched me in a very delicate area. The toilet seat took a bite out of my ass, and I was bleeding! I don’t know how long it took to get it to stop bleeding, but it seemed like forever. Now, you might be asking yourself why didn’t I get a Band-Aid?  Well, it’s very simple. If you need to get a Band-Aid, you have to visit the Health, Safety, and Environmental officer that controlled them. You have to go and explain then FILL OUT A REPORT to be circulated to a larger audience. Random people would then come up to me and be like, ‘You were the one weren’t you?’ I would be the butt (pun intended) of I am sure an endless string of jokes.  There was no way I was going to go have my name on a report of a wild toilet seat attack! Needless to say, I was gun-shy of the toilet for a while after that…

Well, there you are… a little bit of Kazakh culture the tour books wouldn’t tell you about. However, I won’t leave you on that note. Instead, here’s a video of Earl walking!

We hope you’re doing well, and we look forward to catching up with you soon!

Derek, Libby, Duke, and Earl

Holidays Haze


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Christmas Day with the Smiths!

Hello Chroniclers!

As we emerge from the haze that was the holiday season, we would like to take the time to catch up on a small portion of how the holidays went for us!

Kicking off the holiday season, we made our way to Fort Worth for family photos. Even though packing up the kids and making a five hour car ride may not be the most fun in the world, it is always fun to spend whatever time we can with our family!

This year Duke was in a Christmas program with his school. His first experience on stage was… interesting. We had been warned that he had not participated in the singing and there was a 50/50 chance that he would run off the stage.


Notice Duke is being ‘helped’ to stay in place

Well, there was no stage diving, but it was funny to see this line of kids kind of singing and Duke walking around behind them. Eventually, one of the teachers ‘helped’ him with his routine. Let’s just say that Duke has never been terribly interested in conforming to societal norms.

For Christmas, G-Pa came down with the boys’ cousin. There is nothing like the joy of a kid on Christmas morning!

They enjoyed opening their presents and the requisite bickering that accompanies wanting to play with the toys that belong to someone else! What’s that? There’s six Paw Patrol puppies and somehow you both want the same one at the same time? Of course, you do…

Libby’s brother’s family and more cousins came down after New Years. They live in Colorado, so it’s always exciting when they come down. As close as we were growing up to our cousins, it’s so cool for us to see the boys interacting and having fun.


Short and sweet update, I know, but it’s all part of our effort to make the updates a bit more frequent!

Hope you had a good holiday season!

Derek, Libby, Duke and Earl


A new chapter…


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Hello Chroniclers!

It’s a beautiful day here in Houston, TX! Not necessarily because the weather outside is wonderful (it’s not), but because I started my first full week of working in the office again! It’s the next chapter, so to speak, in our adventures.… I have stopped rotating to Kazakhstan!

I have spent over the last year in Kazakhstan on a month on, month off basis. It turned out to be a huge stressor on our lives. Even though I technically had more free time at home than I do now, we would always seem to be in catch-up mode: scrambling to do things around the house we couldn’t do while I was away; both of us catching up on rest; trying to connect with our friends, family, and, to be frank, each other. It added up. I met a lot of people who were more than happy to spend their careers rotating to foreign countries, but we are certain that life is not for us! I could go on, and I am grateful for the people I met along the way and for the experience, but we are all happy to be moving on to the next chapter. 


This is the last time for a while I will have to see this via FaceTime.

Before closing this chapter, I’ll leave you with my last experience of my rotational trips, the layover in Amsterdam. Due to the flights from Atyrau arriving after the last direct flight to Houston, the last few trips back home involved a layover in Amsterdam and there are few places I would rather be stuck!

I went back to the Van Gogh Museum. The first time I went to Amsterdam, my cousin made me go and I’m glad he did. The museum basically walks you through his career, starting with his Japanese woodblock prints and his sunflowers. Then you see his degeneration in his descent into mental illness and how it affected his paintings. The museum has several paintings from the time he was staying at the asylum in Arles. As a side note, Libby and I were actually able to visit that asylum when we visited Provence, so it was nostalgic in some ways to see the paintings produced in the place we had been previously. However, the highlight has to be one of the last he produced, Wheatfield with Crows . It’s so beautiful and the path to nowhere is just… it’s an amazing painting.

