Categories
Christmas Letters

2019 Christmas Letter

Welcome to my 2019 experience! A lot of “things” and “stuff” happened to me this year, and this is my attempt to project said events through the lens of my hopefully witty banter.

Emotionally speaking, I invested a large portion of my year applying for a contest to build a more efficient air conditioner. To be honest, a lot of people ask me why I’m trying to build a new type of heat pump. In either a dream or field trip to an alternate vertex of the multiverse I experienced a world where we sucked energy directly from the ground and oceans to power our society. I know, I know—I’m more than just a little bit crazy.

Ok, back to the Global Cooling Challenge. While it didn’t receive much attention in the main stream media Sir Richard Branson made a promotional Youtube video on the subject, and he was on The Simpsons, so it must be legit. I filed a provisional US patent and did my best to complete the application.

So did I win? The quantum goggles I am wearing say that both happened. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, was made aware of my idea, immediately flew to northern Colorado, confidently walked into the UPS center before all the drivers left for the morning, and carried me off just like Richard Gere retrieved Debra Winger in “An Officer and a Gentelman.”

Also, nobody seemed to care about my idea and I went back to cobbling together cheap Walmart mini-splits and one hundred gallon horse troughs in a continued attempt to show the world how we can save the planet.

Side note– explaining these events following a more Newtonian physics interpretation of cause and effect, I did not win the competition. This branch has been pruned from the time line tree and my eventual encounter with Elon will happen at an alternate set of time/space coordinates.

In less nerdy news, we spent a week this summer to go on a road trip through Colorado. With so much cool stuff in the world to see it can be hard to remember that we have an amazing backyard. By that I mean the state of Colorado– OUR backyard isn’t really anywhere you would want to spend an entire week. We mapped out our path on Google and it turned out to be exactly the same shape as the piece of the dolphin toy that we pulled out of our dog’s mouth before she could swallow it.

Our journey started in Canon City– home to the state’s largest population of incarcerated individuals and shady rafting companies. To be fair almost none of the rafting companies are run by prison inmates. Due to a large snow pack and warm spring weather we got to experience a record water level on the river. I spent the entire trip wondering how we all managed to stay in the raft. By some minor miracle everyone made it through the river safely.

For reasons that I don’t totally understand, the highlight of Montrose was the huge Russell Stover chocolate factory. Ok, I DO understand the need for chocolate, but from a business perspective putting this out in the middle of the western slope of Colorado seems a bit odd. While I did exactly zero research on the subject, I’m going to say that it was put there because someone lost a bet. Despite this, it was a fun place to visit and our kids were able to buy some high quality Halloween candy for 5 cents each– a good deal as long as the cost of getting there isn’t factored into the equation.

Our final destination was Glenwood Springs. I never knew this, but apparently there is an entire amusement park on a nearby mountain top. My favorite activity had to be the laser tag. I know that as a parent I should provide a helpful environment to allow my children to acquire new skills. However, I took this time to completely slaughter everyone at this game. The lesson I taught my kids is the old man isn’t going to go down in laser tag without a fight.

In pet news, we leveled up +1 in the dog department. While budget constraints prevented us from purchasing a new state of the art robotic canine, we did acquire a great used carbon based unit from the local Humane Society. As best we can tell, Mya is a mix between a whippet and a perpetual energy machine. She splits up her free time between sleeping on Kat’s lap and completely freaking out when I come into the house wearing my UPS clothes.

Being that 2020 is just around the corner, I feel an unexplained need to list some of my future sports predictions. This might have something to do with the fact that I’m writing this while watching a football game. Here are, in chronological order, things I believe will happen:

  • 2030: Computers will replace referees in the NFL
  • 2039: Robots will replace players in the NFL
  • 2041: Tom Brady will retire from the NFL shortly after undergoing painful and expensive robot conversion surgery.

To end this year, I thought I would make a list of things I would like to see get done in the future. I gave it the catchy title of “The exponentially increasing in difficulty to do list.” Each item is exactly 17.3 times more difficult than its predecessor.

  1. Blink my eyes
  2. Get the house cleaned up
  3. Build a revolutionary heat pump
  4. Transition the world off fossil fuels
  5. Rearrange the atoms of the earth and moon into a space craft to escape the eventual death of the sun
  6. Escape the prison dimension that we currently understand as “time”

Will any of these actually happen in 2020? Please make sure to take the leap day into consideration when setting up any calculations. I’ll finish things off with the most insightful comment I made all year. “Samantha, stop making now sad.”

Categories
Christmas Letters

2018 Christmas Letter

My name is Teaky, and this year I became the proud cat-owner of the Lutfey family. My modest kingdom consists of big-male-human named Omar, big-female-human named Katherine, two small-female-humans named Isabel and Samantha, one big-male-dog named Maury, and one small-male-fish that I call a tasty snack when the opportunity arises. While the big-humans understand the proper protocol for addressing cat-royalty, the small-humans feel it is completely appropriate to touch me or try to pick me up when I’m preoccupied with critical tasks such as hunting dust particles in the living room. I’ve looked into replacing the small-humans, but apparently there is an enormous amount of paper work needed to be filed with the Human-aine Society. The big-male-dog doesn’t pose any challenge to my authority as he seems to focus on pretending to be asleep 20 hours a day only to pounce on the chance to eat human food left momentarily unprotected.

It has been brought to my attention that an annual event summarization must be filed with the proper authorities. While in the past this task has fallen to big-male-human, my arrival in the household has clearly altered the structure of authority. Hence I will now be in charge of the annual Christmas letter.

Big-male-human continues with his daily ritual of dressing up in brown clothes, driving away, and returning later in the day smelling of sweat, diesel fuel, and various random dog-units. On days when he stays home he likes to stay in his bedroom well past the completely appropriate wake up time of 7 am. When this happens I have to jump on the bed and stick my nose in his ear to make sure he is still alive. Sometimes he accidentally closes the bedroom door and I have to sit in the hallway and meow to revive him. Fortunately I’ve never been unsuccessful in reviving big-male-human. In a related note, he doesn’t seem to appreciate everything I do to make his life better such as clearly announcing that the sun will be rising in two hours.

My attempts to expand my domain proved unsuccessful when I acquired a small-baby-bunny and deposited him in the office near my litter box. This resulted in much commotion among the big-human units that included significant yelling, texting, and rearranging of furniture. Fortunately small-baby-bunny was quite adept at playing hide and seek, so he was able to avoid capture for more than a day. Unfortunately he received significant trauma when being relocated from his nest and died the next morning. After the small-baby-bunny was disposed of I was not allowed to freely play outside anymore. Hardly an appropriate manner to treat your superior, in my humble opinion.

Wow– this is a lot of work, and these windows aren’t going to stare out of themselves. I hereby delegate this work to big-male-dog.

Hi! This is Maury. The cat told me to finish this letter. I was busy taking a nap, but I’ll make sure to catch up on my sleep tomorrow. First of all, Teaky is totally correct that I spend all my time trying to get food that I know I’m not supposed to have. Have you ever tried the food they give me? A scoop of the same brown pellets in the morning and again at night gets old after a while. Now don’t get me wrong– I scarf it down like I haven’t eaten for a month, but why is it so wrong to want a taste of all the great food in the rest of the house? My proudest moment was getting a chocolate chip muffin from the kitchen counter. Now to be honest, I was pretty sure that Mom’s special silicone muffin wrapper wasn’t food, but I just didn’t want to take the chance. And I don’t know why they made such a big deal about it– she got it back a few days later. I do have to say that silicone slides through my digestive tract like nobody’s business.

Aside from the muffin incident, the biggest thing that happened to me this year was getting sent off to doggie heaven. I made it through so many things such as swallowing countless tiny pieces of so-called indestructible dog toys, constantly running into the corner of the kitchen island at full speed, and leaving half a corn cob in my stomach for six months. I couldn’t, however, survive the diagnosis of “cancer everywhere.” Doggie heaven is great– the toys are the best and everyone loves it when you fart. While, yes, time is an artificial human construct not defined by the laws of quantum physics, I am a good reminder that while it may not always seem to be the case, yesterday is not the same as tomorrow.

So to wrap things up I’ll share a few things I’ve learned over the years. Introduce yourself to everyone who doesn’t look like they could eat you as a snack, be insanely excited when people you know come home, and ALWAYS make a play for the food on the counter.

Categories
Christmas Letters

2017 Christmas Letter

EXCITING CHRISTMAS LETTER ADMINISTRATIVE NEWS BREAK! I’m not allowed to hand out my Christmas letter to my UPS customers anymore. Allegedly someone called the center and complained about the 2016 letter, so now this document is purely an online publication. Happy Holidays!

I know that is pretty lame, but I’m not going to let it ruin my year in review. After considering a few novel approaches for this year’s summary, I decided to write about some random details of my life in extra detail- electron microscope detail. I could start off with my job (still at UPS) my family (we are plus one feline) or my water heater project (still working on it), but I really feel like those stories have been fully flushed out. So hold onto your hats for an in depth look into some rather inconsequential aspects of my life.

Speaking of hats– my UPS Elmer Fudd hat is missing. It looks just like my UPS baseball cap, but it comes lined with a furry material and the ear flaps fold down when it gets snot-freezing cold outside. I think I wore it one day in October, but now it is nowhere to be found. So now I’m faced with the moral dilemma of doing nothing and hope it magically appears in a random place in my house or ordering a new hat and admitting defeat. Anyone who has never lived with a six and seven year old might think the first approach is crazy, but that hat could be in a million unthinkable places in my house.

