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Annual report 2009 Thu, Dec 31, 2009
I like the idea of a Christmas letter because it updates people on what you've been up to in the past year.  But I don't write letters, so here's my version.  We'll see if the "annual" part sticks. 

Two thousand nine was a year of growth.  In February, we added a new mammalian member to our family, Dora the bunny.  Then in October we added another bunny for companionship, Max.  Both bunnies get along relatively nicely with the existing wildlife, though not as well with the couches and wires. 

Two thousand nine was a year of recreation.  When it was cold outside, we spent some time snowboarding in Vermont and New Jersey.  When it was getting warm, we spent some time hiking in Virginia and New Jersey.  When it got nice and warm, we spent some time relaxing in the sand and swimming in the ocean at Island Beach State Park, NJ.  Then when it was starting to get cold again, we left everything for a cruise in the Caribbean

Two thousand nine was a year of weddings.  One in June, one in August, and one in October.  And we were invited to two others which we couldn't make it to, which was both bad but also obviously good.  Also, in August, we celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary with a weekend trip to Chicago

Two thousand nine was a year of debt relief.  In June, we paid off a major part of a loan on our house.  And in May and July, we paid off our cars, which are now five and six years old.  About a month before I paid off my car, I hit 100,000 miles.  And in sort of related news, we got a new roof for our house in November, since we were a few years overdue. 

Two thousand nine was a year of change.  Wendy temporarily lost her process engineering job at M&M Mars when her group was disbanded, but then she was rehired as a sustainability engineer in a different group, which she only stayed at for a few months before accepting a job as quality manager in yet another group.  In non-job news, I continued to do kickboxing at Real World Martial Arts but recently started jiu jitsu.  In church news, we've been spending less time at Bethlehem and more time at Liquid

Here's to two thousand ten. #lifestyle

Ski dancing Tue, Dec 29, 2009
I was riding the ski lift to the top of Mountain Creek last week when I noticed two people below me who were doing a type of ballroom dance ... while skiing down the hill.  I looked around to see if anyone was videotaping my dumbfounded reaction, then decided this was actually happening.  It turns out it was two members of the International Ski Dancing Association (likely the founders), wearing matching outfits and snow blades, gracefully descending the slopes like figure skaters.  This is apparently a legitimate, though uncommon, sport. #sports

Colbert Christmas Tue, Dec 29, 2009
Stephen Colbert sang the excellent Another Christmas Song, which is part of a collection of parody holiday songs called A Colbert Christmas.  The former was included in iTunes' recent free holiday sampler, which is unfortunately no longer available.  Samples of Colbert's songs can be heard at this iTunes link.  Here's a sample of some lyrics: 
Santa Claus singing on naughty snow
Reindeer ringing in the mistletoe
The manger's on fire, the holly's a-glow
Hear the baby Jesus crying ho ho ho

Hey! It's another Christmas song
Yay! Another oft' returning, royalty earning Christmas song
I've got plenty more so go buy a modem
Log on to iTunes and pay to download 'em
Pay! For another Christmas song
That's some pure gold. #entertainment

Christmas song threat Tue, Dec 29, 2009
I always think it's funny that the song "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" includes a verbal threat, as in, "Bring us some figgy pudding ... and bring some out here / We won't go until we've got some ... so bring some out here."  Wikipedia says it comes from a 16th century British tradition of rich people giving treats to carolers, which really doesn't make it any less ridiculous. #entertainment

Squirrel war Mon, Dec 21, 2009
Sometimes, as the weather gets colder, some of the neighborhood critters will enter our house uninvited and make their homes in the walls.  Usually these critters are just mice, so I use some traps with peanut butter to snap their furry little necks.  I really wouldn't have a problem with mice living in my house, but mice have a tendency to chew on things like wires, and I happen to like the wires in my house. 