Wheatfield with Crows 

I did other things as well! I took a tour of the Heineken Brewery. I took several boat rides down the canals to admire the architecture, which is amazing!

On the last trip, I made sure to go to the Anne Frank House, which I had last visited with my grandmother right after I graduated high school. It’s still as moving as it was when I first visited it. The omnipresent trepidation and fear must have been unbearable, but also I was struck at how many good people made their hiding possible for so long. You enter the secret annex (actually a lot bigger than you imagine) behind a bookcase that acts as a door. It’s something you should definitely make the effort to see at least once in your life.


Entrance to the secret annex

 As fun as visiting the touristy places was, part of my enjoyment was the fact that I was able to enjoy the culinary delights of Amsterdam. I don’t know if the fact I hadn’t had decent food came into play, but the food to me was like manna from heaven!


I definitely recommend going to Cannibale Royale and Van Kerkwijk is an amazing experience.

It was a nice break and a beautiful city every time I visited it, but without a doubt the best part was knowing that I would be home soon. As much as I enjoyed Amsterdam, I am glad to be home with my family and that makes me so glad to start the next chapter of our lives!

We hope you’re doing well and we look forward to talking with you soon!

Derek, Libby, Duke and Earl+

Happy Turkey Day!


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Hello Chroniclers!

Happy Thanksgiving! We hope everyone had a wonderful Turkey Day!

Greetings from Kazakhstan!

Yes… Kazakhstan, land of mystery… as in, where in the world is Kazakhstan?

Kazakhstan is where I have been spending half of my time for the past year, hence the sparsity of recent posts. I am merrily working away at a crude oil tank farm in the middle of the desert, as I have been now for the past year. Unfortunately, companies in Kazakhstan don’t recognize American national holidays. I told them that was un-American!

Libby and the boys had a nice Thanksgiving with the family back in Houston! Cousin Dan came down and spent the day as well! It was by all accounts a lovely time. The Duke had a great time making a gingerbread house with Memaw and mama. Uncle Tim spent some time playing with the Earl. Everyone had a wonderful thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving for me was much more mundane. Here’s what my Thanksgiving dinner looked like:


You’re insanely jealous… I can feel it.

As has been the case over the past year, I have been working hard to support the pre-commissioning and commissioning of a massive building (nearly 100ft long) containing a control system which, for legal reasons, I can’t show a picture to you all. However, they look something like this:

During the time away, I work twelve hours a day, seven days a week, sun up to sundown. Also, the coldest temperatures I have ever experienced have been here. Do you know what -30oC feels like? I do…

It’s precisely times like this that make me thankful for the things that matters to most. For me, being away has made me thankful for my family and the joy they bring me. It has made me thankful for the embrace of my wife. It has made me thankful for the joy my kids have when I come home. It has made me thankful that we don’t have to worry when our next meal will come. It has made me thankful for our friends who support us. We are truly blessed and loved.

We hope you enjoyed a Thanksgiving worth being thankful for and we look forward to catching up with you guys!

Derek, Libby, Duke, and Earl

Killer Air Conditioning and Other Work Hazards


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Hello Chroniclers!

I am an engineer. A good portion of my time is spent in and around systems or situations that inherently have some element of human risk to life or limb. Also, my dad is in construction, as was his dad. My other grandfather lost a part of his hand to an industrial accident. I’ve been around construction, both domestic and industrial, all my life. I thought I would share a few of the incidents that happened to me or around me whilst I was working.

First off, let me share an incident that happened to me yesterday that started me thinking along these lines.

Incident #1

I was at a job site office, merrily working at my laptop when another worker came in kind of frazzled saying that all of the workers in the building next door were evacuating wearing their mini escape filters.


You see, the job site I’m at has one of the highest concentrations of H2S in the world. H2S is some nasty stuff. We have to wear a gas detector at all times, alarming at 7ppm, because of the presence of the gas. Effects of exposure to high levels (100 parts per million or higher) of hydrogen sulfide can include shock, convulsions, inability to breath, rapid unconsciousness, coma, and death. To give you an idea, the air you breath would only have to have 0.01% of the air contaminated to potentially kill you… nasty stuff.