This spring I installed a new ceiling fan in our family room. Since we moved into the house seven years ago we have been slowly replacing fixtures from the random/cheap motif the previous owners seemed to have wholeheartedly embraced. We started with the low hanging fruit, and quickly agreed the fan on the vaulted ceiling was the crown peach of the project. OK, so my knowledge of fruit harvesting is a bit thin. I guess the fixtures in the bedrooms were the strawberries since they grow on the ground– you can’t get lower than that. But I’m digressing here. So I came home one day and noticed a fancy new box-o-fan on the front porch. Installing it was pretty straightforward. I followed the instructions and had it working in an afternoon. The only complaint I had– and I seem to see this a lot in my life– is that whoever wrote the instructions had never actually installed the fan. I could have cut the installation time in half by putting the entire fan together first and then lifting it to the ceiling as the last step. So I guess this speaks to instructions on instructions. I think the best approach is to assume the quality of the instructions is adequate at best and for a completely different type of product in the worst case.

In financial news, I’ve come up with a revolutionary device to help the general population save money for retirement– I call it the 401K LOTTERY! Half of the money taken in by traditional lotteries are given to individual states with the remaining assets divided up among the winners. The 401K LOTTERY! (yes, the exclamation point is part of the name, as is it being all in caps.) is run by insanely large banks. Every time someone buys a ticket half of the money goes into their individual 401k and the rest goes to the pool for winning tickets. This method combines the excitement of winning wealth beyond your wildest dreams with the joy of realizing that every day you are becoming a less productive member of society and the only thing that will sustain a declining lifestyle is your meager savings until you eventually die.

Katherine and I played a fun game the other night after the kids went to bed. I would name a city and she would look up online how much it would cost to fly there and how long it would take. I guess it wasn’t so much of a game since there wasn’t a winner or an optimal strategy, but it was still an entertaining activity. The longest trip we found was to Madagascar which costs $3000 and takes the better part of two days. Perhaps your mind went in a different direction when you read “games” and “after the kids went to bed” but when we tried it while the kids were awake one or both of them would interject something along the lines of “BUT I DON’T WANT TO GO TO TOKOYO!” every time we would pick a new city.

This summer I ate lunch somewhere I have not been to in 18 years. It was a small steak house that isn’t too fancy named Wilma and Alberts. Travel directions: fly into Schipol Airport in the Netherlands, take the train west to Haarlem, and walk to the main square. It is right next to the church– you cant miss it. The only slight criticism I have is that it takes an entire day of international travel to get there. Also they don’t open for lunch until 11, so plan accordingly.

OK, I admit that our trip to Europe was a pretty “big” thing we did this year. But I would like to take a moment to explain why Holland is such a cool place. No, it isn’t the cold wet weather or the fast food herring-on-a-stick stands that are littered throughout the towns. It is actually easier to take public transportation than to own a car in Amsterdam. I could see more trains, busses, and trams from the front of our hotel than exist in the entire state of Colorado. While there are many socioeconomic forces at work that are beyond the scope of this letter to explain this disparity of public transportation, I firmly believe that the underlying root cause revolves around parking in Amsterdam. Back in the day when automobiles were making their debut in Europe, the only remaining open space in town was right next to the canals. I could just imagine citizens making a sizable financial investment in a new vehicle only to park slightly outside of the lines and see their pride and joy tumbling into an unpleasant mixture of water, sewage, and herring-on-a-stick litter. I believe this would have a largely negative effect on the car’s resale value.

So that about wraps things up for the year of details. I’ll leave things with a quote I read on the wall of the restaurant where we ate last night:

“At one point in your life you either have the thing you want or the reasons why you don’t.” — Andy Roddick.

Categories
Christmas Letters

2016 Christmas Letter

Countless people– well, OK, maybe three or four– have been asking about what happened to my 2015 Christmas Letter. Was I abducted by aliens who erased my memories? Perhaps, but I have no way of knowing. Was I too lazy to spend 0.03% of the time I’m on my computer to stop playing Candy Crush and just get it done? That does sound like something I would do. Have I been spending way too much time playing mad scientist in the basement? Highly likely. While the entire population of the universe could spend the rest of the life of cosmos speculating on this mystery, I will now set the record straight.

While Occam’s Razor states that the simple explanation is usually the correct one, Omar’s Razor cuts in the opposite direction and claims that everything that I’ve ever read or been told by someone else is automatically assumed to be a highly questionable source and the only way to really solve a problem to disassemble it and examine every single nut and bolt in the highest possible detail. After repeating the process at least seven times I will consider the problem answered subject to my general finite knowledge and limited physical resources.

So here is what happened: Some time in the future I signed up for an online file storage service called the “Infinity Cloud.” While current cloud services store existing files on external servers to help manage valuable work, the Infinity Clould stores every sinlge file you will ever create during your lifetime. So this is the point where you ask “doesn’t that violate the concept of free will, like telling your high school self not to take Stephanie to the Prom because the whole night will be awkward and disappointing?” While I didn’t directly find an answer to this question, I suspect the problem was resolved by including a “you aren’t allowed to tell your younger self to go kill Hitler” clause in the Terms of Service agreement that nobody reads.

So sometime during my lifetime I misfiled some of my Christmas Letters. I’m not sure when 2015 is going to show up, but an interesting side effect from this error is that I have been able to access my 2039 files, or, as I call it, “The Ghost of Christmas Letter Future.”

After writing these crazy letters since 1995 I finally get to write “Woohoo I’m officially retired!” But before I get into reminiscing, would like to take a moment to elaborate on the eight ways my android servant SXY-19 is trying to kill me after she discovered I will be granting her freedom upon my death. Also, the weather forecast was off by 0.1 degrees last Tuesday. What is the world coming to?

So I feel some kind of need to evaluate all of my working years before my memories start to fade an I’m legally obligated to upload the contents of my brain to the Global Observational Device for the overall advancement of the planet.

I must admit my favorite milestone was solving the Travelling Salesman Problem. Who knew that finding the shortest path through a set of cities was such a big deal? While I did let the solution bounce around my head for 20 years before I got around to spending a weekend writing the actual computer code, everyone thought I was the man for solving this 120 year old puzzle. That honeymoon period lasted for exactly three weeks when hackers started to use my work to quickly render all prime number based public key encryption algorithms completely useless. Sure, it plunged the entire world of international banking into chaos for several years, but to my credit the situation did jump start both the quantum communication network and the unique photon security protocol. Does this make me a big a-hole? I’ll leave that for GOD to decide. (I’m referring to the Global Observation Device here and not the other One.)

The other “big” thing in my life was building the “Lutfey Loop.” For anyone that just woke up from a 23 year long coma, I built a little gizmo that sits in your basement and provides all of your reasonable heating, cooling, and electrical needs for both your house and Tesla Hovercar. While the technical term for the process is “creating liquid based temperature differentials and electrical gradients through ultra-efficient ground source heat pumps,” the technology gained widespread acceptance in a scientific paper titled “How The Hell Did A UPS Driver Build This In His Spare Time?” I still remember the day I gathered all the Public Utility companies on the planet on a conference call that went something like this: “Hey, you know all those big networks you have to send electric and gas to everyone’s homes and businesses? Well, I’ve found a better way, so we aren’t going to need anymore.” Boy were they pissed.

While my career choices have included KFC cook, computer programmer, aspiring writer, unmotivated writer, angry at myself for being unmotivated writer, UPS driver, sloth, mathematician, telegraph operator, and professional carnie (just to name a few), people like to ask me “How should I find the ‘thing’ that I’m supposed to be doing?” My approach has always been the following: Imagine you are a cat. Inside an inflatable sphere. With 100 laser pointers. Before you get a chance to take a nap someone carries you to the top of a mountain and gives you a push.

While my Christmas Letters are usually a bit longer, I’m afraid I must cut this one a bit short due to the fact that SXY-19 is approaching me at a high rate of speed with a running chainsaw and bottle of arsenic. Both of these items shouldn’t be needed until Saturday, so I need to either check my schedule or prevent myself from being murdered. Cheers!

Categories
Christmas Letters

2014 Christmas Letter

I believe it was JP Morgan who once said “You don’t rise to the top by jumping in the kiddie pool.” That, or I just made it up a few moments ago. Fact checking isn’t a strong point in my Christmas Letters. Where am I going with this? Well, this year I decided to bring to reality one of the numerous crazy ideas that are constantly percolating in my head at any given moment.

Anyone who has followed me on Facebook knows how I’m always yammering on about “The Lutfey Loop.” It started earlier in the year when I filed a patent that moves heat from places you don’t want/need it such as your attic and basement to places where it will be more useful like your hot water heater. I made arrangements with a lawyer to write the patent. The process started out by writing him a check for a considerable amount of money while my wife looked at me like I’m crazy. Fortunately I’ve learned that when Katherine thinks I’m nuts I’m doing something right.

While trying to read through the entire patent may cause one’s entire body to melt away much like the Nazis who opened the Ark of the Covenant, there are two basic concepts. The first is to install radiant floor heating on the ceiling of an attic to remove unwanted heat. The second idea is to extract geothermal heat from the floor of a basement to efficiently warm up water.