This year, Wendy thought we had something larger than a mouse.  Sure enough, opening the attic door produced a firsthand view of a squirrel escaping through a hole it had chewed in one of the vents.  I angrily made some noise to drive away any stragglers, then nailed a piece of plywood over the vent.  The next day I went outside to make sure the plywood was still in place, and I saw the remnants of the plastic vent cover, scratched to pieces by a squirrel that likely came back to his warm attic home after a long day at the office, only to find that someone had boarded up his doorway, forcing him to totally freak out and try to break in.  But he failed.  Sure, I'll have to buy a new vent cover and some wood to cover up some holes, but that squirrel no longer lives in my house. 

I'm not a particularly violent person, but based on the amount of damage this squirrel caused, I considered buying a gun.  A pellet gun.  Because when you forcefully break into my house, expect a bullet in your hindquarters. #nature

Phlogiston Fri, Dec 18, 2009
The phlogiston theory was a scientific belief from the 1600s that stated that flammable materials contain a substance called phlogiston that gets released when the material is burned.  It was later discovered that flammable materials actually require an outside substance (an oxidizer, e.g. oxygen in the form of atmospheric air) in order to burn.  This is one of those examples where a scientific "fact" was later proven to be completely wrong.  (via Steven Johnson's The Invention of Air) #science

Men in boots (1) Wed, Dec 16, 2009
I alluded to this in the distant past and I'll say it again:  I have a real hard time feigning respect for men who decide it's acceptable to wear boots in public.  I'm not talking about work boots or snow boots, which both serve a legitimate purpose.  I'm talking about cowboy boots and dress boots and whatever else it's called when leather shoes have a pointed toe and a "modest" heel and go past the ankle.  On men.  It's at least slightly ridiculous to see a grown man wearing pointed, heeled footwear.  That's my opinion.  I'm sticking with it. #lifestyle

Media investment Tue, Dec 15, 2009
When starting a new book, video game, or movie, there's a certain investment of time before which I'm fine with giving up and cutting my losses, but after which I feel obligated to continue until completion.  If a book doesn't catch my attention in the first 5-10 pages, it probably won't no matter how much I read.  Video games and movies are usually easy to judge in the first 15-20 minutes, though I'll often let them go on a little longer just to make sure.  But sometimes I'll get past that point, continue reading/watching, and realize much later how poor of an investment of time I just made.  And that sucks, because I know the time I invested in the Spiderwick Chronicles can never be gained back.  It's gone forever.  Just like my self-respect, after having admitted to the world that I watched the Spiderwick Chronicles. #entertainment

Gift exchanges Fri, Dec 11, 2009
I like the idea of a gift exchange:  You pick a name from a hat and buy a gift for one person who's usually part of a larger group.  It's a good way to be involved in the tradition of giving gifts for Christmas but without feeling obligated to buy gifts for everyone in the group.  The problem is that I don't like how it always turns out:  We don't want to buy a person stupid meaningless gifts, so we ask them what they'd like, and since most people don't know what they want or don't feel like explaining in detail the exact thing they have their mind set on, they request a gift card so they can buy it themselves.  In other words, it's a gift of money.  But since the giver receives something in return, usually in the same price range and usually a gift card to a different store, it's an exchange of money with zero net effect.  If anything, it makes things more difficult because your money is now in a slightly difficult-to-use format.  And it's not that I don't like gift cards.  It's more just that I have trouble rationalizing my participation in a fruitless exchange of currency. 

Related: 
[Image: grinchshirt.jpg]

Also related:  This Dilbert comic #money

Public airline system Fri, Dec 11, 2009
I think it would be cool if air travel worked a little more like rail travel, where you could show up 20-30 minutes before your flight, buy your ticket for a price that corresponded to the distance you'd be traveling, and board the plane when you were ready, without even the option of getting stuck with a middle seat.  If you missed your flight, you could simply catch the next one.  There'd be no need for flight attendants or "announcements from the cockpit," because, let's face it, there's just no need for that crap. #travel

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