Yesterday, the plant across the street had its toxic gas alarms go off, indicating that there was a dangerous release of H2S. The people in the building next to us heard the alarm first. Some people came in to warn us there was a potential incident and we needed to evacuate. We put on mini filters and proceeded to the minibuses.

We were waiting for the signal to evacuate. While we were sitting there, the driver got hot and turned on the air conditioner. Hmm… great idea… so while our personal alarms aren’t going off yet, let’s bring in potentially toxic air into a confined space. We started screaming at him (he didn’t speak English), until finally someone shut off the AC.

The alarm and evacuation turned out to be a drill, but it was disturbing nonetheless.

This was also one day after one of the dump trucks driving around our site rolled over due to unstable ground conditions.

Incident 2

The first time I came across a serious accident was in my first job. I was working for a maintenance group that was responsible for maintaining and upgrading control systems across a fleet of plants. We had an all-stop one day because of a fatality the previous day. The worker in question had been pulling a pump which he had on a mobile gantry crane, similar to what you would see in mechanic’s shop to lift a motor.

Gantry Crane

He was pulling it, using a couple of ropes, which he attached to the top of the crane. Some other worker was using an industrial water hose and had not marked off the trip hazard. The unfortunate worker came across the hose and, rather than moving the hose, tried to force the crane over the hose. Instead, he pulled the crane and pump on top of him, crushing him.

This was the first time I realized how dangerous job sites could be. As it turned out, across the fleet of plants, the company was averaging a little over a fatality a year.

Incident 3

I was touring a power plant we were bringing out of mothballs to cope with the increased demand in electricity. We were in the switchgear room, where the high voltage electricity equipment was located. A senior engineer, a vendor representative for the switchgear, a young new operations representative, and I were walking down a live switchgear when the ops rep started to point to something in one of the compartments. The senior engineer, a small 60-something man, grabbed the guy by the collar and threw him against the wall. He got right in that young man’s shocked face and said, “I don’t care if you want to get yourself killed, but I’d be damned if you take us with you.”

That engineer saw the possibility that the electricity could jump and seriously hurt that person and us, since we were in close proximity to him.

 That is what I want to leave you with… we live in a dangerous world. Through an accident or mechanical failure or the carelessness of others, you can find yourself in a threatening situation. The only thing that we can do is be aware, be vigilant, and be safe.

I hope you’re safe and doing well! As a friend of mine says, be safe and be happy!



All work…

Hello Chroniclers!

[Author’s note: In fairness, I have debated a number of different ways of telling our story of the past months… from order of life-altering importance to a homage to the non-linear narrative of William Burroughs. In the end, let us begin at the beginning, and start chronologically. I will try to tell episodes and break it up as much as I sensibly can.]

First off, I think a word of explanation is needed. Periods of silence don’t come without reason, and usually the reason is due to being overwhelmed in some way shape or form. That was certainly the case for us this past year, and it started this summer.

For those who may not remember, I’ve been working on a control system for a large plant in Kazakhstan for the past few years. In engineering, work has ebbs and flows and my work reached its hectic crescendo over the summer. I was shipping two very large buildings at the end of summer and there was a MASSIVE amount of work to make that happen. What that meant to the family was that I was away for weeks at a time in northern England. Regularly, I would work for two weeks, come home for the weekend, and then be gone for two more weeks. This is what it was like for me the past summer. Each time I went through King’s Cross railroad station. I know exactly where platform 9 ¾ is located!


Memaw… I see muggles everywhere!


Work was at least 10 hours a day for the time I was there. I would go to work, go out with co-workers to one of the local restaurants, grab a drink, rinse and repeat. It’s hard work and it’s hard on you.

The tough part is that it’s hard on your family. When you’re gone for that long, it puts a strain on your family. The little breaks in your day that you would get when your partner would help out… time to take a calm shower… time to plan meals for the week… time to… relax. This time is, well, scarce. Not only that, your child misses you as well. FaceTime is nice and it’s thrilling to hear ‘Daddy! Hi, Daddy!’ when you call.


Libby was able to keep busy, though. She became very active in her gym. Duke and she were regulars. Libby would go to workout classes while Duke would play his heart out in the crèche. After class, she would stay for coffee afterwards with her friends. She became really close to them and she would always talk about how much fun she had. Afterwards, Libby and Duke would go exploring. There are lots of little trails around our little village and our little park was just around the corner as well.