Since the second part involves less destruction of our house I’ve spent the last few months building a ground source heat pump in my basement. The current incarnation involves two 100 gallon horse troughs, the innards of an air conditioner, and several sheets of Styrofoam insulation. If everything works like I want it to (which has been known to happen from time to time) it should cost less than an electric water heater and be as efficient as a geothermal pump. When I’m not working, being an active member of my family, or sleeping I head down into the basement to overcome technical issues such as I don’t know anything about HVAC and none of the parts are being used for anything close to their original purposes. If anyone does attempt to duplicate my efforts I have one warning– buying an air conditioner, taking out the heat pump and radiators, placing a cinder block in the middle, and taking it back to Home Depot for a full refund is not cool.

Despite my busy schedule, my family competed in the annual Kinetics race in Longmont. For anyone who doesn’t know about this already, you have to build and race a human powered vehicle over land, water and other obstacles. As team “Lego my Eggo” we suffered only minor mechanical issues and managed to finish in the top half of the teams. Personally I think it was my speech about the Canadian Waffle Federation trying to steal our waffles, but in reality it was probably due to my kids dressed up as little waffles. That, and several really good teams had the misfortune of their crafts being upside down in the middle of the reservoir.

In August I took my Audi in for an oil change and I received the wonderful news that my car was ready for a series of expensive and time consuming repairs. I should clarify that this was wonderful news for the dealership. The guy at the counter explained how the modern computer in my car calculates how much money I have to spend on my car and then sends signals to various systems to stop working at the most inconvenient time such as when I want to drive somewhere. He offered to perform all of the repairs at once for a bargain price of 5.5 times the value of the vehicle. As a bonus he offered to throw in a set of windshield wipers at the full retail price of $65. (I’m not making that part up– really.)

I decided to trade in my car before it executed the complete breakdown protocol. Long story short, I decided on a Kia Soul. Mostly I just love all of those hamster commercials. I decided on a 2014 model because in 2015 all cars will be built without steering wheels and be driven by television androids. While I would have enjoyed being driven around by Commander Data, my budget would have only allowed for Twinkie from Buck Rogers. My new car runs great even if it doesn’t garner respect from my coworkers at UPS. The first day I drove it to work one of the other drivers told me that the engine in his personal car is 5 times larger than mine. But hey, it gets me to work every day and the kids love the free hamster from the Kia dealership.

That leaves me to talk about my life as a UPS driver. I’ve been running the same route for almost two years now, so not much changes in my day to day routine. I would like to thank the women at the cookie store who supplement my otherwise healthy lunch with M&M cookies that I pretty much need both hands to hold. Also, I should mention the girls at the Wax Factory who still scare me by saying things like “true dat” and “you should come in for a waxing.”

So that about wraps things up for the year. Now that I’ve written all this down it seems like I’ve had a pretty busy year. If things go as planned I’ll be writing about how I became a hot water heater tycoon in my 2015 Christmas letter. I’ve already started shopping for a monocle and top hat.

I’ll end this with a quote from Meghan Trainor’s “All About the Bass” because 1) my girls make me show them that video every single time I sit down at my computer and 2) it makes me feel pretty even though I’ve added on a few pounds lately: “I’ve got all the right junk in all the right places.”

Categories
Christmas Letters

2013 Christmas Letter

So I was driving down the street in my UPS truck one afternoon in November when a man in a large red truck flew by me, slammed on his brakes, and stopped his craft diagonally in the middle of the street. Before I even had time to stop my vehicle he jumped out into the roadway and started running towards me. He was surprisingly fast considering his hefty girth, red furry outfit, and rather excessive quantities of facial hair. Once he arrived at my passenger side door he looked at me with an odd sense of clarity and focus and yelled, “Omar– it is me, Santa Claus, and I need you to save Christmas!”

“What can I do to save Christmas?” I asked Mr. Kringle.

“This is a little bit embarrassing,” Santa explained, “but I was online the other night and apparently I downloaded a virus on my business computer. It scoured my files for personal information and found the title to my magic Christmas sleigh. I don’t understand all the details, but before I even knew what happened someone had dispatched a specially equipped tow truck to the North Pole to take possession of my most important piece of Christmas equipment. The driver sympathized with my situation but insisted there was nothing he could do since all the paperwork was all in order.”

“That’s not good.” I replied as I realized how stupid and obvious that sounded three seconds after the words left my mouth.

Santa looked at me like that was the most stupid and obvious statement that I could have possibly made at that point in time. Then he took a deep breath and explained how I can help him remedy the situation.

“I went to the North Pole legal department and they did a complete investigation. It turns out that my sled is being stored in a holding facility. If I can’t come up with the payment in the next thirty days the vehicle will be legally transferred to the Russian mob.

“But how can I help? I’m just a UPS driver.” I explained. “How much money do you need to get your sleigh back?”

“That’s the problem Omar. They don’t want money. The only way I can get it back is to give them THE GREATEST CHRISTMAS LETTER EVER WRITTEN! I looked online and I’m impressed with your archive of Christmas letters going all the way back to 1995. But you need to step up your game this year or the holidays will be ruined for the entire planet.

“I’ll get right on it.” I told Santa. “Just let me finish my deliveries, do all my pickups, drive the truck back to the center, unload my air and international packages, park my truck, turn in my paperwork, punch out, drive home, take a shower, eat dinner, play with my kids, and then I’ll get right on it.

While I was saying all of that, Santa had already walked most of the way back to his truck. He looked back at me as he climbed into the cab and yelled “I’m counting on you, Omar!”

Later that evening I sat down at my laptop ready to write the most important story ever with my usual writing aids that included a “party size” bag of Wavy Lays potato chips, a cold two liter bottle of Diet Pepsi, and three full boxes of Sweet Tarts. I fired up my “inspirational Pink Floyd” playlist and went to work. I wrote an amazing letter. It was concise yet detailed, funny yet touching, and inspirational yet not preachy. I was all ready to email it to Santa when a somewhat suspicious Russian mobster looked in my kitchen window. He picked up an unusual piece of electronic equipment. When he pressed a prominent red button on the top of the device all the electronic devices in my house stopped working. He chuckled softly, walked back to his unmarked van, and drove away. I was going to chase him, but I was busy injecting insulin into my body as this writing experience had apparently given me type one diabetes.

So this is not the greatest Christmas letter in the world– this is just a tribute.

In my world 2013 will be remembered most as “the year Omar got his own route at United Parcel Service.” I had spent the previous nine years as a swing driver doing other driver’s routes when they were on vacation or injured. While I enjoyed it for the most part, there are some definite benefits to having a set route. Here, in no particular order, are some of said benefits.  Customers miss me when I’m on vacation. I can tape up photographs of my family on my visor. I don’t drive around looking for addresses. My truck is an automatic. So if you live or work in the area west of I-25, east of Timberline, south of Horsetooth, and north of Harmony in Fort Collins and you order a lot of shoes from the internet you should be expecting to see quite a bit of me in the future.

This year we decided to tackle remodeling our kitchen. We spent the previous weekend watching HGTV and Katherine and I both felt completely prepared for what lay ahead. After ripping out about half the old cabinetry we discovered that, wow, the makers of those television shows make things look way easier than they are in real life. We also discovered that the order of certain tasks can be very critical when installing a new kitchen. For example, putting in all the new cabinets before the counter tops arrive is generally a plus. Despite numerous setbacks of varying degrees of ickyness we now have a new kitchen which suits our needs much better than the last one.  One more piece of advice for anyone considering this type of project– if you build a large island into your new kitchen it will, from the instant the counter tops are installed, act as a rare earth magnet for attracting random objects from the rest of the house. Either that or I’m getting up and moving everything on to the island in my sleep.

Finally, I thought I would end my letter with the most insightful comment from my Facebook page from the last year:  The older you get, the harder it is to be a prime number.

Categories
Christmas Letters

2012 Christmas Letter

The days are getting shorter, the kiddos are getting taller, and I finally found a few minutes to stop all of my other important business to get around to writing my Christmas Letter for the year.

Speaking of the days getting shorter, one of my new ideas is to get the whole country to stay on daylight savings time all year round.  Being a package car driver at United Parcel Service I start driving at 8:30 in the morning.  In the winter time during standard time the sun starts to rise around 7:30 and sets at 4:30.  During the busy Christmas season this means I deliver packages for several hours in the dark.  If we stayed on daylight savings time, I would be able to start working right when it gets light and be out in the dark an hour less each night.  So I’m starting a word of mouth campaign to get this changed.  If that doesn’t work out I’m going to try and get transferred to a UPS center in Australia where they get the benefit of having their longest days of the year coincide with their busy holiday shopping season.  I’m not sure what my wife and kids would think of that, but now that I think of it Isabel has a severe Vegemite allergy and Samantha has an unexplained fear of marsupials.  And Katherine’s Australian accent is just horrible.

If I was going to describe my two children in just one word, it would be “growing.”  But I don’t see the point in being so terse, so I will elaborate.  Isabel is turning three years old two days before Christmas.  Fortunately she isn’t quite old enough to realize the negative consequences of having her birthday so close to Christmas.  Read my 2016 Christmas Letter for more information on that topic.  Also, any potential parents should take this into consideration when getting busy in February.  Some of Isabel’s favorite activities are quite typical for a girl her age and include suddenly laying down in the middle of the aisle at Walmart for no apparent reason, insisting on playing on all the playground equipment within sight, and asking why the car is stopped at every red light.

Samantha is 17 months behind her sister and is just chugging right along.  Her favorite activities include going around on the Sit and Spin until I get dizzy just watching her.  Then she goes the other direction to unwind.  Then, usually, she falls over sideways and starts laughing.  Her second favorite activity is waiting until we aren’t watching her for more than five seconds, walking into the kitchen, quietly opening up the dishwasher, and sitting on the front edge of the dishwasher door.  I’ve never designed a dishwasher, but I’m pretty sure they aren’t designed for those types of weight distributions.  Check my 2013 Christmas letter to see if it includes any kitchen appliance repair.  She also has taken a liking to anything her older sister is doing at the moment.

This summer the whole family competed in the annual kinetics race in Longmont.  We were called “The Busy Bees” and I was the queen bee.  Just about everyone at the race was both mildly intrigued and slightly disturbed by my outfit that included a tiara, yellow wig, black lipstick, a tight yellow tank top, black bra, a black and yellow tutu, black fishnet stockings, and black boots with yellow laces.  My wife and kids’ outfits were more gender appropriate and received much more positive feedback.

Once the race started my craft went about ten feet into the water at which point something happened that could best be described as “sudden massive critical widespread structural failures.”  So despite our great costumes our team came in, rounded to the nearest integer, last place.  Some people may view this as a failure, but I had a great time.  And the crowd loves seeing someone crash and burn more than the same teams that have great crafts that finish in first place year after year.  Anyone who has spent their childhood playing countless hours of the board game “Risk” knows what I’m talking about.  If everyone plays conservatively and just builds up their armies the game isn’t going to be any fun and the game is going to last for eleven hours instead of the usual five.  I’m the one who commits all of his forces to invading Russia on my third turn.  I know it isn’t the best strategy for winning the game.  Sure, that short bald guy from “The Princess Bride” will be best known for saying, “Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders – The most famous of which is ‘never get involved in a land war in Asia’”, but in the case of Kinetics having the most radical and untested device makes for the most entertaining race.

So I had a few extra minutes to contemplate the meaning of life the other day when I was taking a break at work.  The weather was pleasant and I had a picturesque view of the Rocky Mountains while I sat in the driver’s seat and ate my lunch.  I came to the conclusion that everything we do, in some way or other, serves two goals of humanity.  The first is to use supercomputers to completely understand how we are built to reverse engineer every species on the planet and use this information to make new things like women who can fly like birds and men who can lick their parts like a dog.  The second is to take all the molecules on the planet and rearrange them into a completely self contained spaceship to depart the vicinity before the sun runs out of fuel, collapses on itself, and explodes into half the size of the solar system.  Please refer to my 2074 Christmas Letter to see if the first goal has been realized.  Once we find a cure for cancer we will be halfway there.  I suspect the second goal might be considered more “long term” given the estimate that we have a few billion years before that whole “sun” thing becomes a pressing issue.  I hope this document will be around long enough so that scholars in the future can look through all the historical documents and say, “boy, that Omar guy really knew how things were going to play out.”

So that about finishes things up around here.  I’ve made it through another year, which was one of my goals.  My goal of creating a tuba/baritone/trumpet comedy street performing troupe has been put on hold and my “Latin for Dummies” book has collected another year’s worth of dust.  And maybe next year I’ll get around to purchasing the newly released Lego “Firefly/Serenity” set before uptight conservative groups get it pulled from the shelves just because one of the characters is a licensed companion (future speak for “prostitute”). But don’t forget to refer to my 2013 Christmas Letter for documentation of my near future accomplishments.  I’ll end things here with one of many great lines from the movie “Serenity.”

Inara Serra: Mal, what are you doing here?
Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: You invited me.
Inara Serra: I never thought for a second you’d be stupid enough to come!
Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: Well that makes you a tease.

Categories
Christmas Letters

2011 Christmas Letter

Wow, it is that time of year again.  It seems like just yesterday I started my first attempt to write my 2011 Christmas letter.  Maybe it was, or maybe that was three months ago.  You see I have two kiddos now, so I’ve kind of lost track of time for anything less pressing than someone screaming right next to my ears at the top of their lungs for reasons sometimes totally unapparent to me.  And now that includes several people besides myself.

So the first place to start is the birth of my second daughter, Samantha Rose Lutfey.  Born May 24, 2011, Samantha came into this world with 25% more hair than I had that day.  The surgical team had to rush her off to the neonatal barbershop before they would let Katherine hold her newborn child.  As was the case with Isabel’s birth, I looked stunning in the white sterile body suit I wore during the birthing procedure.  To be honest, I think my perfect figure was a bit of a distraction to some of the nurses.  Either that or they were worried I was going to pass out and topple over some vital and expensive piece of medical equipment.  Who can know for sure?  And for the record I came close to passing out zero times that day, which is one less than my first time around.

The next thing I can remember is competing in the annual Kinetics race.  Held at Longmont’s Union reservoir, my team was named “The Prime Contenders.”  The craft was a slight modification from previous attempts with Styrofoam wheels connected to a bicycle frame.  This year marked a personal milestone in that I actually finished the race.  And I had the support of pretty much nobody in the crowd.  About 79% of the crowd didn’t think my craft would even float in the water.  The remaining crowd watched me in the water and thought my right front wheel (which, to be honest, was hanging on to the rest of the craft in a rather precarious manner) was going to fall off any second now.  And, really, the highlight of the event is witnessing a hastily assembled craft half sink in the middle of the water section.  So to all of those people who keep telling me that PVC pipe is not a good structural material for a kinetics craft, I can now proudly yell out “PVC pipe can be a MARGINALLY ACCEPTABLE structural material, PROVIDED that I don’t hit any unexpected rocks, AND that I don’t make any sudden movements out of the exact center of gravity of the vehicle, AND, WELL OF COURSE IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING that the Kinetics Wizard doesn’t cast any spells of random destruction on any part of my team.”  Or, in short, “Bite me– I made it!”

So I either had a very strange dream and/or was visited by aliens a few weeks back.  To the best of my recollection, here is what went down.

So I’m standing around in a field for no particular reason, and a traditionally shaped alien saucer ship lands nearby.  Two green creatures get out and move towards me.

“Greetings Omar,” one of the aliens proclaims. “We have some information which could be immensely useful to your spices regarding the nature of what you understand to be the cosmos.”

“Hold on,” I replied, “Should I be writing this down or recording this all on video?”

“No need for that, our message will be brief.” the other visitor explained.  “First of all, your scientific community still can’t decide on the nature of light.  Is it a particle or is it a wave?  Nobody has come up with a good explanation that is consistent with real world observations.  So here is the answer:  Light is a particle that travels in a corkscrew pattern.  Technically it is spinning around four dimensions– electical, magnetic, one space dimension, and another dimension you haven’t quite discovered yet.”

“OK, I’ll get the word out.”  I answered. “Anything else?”

“One more thing,” the first alien spoke. “Most people in your scientific community believe in the Big Bang theory based on red shift patterns observed from extra-terrastial light sources.  Did you ever think that the particles are getting slowed down by all the dark matter in the universe instead of everything expanding in every direction?”

“So why are you telling me all this?” I asked, “There are plenty of other humans who would be better equipped to pass on this information.  I’m just a UPS driver.”

“We know– won’t it be funny that you know the truth about the nature of the universe but nobody will believe you due to your chosen vocation?” the first alien explained.  They both started laughing uncontrollably as they moved back into their spaceship and flew away.

Maybe this is what I get for watching the Simpsons’ “Tree House of Horror” and “How the Universe Was Made” right before going to bed.

So now that I think about it, I did get quite a bit done this year.  So here is a list of things I didn’t finish:

Steet performance:  Rounded to the nearest integer, I can safely say I achieved 0% of my goal to create a trumpet, baritone, and tuba comedy street performing group.  Besides a lot of random ideas floating around in my head I still need to acquire all the musical instruments and at least two musically inclined individuals for my team.  And, of course someone who can arrange music would be helpful.  Maybe I’ll make more progress on this in the future.

My 2024 run for congress is another area in which I did not make much progress.  The first step I’m going to take is to shoot Botox into one side of my forehead so that I can do that cool eyebrow raising thing just like Stephen Colbert on “The Colbert Report.”  The next item on the list is to decide my stance on critical issues such as deceptive bacon packaging, Tupperware lid standardization, and, of course, synchronizing with the rest of the world by switching over to the metric system and possibly Esperanto.

So that is about it for 2011.  I’ll leave you with the age old saying from my favorite novelty Christmas song:  What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb)?

Categories
Christmas Letters

2010 Christmas Letter

Welcome to my 2010 Christmas Letter.  This year has been crazy busy due to an important new addition to my life at the very end of 2009.  I’m talking, of course, about the new Gateway netbook I received as a Christmas present.  Now I can wirelessly connect to the inter-web from any room in the house.  Oh yeah, I suppose starting off the year with a seven day old kiddo has kept me busy too.

Life with Isabel Grace Lutfey has, among other things, kept us quite busy.  This whole raising offspring experiment has been a completely new experience for me.  I read (OK, maybe quickly flipped through would be more accurate) a few of those “here is exactly how you should raise your child in 413 pages” books, but after a year of being a parent, I’ve come up with my own set of cliff notes.

If the baby you are looking after is exhibiting an error code (such as crying at the top of her lungs without an end in sight) follow these simple steps*:

1. Change diaper
2. Put food in mouth (the baby’s mouth, not your own)
3. Play with

*Please note that the order is important.  Playing with a baby who has a full diaper can have negative consequences.