Luckily for us, we also had help! Our friend Kathryn, in particular, was a tremendous help to us during this time. She regularly came over and Duke loves her!

She also was gracious enough to allow us to have the occasional date night.


So while the summer was very tough on us, we did manage to sneak in some really great times over the summer. All work and no play… and speaking of play, we had some serious fun when our friends came to visit. More on that in the next post!

Until then, we hope you’re well!



Derek, Libby, Duke, and…

Coming up for air…

Hello Chroniclers!

Happy Nauryz!


A (non) traditional yurt, with all the fixin’s!


I’m coming to you live from Tengiz, Kazakhstan from a man camp in the middle of nowhere. Me and 2000 others in the camp are celebrating the Nomad’s New Year. Kazakhstan loves New Year’s so much they celebrate it a second time! They’ll have special meals on while we’re here and several other treats for us.

It’s been a while, and boy do we have a lot to catch up on. A lot has changed in a year! First off, a move… a new change in roles… and a new addition! In due time, I will try to catch up on all of these things…

In the meantime, greetings from Kazakhstan, Texas!

Hope you’re doing well!

Derek, Libby, Duke, and…

Victory is Mine!

Hello Chroniclers!

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. As I near the end of one phase of the project, life gets a little hectic. As the famous engineering saying goes, “The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time.” (Tom Cargill, Bell Labs) Right now, we’re in the last 10% of the phase of the project. I’ve been traveling a little more often dealing with problems like ‘What do you mean that don’t have power? 420 volts does not equal 380 volts. No, I do not have an adaptor for an entire building!”

I did have one bit of good news in this trying times… I survived my first experience with the British legal system!

So if you remember back from blog post A Return to Normalcy, I was in an accident, the tragic early demise of my beautiful Mini.

Death of the Mini

Death of the Mini

Unfortunately, the driver of the other vehicle was quite insistent that it was my fault. In fact, the driver’s insurance company would not budge from anything less than full liability on my part.

Having been in a very similar accident before, I knew that the case wasn’t as strong as they hoped. I went through several interviews, gave written depositions, and spoke with more than one solicitor about the case, and we decided to fight it out.

Now, I have watched my fair share of British television shows (read: Monty Python), and I knew precisely what to expect.


Lawyers in wigs, robes, the whole nine yards. I was actually really looking forward to it. Then reality sank in

Instead of barristers in wigs, I got a solicitor who was easily ten years younger than me. Instead of the courtroom with a bench, it was more of a desk in front of a set of tables.

Enough about the look of the place, on to the main event! First, the accusing party spoke and gave their version of events. My solicitor prodded and poked holes in their story, asking the accuser to tell the same story several times. Even the judge noticed that the accuser gave three versions over the course of the roughly hour the accuser spoke.

Then I was called to the stand (ok, more like a card table, but intimidating at this point, none the less). My solicitor started off with a multimedia presentation. We had pictures from Google Earth. We had pictures I had taken the morning of the crash. We even used, no joke, matchbox cars to walk through my version of events. The other insurance company’s solicitor then took to grilling me. He attempted the same tricks I had witnessed previously used on the accuser. He tried asking similar questions at various times to see if I would change, even slightly, my story. He tried putting words in my mouth or suggesting ways I might phrase something to try and trip me up. I gave my version of events as consistently as possible.

Then, once closing statements were made, it came down to the judge’s decision. Was I 100% responsible or would it basically be split as a 50/50 fault, as my insurance company was hoping for?

And the verdict was… it was 100% the accuser’s fault, the judge ruled. I was cleared of any fault in the accident! From 100% at fault to completely exonerated was something even my solicitor was prepared. It was a complete reversal. The relief I felt after two years of having this drag on and ending up with this result was exhilarating. I was basking in the glow of victory for at least a week.

It sounds funny, but I feel that this whole experience for me is one of the strongest memories I’ll have of England.  Now I can look back, whenever we leave this island, safe in the knowledge that I will be forever immortalized in the British legal system. Officially, we have left our mark on the public record.


Hope you’re well!

Derek, Libby, and Duke