Getting Isbel to sleep when we want to rest has been a bit of a challenge.  To help quiet her down I’ve been known to sing her songs at night.  I generally start when I’m putting on her bed time clothes by singing her the pajama song.  It goes something like this: You say pajama, I say pajama, pajama, pajama, let’s call the whole thing off.  (note the different pronunciations of the middle vowel sound of the word pajama for proper comedic effect)  After that I move on to the Mamas and the Pappa’s “Dream a Little Dream” and/or the Eagle’s “Take it to the Limit”.  If all else fails I move on to an improvisational version of a song I call, “Daddy needs to get some sleep so he doesn’t accidently drive his UPS truck into a ditch tomorrow.”

Another important thing I’ve learned relates to Isabel’s toys.  These come in two categories.  The first type includes objects that we purchased for the express purpose of being a toy for our daughter.  These include typical things like a big bouncy ball, stackable plastic rings, and the oddly creepy Curious George doll whose head lights up when you squeeze him.  The second type includes objects that we had no intention of Isabel playing with, and, as a matter of fact, we would much prefer that she left alone altogether.  These items include things such as our cell phones, the television remote control, pretty much all the food we store in the lazy Susan, and, much to his dismay, our dog Maury.  Which stuff does she want to play with 94% of the time?

As Isabel just kept getting more and more mobile, we realized that living in a townhouse with roughly 17 flights of stairs might not be the best place to live.  So after a lengthy search we found a house on the west side of Loveland.  It has a nice back yard for Maury and plenty of room on the main floor for everyone to coexist peacefully.  We have spent several weekends painting the inside, but the end of that project is in sight.  While there are always going to be minor projects to tackle, we are more or less settled into our new place.

I really jumped on the facebook bandwagon this year.  Now I share pictures and insights about my life with a bunch of other people on the internet.  My favorite posts of the year are as follows:

On child care: Isabel would not go back to sleep when I put her back in her crib at 3am. I tried everything to get her to stop screaming, but in the end I had no choice but to charge her with resisting a rest.

On working at UPS: While I’m not a big fan of shaving my face every morning to drive a delivery truck, I think most of the FedEx drivers look like homeless Star Trek extras.

After a two year hiatus, the kinetics race was brought back to life.  After losing the corporate sponsorship, we moved the race from Boulder to Longmont.  While it was a much smaller event than past competitions, the race was a success at showing there are plenty of people in Colorado who want to race crazy human powered contraptions over land and water.  My craft did fairly well this year.  In addition to not suffering any major structural issues, I completed more than half the race before a broken chain considerably slowed my progress.  So I just need to make a few drive chain adjustments before starting the race next August.  Check out boulderKinetics.com for more information on the next race.

I am proud to announce that I am officially a United States of America Patent holder.  After three years, two different laywers, and one big stack of bills, I own the rights to patent number 7,825,545 a.k.a. “Energy Conservation and Control Systems”.  Now I have the next 17 years to do something with it.  Check out blackremote.com for more about this project.

Well, that about sums things up for this year.  It has been quite an adventure starting a family, but I think I’m getting the hang of it.  (as evidenced by NOT A SINGLE visit by family services, the Loveland S.W.A.T. team, or any basic cable reality television camera crew.)  2011 promises to be another eventful year as (SPOLIER ALERT) the sequel to Isabel is scheduled to be released on May 31.  Maybe the second time around we will have a better idea of what we are doing.  So, until then keep your head up, the dog out of the toilet, and the kids from sticking metal objects in the power outlets.

Categories
Christmas Letters

2009 Christmas Letter

Hello, and welcome to my 2009 Christmas Letter. For anyone reading this in the future (from when I wrote this), I’ll provide some historical context to help fully appreciate this letter. For anyone reading this while I’m writing this, please stop spying on me. I know how the industry works– radio transmitters in dental cavities, spy satellites tracking my movements from overhead in real time, and, of course, who can forget all the supposedly “free” rectal exams that are only a cover for placing global positioning devices. However, if you are still going to spy on me– even after I very kindly and clearly asked you not to– please feel free to correct any grammatical errors as I’m writing.

Now where was I? Oh, yeah, historical context. It being 2009, the hit movie of this Christmas season is the CGI filled mega-disaster “2012.” The reasoning behind this is obviously is that if the world does end in 2012 as the ancient Mayans predicted, the ticket sales for the film would really be in the crapper along with the rest of humanity if the film were to be released in 2012. The only way to prevent a grisley death would be to follow John Cusack around, since he seems to be the only one with the ability to escape the upcoming doom.

In television news, the most hyped show is the remake of the 1980’s sci-fi show “V.” The original show centered around alien “Visitors” who came to the planet with unclear motives. In a creative writing masterpiece, this time around the Visitors have acquired DNA from our 43rd President and created an army of clones to destroy our civilization. Stay tuned in early 2010 for the exciting first season finale of “W.”

OK, so back to my world. This year has been one of the most eventful times in my life. Katherine and I decided we were both ready to get married and start a family. It turns out that one of those two items requires a lot less effort than the other. (But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself for those who prefer the traditional “chronological” order of storytelling.)

After reviewing our wedding location options, we decided to get married on June 20, 2009. Most of the preparations were quite straight foward. Katherine ordered a dress and I found a nice three piece suit. I’m not sure if I ever documented this, but one of my informal “goals” in my life was to never own a suit. I made it 34 years, but I decided that I would rather buy a suit than rent another tuxedo. And who knows, maybe someday I’ll be a bigwig at UPS and need something other than company issued apperal to go to work each day. Stranger things have happened.

Next on the wedding list was to get rings. I kept my father’s wedding ring in a safety deposit box for the past ten years, and I decided to have the diamond put into a new setting for Katherine. She really likes sparkly things. That, and she found it all romantic and shit. I had my dad’s gold band resized to fit my ring finger.

We had a bunch of flowers at the wedding, but I don’t have any recollection of consulting a florist. Either the experience was so incredibly horrible that I’ve completely repressed the memories in the deepest recesses of my brain or Katherine took care of it all without me.

The best pre-wedding planning experience by far was choosing a wedding cake. In fact, I would recommend to anyone who likes cake to go to a bakery that specializes in wedding cakes and pretend you are getting married. They bring you samples of all their different cakes for you to try. Just eat all the samples and tell them you will be making your decision shortly. Just remember not to go back to the same bakery more than once every few months unless you are committed to creating elaborate disguises and fake personal histories.

Before I knew it, the big moment was upon us. And by that I mean Katherine handed me a home pregnancy test that came back positive. (See, I told you I would get back to this.) These devices have come a long way in recent years– instead of a simple plus or minus, a small computer inside the handle proclaimed, using the man’s voice from AOL mail, “You’ve got a baby-mama.”

The wedding itself went off without any major problems. One of my favorite parts of the evening was the unusual table number scheme we used. It caused a lot of confusion, which is exactly what we wanted. The other highlight was getting to use the microphone during the reception. My friend Brian wanted to hear a song, so I sung the first tune that came to my mind– the “free credit report” pirate song. It went over quite well with everyone that night– my only regret was not getting it on video.

We spent one weekend in November attending a birthing class. In retrospect, I think I didn’t go into the class with the best attitude. I told Katherine that my role in the birthing process was analogous to a father crawling inside the lower cabinets on his back to fix a leaking kitchen sink when the young son comes by and asks the father how he can help. The father looks around and hands the boy a wrench to hold while the dad finishes the job. When the baby gets here my job is to stay out of the way of all the hospital employees and hold any random object that are handed to me. That, and not pass out.

December rolled around and our baby preparations kicked into high gear. Originally Katherine was due December 5th, but after the second ultrasound that date was pushed back to December 15th. Isabel Lutfey finally arrived the night of December 23 after she was forced out of her mama-Jacuzzi by the modern marvel known as a C-section. The delivery took place at the Medical Center of the Rockies, and the experience was made as pleasant as possible considering what had to be done. The staff in the delivery wing catered to our every need, and they even play “Brahms’s Lullaby” over the public address system when a baby is born. When someone dies, they play an entire CD of William Shatner’s spoken poetry. That was, at least, until it caused an unfortunate cascade effect of wildly premature deaths throughout the building.

We spent Christmas in the hospital and finally came home on December 26. The dog went crazy when we first arrived with our latest addition to the family, but after a few minutes he calmed down after realizing that Isabel isn’t food or toys. I suspect he plans on hovering around her innocently until she is old enough to start dropping food on to the floor. So all in all it has been quite a busy year. I suspect that this latest addition will keep my quite busy, but I am excited to learn how to be a dad.

I thought I would end this year’s letter with a quote from the best 80’s B-movie I watched this year, “Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death.”

Jim (played by a young and, oddly enough, funny Bill Mahr): Bunny, don’t worry! You’ll save me!

Categories
Christmas Letters

2008 Christmas Letter

The days are getting cooler, the political issue rob-calling is winding down, and most stores are busy setting up extensive Valentine’s day promotional material– which means it must be time for me to write my annual Christmas letter. 2008 has been a crazy year with the economy, the presidential election, and, of course, the wonderfully crazy mid-season cliffhanger of Battlestar Galactica which led a shaky alliance between the Cylons and the fleet back to Earth only to see the crumbling remains of New York City. What the frack happened? We have to wait until January 2009 to how that’s going to play out.

The first project I tackled this year was cleaning up some of the loose ends on my entertainment center. A few years back I installed a projector and a large screen in my previously underused living room. This let me watch movies and television on a screen that’s about 10 feet across. Since I had become such an expert in cutting holes in drywall, I decided to add front and rear built in speakers to replace the speakers sitting on the floor. I also closed off the “projection room” with glass to cut down on the fan noise. Finally, I added a picture frame on hinges in front of the electronic equipment to give the room a more finished look. If I ever decide to to move the entertainment center is going to have to stay with the house– I’m pretty sure I don’t have the skills to repair all the drywall damage I’ve created.

My next Christmas-letter-worthy project was to file for a United States Patent. I’ve been kicking around this idea for a remote control holder that shuts off power to the television when not in use. (Many people don’t realize that any electronic device that uses a remote draws power when plugged in but turned off.) So I hired a lawyer who took my idea and transformed it into 30 pages of techno-patent-babble. We would sit at my kitchen table as he explained why he replaced the phrase “electrical switch” with “electronic control device” to make the patent as broad as possible. So now I’m in the process of promoting the idea to various companies. I put together a website at www.BlackRemote.com to explain the idea in more detail. If all goes well my 2009 Christmas Letter will describe production of a wacky remote control holder infomercial.

In August Katherine, my mom, and I went on a cruise to Alaska. Since water based transportation options in Colorado are somewhat limited (the canoe ferry down the Colorado river was booked months in advance), we chose to fly to Seattle and get on a boat from there. Coincidentally, we traveled aboard the same ship we were on during our trip to the Caribbean. When we picked our room this time around we decided NOT to be directly under the aerobics room where people gathered at way-too-early hours of the day to jump up and down in unison. Traveling through Alaska’s inside passage in a 14 story mega cruise ship took some getting used to (I’m still not sure exactly why the ship doesn’t tip right over, especially with the two pools, four hot tubs, and the food buffett on the very top), but I did enjoy eating a leisurely breakfast while watching various islands move in and out of my field of vision. We took a scenic train ride in Skagway. It is one thing to watch the History Channel and have them talk about some small foot path that prospectors used during the gold rush, it a much different experience to see it in person. Other highlights of the trip included the optional fire drill and mandatory midnight chocolate buffet.

This year saw the end of my ownership of my Saturn. Since 1996 I’ve driven a hunter green Saturn SC2 coupe. I’ve managed to put 131,000 miles on it, and I decided that if I didn’t sell it soon I would just end up driving it until the last of the plastic body panels decomposed. After looking at all my options, I decided I wanted an all wheel drive car. After looking at all kinds of Subarus, a few Ford Fusions, and even kicking the tires of a Dodge Challenger, I decided on a used 2004 Audi A4 quattro wagon. It is fun to drive, gets decent gas mileage, and, most importantly, the dog likes the big flat area in the back when we take him places. I listed my Saturn on Craigslist and had it sold in two weeks.

I’m still working at UPS. I’m now on year number seven and counting. I am still a driver who covers other driver’s routes when they are sick or on vacation. Each year I learn a few more of the fifty five or so routes covered by the Loveland center. This year’ highlight was when I spent a few weeks working way out in Milliken, Colorado to see what’s going on out there. Short answer: not much. Long answer: nothing, I was exaggerating when I said “not much” for the short answer. I’m not saying Milliken is small– just go to the main restaurant in town, “Jose’s Taco Factory,” and ask anyone there.

So that summarizes 2008 for me. My resolutions for 2009 include watching all the Battlestar Galactica that I can get my hands on, getting out to see the new “Star Trek” movie coming out in May, and, of course, spending a few minutes each day watching my dog race around the house like a maniac. So until next year remember what they keep singing in the “Smokey and the Bandit” movies: We’re going to do what they say can’t be done. We’ve got a long way to go, and a short time to get there.

Categories
Christmas Letters

2006 Christmas Letter

Two thousand and six– what a year. Some professional football team won the Super bowl, the Democrats won a majority in both houses of Congress, and almost all of humanity was destroyed in an unexpected large-scale thermonuclear attack from a previously unknown Cylon attack force. Hold on—I might be confusing things that happened on television with stuff outside television. Now that I think about it, it was the Cylons who won the Superbowl, and the Dallas Cowboys who destroyed the twelve colonies of mankind.

In an unrelated note, I finished Netflix-ing the first two seasons of the SciFi Channel series Battlestar Galactica. On a whim I added the first DVD to my queue, and after the first twenty minutes I was hooked. I would say it is like crack to me, but I’ve never smoked crack, so something like “high fructose corn syrup” or “partially hydrogenated oils” would be more appropriate to my situation. What’s so great about Battlestar Galactica? (or, as we in the business like to say, BSG) Sure, I’ve always been a Science Fiction geek, but this series is so much more than I expected. I like to think of it as Star Trek with a healthy dose of nuclear annihilation, drug abuse, and (best of all) hot human/Cylon threesome sexual encounters. That, and they aren’t afraid to kill off main characters on a regular basis. Who is going to get thrown out of an airlock this week? Stay tuned!

In more reality based news, I’m still working as a driver at UPS. One of the highlights of the year was delivering a package near the Colorado State University campus and receiving, at no charge, a song sung to me by the entire tri-delta sorority. I don’t remember all the words, but it sounded like a cross between the theme song to “Friends” and that creepy song they force the wait staff sing when you tell them it is your birthday at Bennigans. When the song ended they asked, no, begged me to stay and referee their impromptu sorority wide pajama-clad pillow fight. Before I could answer, however, Sir Gallant and King Arthur broke down the door and dragged me rather unwillingly back to my UPS truck—thus saving me from certain temptation.

With the exception of the entire tri-delta sorority, I seem to have a new woman in my life. Katherine started out as my Kinetics craft assistant, but her ability to deal with my lunatic ravings quickly led to a promotion. This, by any measure, is not an easy task. Our relationship is quite similar to that of Doctor Who and his latest sidekick Rose Tyler. The only difference is that Katherine isn’t blond and doesn’t speak with much of an English accent, and my time-traveling tardus currently lacks any time traveling abilities and is constructed chiefly from a port-o-let acquired from a nearby construction site.

Since Katherine and I both seem to have an unexplained attraction towards shiny objects, we decided to go visit Las Vegas for a week in November. Outside most casinos are elaborate setups specifically designed to capture the attention of nearby pedestrians. If you are able to get past this small army of scruffy looking middle-age men trying to sell time share vacation plans and discounts to various strip clubs, the actual casinos themselves often times have their own form of visual stimulation designed to lure people inside their establishments. Treasure Island has one of the most well known setups on the strip.

Based on a true story (as told by someone on an acid/Viagra trip), things start out with a raggedy, sassy band of exotic dancers who eek out a living on a large sailing ship by plundering passing ships of their Victoria’s Secrets cargo. In their spare time, just like any other pirates of the sea, of course, they dance and sing highly choreographed musical numbers. Neighboring pirate groups know them as simply armed, arrogant, and argumentative, or in pirate talk, “the three Arrrs.” Trouble erupts, however, when they come across a ship of raggedy, sassy exotic male dancers who don’t want any trouble as they are merely on their way to a friend’s nearby houseboat to attend their annual gay pirate party costume party. One thing leads to another, and eventually the matter is settled with a traditional “pirate dance off.” Loud music plays, hips are thrusts in perfect sync, and cannons are discharged until only one boat is left floating.

That about sums things up for this year. So, to anyone planning on visiting remember the saying, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas—especially the dead hooker in the trunk of the rental car.”

Categories
Christmas Letters

2005 Christmas Letter

What can I say? I started writing a Christmas letter way back in 1996. So this is the 10th anniversary—if you add 10 to 1996 your get 2006. But wait– it’s only 2005 as I’m writing this, so I’ve lost a year somewhere. I don’t remember losing a year, so I must have been a) watching an incredibly long late night television infomercial b) abducted and possibly probed in unnatural ways by aliens or c) recovering from a vicious Wampa attack on the ice planet Hoth by floating in a large tube of water like Luke Skywalker in “Empire Strikes Back”. While I can only speculate about my alleged “lost year,” I can, with a varying degree of accuracy, explain the highlights of the past twelve months.

Since moving into my townhouse, I would often compare my living room to my appendix—both are rather useless appendages that I could easily live without. I didn’t have much furniture for the room, and most of the time I spent there involved walking through it to get to my front door. Even though all my attempts to have my living room serve a useful purpose like, say, digesting tree bark, were a complete failure, the situation changed when I invited my friend Scott over for the first time. After giving him the grand tour, he looked at the sparsely decorated area and told me, “Omar, this would be the perfect spot for a projection television!” Once he said that I realized the room’s destiny. We went out that night to investigate my projection television needs.

The first place we went was a ritzy high-end electronics store. They had a plush room dedicated to projection televisions. In the back of the room a shelf held three different projectors. The salesman would switch one on and describe the virtues of each device with comments such as, “This one, which by the way, costs $15,000, displays flesh tones more accurately than the others.” Of course they all looked exactly the same to me, and I felt like I was at the optometrist when he asks, “Which is better, A or B?”

So despite my initial enthusiasm for this project (and the fact that I didn’t have $15,000 lying around) I waited a few weeks and bought a more reasonably priced projector on the Internet. When I got home and found it on my doorstep I immediately went to work setting it up. Installing a traditional television set usually just involved plugging it in and hooking up a few wires. My plan, however, was a bit more complex. I had to cut several gaping holes through various walls and drill through the floor to get everything in exactly the right place. As I plunged the drywall knife into the wall for the first time I could sense my mom’s disapproval despite the fact that she lives an hour away—especially when I said to myself, “I think I want a hole over here somewhere.” My mother appreciates qualities like caution, planning, and careful measuring– none of which I was exhibiting in great quantities at the moment. But, really, what’s the point of buying a house if you can’t cut holes all over the place?

So, after a few months of on-and-off construction, I finished my own little home theater system. The projector is tucked away in a cubby hole near the ceiling and all the other electronic gear is neatly stacked below. So now, finally, after being on this planet for more than 31 years, I can sit in my own house and watch DVDs and play PS2 games on a screen that is 10 1/2 feet across.

I made a promise to myself never to wear a tuxedo after my disastrous prom experience my junior year of high school. That was back in 1991, and I kept that promise until 2005 when my last roommate Scott asked me if I would be in his wedding. So there I was, torn between breaking my promise to myself and being a jerk to my friend. After realizing that the problem with that evening was more with the weird girl I invited and not the clothes I wore, I quickly accepted the offer. I’m so glad I did because I had a really good time.

I found out that breaking my tuxedo promise the second time around was a lot easier. A few weeks later another friend of mine, Brian, was getting married and the invitation said it was to be a black tie wedding. I looked through my closet and pulled out the three ties I own. One was dark red, another blue with stripes, and the last was orange with irregular colored blobs, which, as I understand, is used to disguise embarrassing soup stains. No matter how hard I stared at them, none of them were black. So I drove over to the tuxedo store where I rented the last one and decided what to wear for this wedding. Since my dimensions hadn’t noticeably changed in the past three weeks, I didn’t have to go through the fitting process. One thing I’ve come to realize about getting fitted for a tuxedo is this: No matter how young, cute, and perky the girl helping you is at the fitting station, getting your inseam measured is always an awkward experience.

So, after acquiring a tuxedo for the weekend, we drove up to Aspen, Colorado to see Brian and Janet get married. First of all, I found out that Aspen is really, really far away from where I live compared to, say, the local Taco Bell. But, we arrived at the hotel without incident the night before the wedding. The wedding itself was amazing, and really beyond description– at least with my ability to describe things. I lack the wedding accessory vocabulary to do the night justice. But it was really about Brian and Janet, and to the best of my knowledge, they don’t write Christmas letters. And it isn’t because they are Jewish, but rather because Brian spends all his free time on an Internet dradle gambling site. “I can’t stop now Janet, I’ve just gotten three gimels in a row!”

Now that I have such a cool place to watch DVDs (Hey, did I mention I put rope lighting up behind the floor trim to give it that soft movie-theater-esque glow?), I thought I would take some time to recognize my personal choice award for funniest new movie of the year. This year’s award goes to (make dramatic drum roll noise with your hands now to increase the tension) “Garden State.” I like to think of it as “The Big Chill” for the 21st century. Both movies centers around a group of people brought together by an unexpected death. They soon realize how empty their lives have become and try to compensate with large doses of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. OK, so “Garden State” replaced Marvin Gaye with The Shins, added ecstasy use to the pot smoking, and substituted Nattily Portman character for an impotent Vietnam veteran (to whom Jeff Goldbloom lost the girl) as the love interest. The main story line is so bizarre it feels like it just has to be true. Zach Braff wrote, directed, and starred in this movie. I hope this will be the first of many movies he contributes to the world. And if he, through some improbable series of events, is killed in an extreme moto-cross accident, he can at least take comfort in the fact that he got to do a love scene with Natalie Portman (and not Jeff Goldbloom).

Not that there is much rhyme or reason to this, but here are a few things I think would make the world a better place. First off, I was driving home from work the other day when I came to the conclusion that Weird Al Yankovic needs to remake Rupert Holmes “Escape” (The Pina Colada Song) but have it be about meeting people online. It would go something like this “If you like Internet Dating/Meeting new people online/Here’s a list of some websites/And true love you will find.” So if you are reading this Al, get cracking!

I’ve been a big fan of the comedy improvisation show, “Whose Line is it Anyway?” for several years now. It started off as a British show, and soon afterwards an American version was created with roughly the same format (although they turned down some of the sexual innuendo). Now don’t get me wrong, I love Ryan Styles and Collin Mockery, but I think its time to have another version of the show. This time, however, the cast will be almost entirely women. Janeane Garafolo could host! So if you are reading this Janeane, get right on it. You can be funny again, it is OK!

Well, that about wraps things up for another year. So, I’ll end this year’s letter with one of the best lines from Garden State. “Oh… guys? Don’t stay in here all day. I had to take the batteries out of the carbon monoxide detector; it was beeping all night.”

Categories
Christmas Letters

2004 Christmas Letter

I started thinking about this year’s Christmas letter earlier today while driving around Fort Collins. A small nativity scene caught my eye as I maneuvered my truck through the various industrial complexes which had become the all consuming focus of my life since the beginning of the year. By any type of measurement—metric, standard, or nonstandard— this representation of the birth of Christ was quite modest. No live animals or people were harmed in the making of the scene. It lacked a well planned dramatic lighting setup. And despite my best investigative measures, it appeared to be completely devoid of any animatronic functionality. The simplicity of these three foot tall molded plastic characters witnessing the defining moment of Christianity (Jesus, Mary, Moses, Adam, Eve, a couple of wise guys, representatives of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and a curious time-traveling scientist from the future, who, by most accounts, completely spoiled the moment by repeatedly tripping over various livestock) made quite a statement.

I stopped for a moment to get a better look. While I’m not a compete stranger to this type of religious display, I did note a few unusual points about the situation. First off, I’m writing this down in the middle of July—not exactly prime nativity scene season. Secondly, the display was set up behind a barb-wire fence in the far corner of an industrial lot used to store compressed gas and compressed gas accessories. And finally, after some unspecified amount of time, the mouth on the baby Jesus started moving and I heard a voice say, “Omar… Omar… this is your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Listen to me; I have something very important to tell you that will change your life: You are hallucinating! I suspect this is due to moderate dehydration and overall poor eating habits. You need to drink more water during the day. And lay off the glazed doughnuts in the mornings. That is all. Now get back to work, you slacker!”

Well, it’s a lot closer to being Christmas now, so I’m hoping enough interesting stuff has happened to me to allow me to write a respectable length letter. And if that’s not the case I’m sure I can add marginally relevant material about obscure mathematical theorems and/or recent programming on the History Channel.

If the whole nativity scene part was confusing, maybe I should rewind and attempt to start at the beginning of the year and proceed, in more or less a linear manner, until I get to the end. I’m not a neurologist, but I suspect that, in terms of higher brain functions, my brain works in whatever the opposite of linear is. While I’ve never actually seen my brain, I suspect that it is grey, squishy, and topographically similar to a hopelessly tangled ball of Christmas lights. So, I “started” the year off by becoming a full time driver at UPS. Up until that point I worked the way-too-early shift loading packages into delivery trucks. So instead of setting my alarm for three in the morning, I start work at eight-thirty, which is much better. With this promotion, I am forced to be clean shaven each day, which is much worse. Finally, I have to wear the official brown UPS uniform, which, well, I don’t have any strong feelings about one way or another.

Being a driver, well, it’s interesting. Every day is a learning experience. For example, I quickly discovered how many people think they are funny/witty/insightful when I deliver a package and they ask me, “Hey, what can brown do for me? HA HA HA!” I’m not sure why, but it just grates on my nerves– kind of like the commentators at the New York City Thanksgiving parade spend a total of thirty-seven minutes explaining how much helium is in each of the floats.

Moving hundreds of packages a day at work really helped prepare me when I moved into my new townhouse in June. To be honest, I actually hired movers for a few hours to get all of my personal belongings across town. It’s not so much that I’m lazy (well, that may have factored into the equation somewhere), but I just didn’t feel like having to go through the joy of renting a truck and then cornering a handful of friends and associates to get the job done. To my surprise, the movers were on time, friendly, and reasonably priced. And if they stole anything of mine, it must not have been very important since I haven’t noticed six months later.

Once all of my worldly possessions found their way into my new dwelling, I began to realize that a major life-changing decision was fast approaching. One refreshingly crisp morning, while casually reading through the original text of The Iliad after having flawlessly completed the latest New York Times Saturday crossword puzzle, one of Homer’s insights gave me pause– “The glorious gifts of the Gods are not to be cast aside.” Later on that very same day, while rummaging through the irregularly damaged merchandise in the electronics department of the neighborhood Kmart department store, Homer spoke to me once again. “I am not crazy. It’s the TV that’s crazy. Aren’t you, TV?” I looked up to thirty various makes and models of television sets playing, in perfect synchronicity, episode 7F03 of “The Simpsons.” I put down the slightly cracked battery-powered clock-radio that just a moment earlier I was contemplating purchasing, walked over to the television display aisle, and yelled out with unwavering resolve, “No man should have to live without premium quality digital television broadcast for three consecutive weeks as I have done. Homer has spoken to me– not once, but twice! I have cast aside the glorious gift of syndicated situation comedies and late night infomercials for far too long. I was crazy to think I could live without its warm glowing warming glow. I NEED CABLE TELEVISION! Or possibly a satellite dish—whichever is better suited to my needs.”

I got some very helpful advice from Jerry (the security guard at Kmart) as he made sure I left the premises in the least disruptive manner as possible, given my current state of excitement. He recommended that I get the Dish Network and a digital video recorder so I wouldn’t miss any of my favorite shows that have been rather inconveniently scheduled during my regular working hours. I took his advice, and in a few days I was connected to some state-of-the-art electronic gadget hovering in the sky hundreds of miles above my head.

After everything was hooked up and functioning correctly, I went out on my patio where the actual satellite dish was mounted and tried, without any luck, to locate the satellite up in the sky. I know it’s there because I was just watching Chen Kenichi prepare trout ice cream on Iron Chef. I suppose as a mere mortal I can only sit back and appreciate the glorious world it has created around me and have faith in the master plan that is sometimes beyond my limited understanding. Oh, sure, I get angry at the satellite at times. Why did it take from me the six-thirty episode of Seinfeld? I loved it so. But then I soon see a bigger picture—yes, I will miss Jerry, George, Kramer, and Elaine, but “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” has been added on channel 107. Before I know it, I have been made aware of an entirely new comedy genre. I guess it’s sort of like God in a way. And, of course, when either of them come crashing down to Earth the world as I know it will be over.

After I finished contemplating the religious implications of the Dish Network, I needed to test out the digital recorder. Having just seen a commercial for the ABC Family’s made-for-television movie, “Pop Rocks,” I decided this would be the first broadcast to be stored on my DVR. Despite not having any relation to the candy it is named after, I found the movie moderately entertaining. Gary Cole (better known from “Office Space” as Bill Lumberg. “Ahh, I’m going to have to go ahead and ask you to come in on Sunday, too…”) plays a seemingly responsible father and husband who neglected to tell his family that he was the lead singer in a high-profile 80’s metal rock band. Who hasn’t forgotten to mention some small aspect of their past to a significant other? Having said that, I cannot comment on any of my personal secret rock bands, past or present, due to legally binding legal documents I may or may not have signed.

Well, that about wraps things up for another year. I’ve managed to keep myself busy with a new job, new house, and new electronic gadgetry. So, for no particular reason other than it makes me laugh whenever I watch it, I’m going to end this year’s letter with the epitaph from the movie “The Royal Tenenbaums.”

Royal O’Reilly Tenenbaum (1932-2001) Died Tragically Rescuing His Family From The Remains Of A Destroyed Sinking Battleship.

Categories
Christmas Letters

2003 Christmas Letter

Imagine this: After a moderately busy day at work, I’m sitting in my La-Z-Boy making saltine and peanut butter sandwiches.

One side of my brain (I’m not sure which– possibly the inside) is busy mentally writing a letter to the cracker company. “Dear Zesta, I should start out by saying I quite enjoy eating your saltine crackers. I find them pleasing to my palette and very reasonably priced. However, as I was sitting in my La-Z-Boy eating saltine and peanut butter sandwiches I realized a potential quality control problem with your product. When I get to the bottom of a sleeve of crackers, occasionally there is one left over. Each peanut butter saltine sandwich I make uses exactly two saltines. I was wondering: is there supposed to be an odd or even number of crackers in each sleeve? Personally, I would prefer to have an even number. Which leads me to my question: what should I do with the last cracker? I tried using both one and three saltines with peanut butter, but found the results unsatisfactory. Any information you can provide me on this matter would be greatly appreciated.”

The rest of my brain was busy processing information from earlier in the afternoon– the shorter days, the first significant snowfall of the year, the icy roads I had to navigate all morning and, of course, the trailer park where I got a UPS truck stuck twenty miles away from the center. It all reminded me (with the exception of the trailer park bit—more on that later) that is was time to write my annual Christmas letter. I jumped up from the La-Z-Boy, looked down at the last couple of saltines, sat down again, finished the last of the crackers, got up again, let the dog outside, decided I, too, had to empty my bladder, grabbed a soda from the refrigerator, and then raced to my computer to start writing. Oh, yeah, and somewhere in there I had the oil in my car changed.

Speaking of automobiles, I just realized that I’ve been driving my Saturn almost as long as I’ve been writing Christmas letters. Based on my personal experience, 1996 was a good year to buy a Saturn. In the seven and a half years I’ve owned this vehicle, it has served me well. However, after consulting my ancient Chinese astrological charts I discovered that 2003 was destined to be “the year of the broken alternator.”

Here is what I learned from the situation:

1. When the battery light on the dashboard goes on, hoping it will just turn itself off in a few days may not always be the best solution.

2. Anyone familiar with northern Colorado will agree that being stranded alone in a non-functioning vehicle in the complete void of civilization between Loveland and Greeley is not the best way to start an evening.

3. When #1 and #2 are no longer just hypothetical situations, it is possible to take your girlfriend’s car to Wal-Mart, buy a new, fully charged battery, install it in the vehicle with the broken alternator, drive to a nearby mechanic for repair work, and finally return the slightly used battery the next day without the woman at the customer service desk realizing what happened. When she asked the reason for the return, I simply said I made a mistake and only needed a nine volt.

September 25, 2003 marked my one year anniversary working at UPS. I’m not sure why, but I expected the day to be kind of special. Nothing too fancy– maybe a nice bottle of wine or some flowers. You know, just a little something to make me feel like I’m important to UPS. But no, UPS just went on like it does every day, completely oblivious to my feelings.

Now that I completely understand / mentally repress everything that happens during the morning shift at UPS, I find my mind occasionally wanders while my body is busy running in and out of the delivery trucks. Just looking at a box moving down the belt can reveal a lot about its contents. Packages from a company such as L.L. Bean have a distinct look and feel that says, “Hello, I’ve got a sweater inside me.” Packages sent from less frequent shippers say things like, “This is a care package for my son who just started college.” Or, “I used to be a box of coco-puffs cereal.”

Sometimes during the spare seven nanoseconds between loading boxes I ask myself questions like, “Come on, now Omar, really, do you even know how long a nanosecond is?”, “Do you like movies about gladiators?”, and, of course, “Who comes up with these street names?” One part of town in Fort Collins is full of “Lord of the Rings” themed street names such as Shire, Hobbit, and Gilgalad. One morning when a coworker asked if a package for an address on Gilgalad Street should be loaded on one of my trucks, I replied with one of my favorite Hobbit songs, “Gilgalad was an Elven-king. Of him the harpers sadly sing…” I stopped only because someone threw a moderately heavy package at the back of my head, but that’s another story. (one I don’t remember, for some reason.)

I made my first official “career move” at UPS in September when I started working as a Saturday air driver. So now, in addition to my usual responsibilities of loading trucks Monday through Friday, I now spend Saturday mornings in a brown UPS truck. After I put on my cute little brown uniform, I deliver packages in the towns of Fort Collins, Laporte, and Belleview. For anyone not familiar with northern Colorado, Laporte is a small town up in the foothills where people go to get away from the hustle and bustle of Fort Collins. Belleview is nestled even further up in the mountains where people go to get away from the hustle and bustle of Laporte, usually with little more than a handful of cows and several high caliber firearms.

Driving UPS trucks has been a good learning experience for me. After one moderately sized Friday night snowstorm, I found out what a UPS truck can and can’t do. It can descend a moderately icy inclined entrance to a trailer park without much trouble. After I delivered the package, I discovered that getting back up and on to the main road was not a simple task. After several failed attempts, I looked around, found some trash to stick under the rear tires, and was soon on my way.

Well, that just about wraps things up for 2003. Will 2004 be the year I resolve the odd saltine cracker mystery? Will I keep working at UPS? Will my coworkers keep throwing packages at the back of my head? If you want to know the answer to these and many other totally unrelated questions, stay tuned for the 2004 edition. Until then, just remember my favorite line from the movie “Office Space.” Bob: Looks like you’ve been missing quite a bit of work lately. Peter Gibbons: Well, I wouldn’t say I’ve been MISSING it, Bob.

Categories
Christmas Letters

2002 Christmas Letter

Welcome to yet another year end wrap-up of my life. I have been writing Christmas letters for so long now I have trouble remembering which one this is. Lets see– the earliest one was from 1995, and its 2002 now. Subtracting the two numbers gives seven– which is only one off from the correct value of eight. And that isn’t counting 1999 when I wrote two letters– which means this is the ninth letter in the series. What is significant about the number nine? First of all, its the number of fingers Kristin has (not counting, obviously, her missing finger.) And if that wasn’t enough, nine is also the number of people who are in the title sequence of “The Brady Bunch.” I’ve also discovered, thanks to my extensive travels in Europe, nine is a word often used in Germany. Since I’m not a professional linguist, I have no idea what it means.

One of the first things I did in 2002 was meet my girlfriend Kristin. Anyone who is familiar with the writing on my website and my below-average spelling abilities might think that Kristin and Kristen are the same person. Despite sharing eighty-six percent of the letters of their first name, these are two different people. Kristen was the original newfunny.com editor and a semi-fictional character in my novel “Internet Grandeur”. (Which, by the way, I’m still working on getting published.) Unfortunately, Kristen had too many time constraints between working full time at the library and going to school to correct the constant barrage of grammatical errors that kept accumulating in her E-mail account.

So this is where Kristin came into the picture. We started seeing each other in the middle of January. I’m not sure exactly when we started dating, and asking Kristin doesn’t shed any light on the issue. Personally, I would just like to consider the first time we met in person as the start of our relationship for future anniversary purposes. Kristin, on the other hand, has documented no less than five different levels of the relationship that need to be taken into consideration in establishing an anniversary date. There is the first time we met, the first formal date, the first time we agreed not to see other people, the first time we said “I love you” to each other, and a few other milestones that I can’t remember at the moment. Nailing down an anniversary date has been an exercise in futility. Since we have both agreed to disagree, I made an executive decision and placed our anniversary on the same day as the Superbowl. This way we can always celebrate it on the weekend, and the odds of me forgetting are slim to none. I briefly considered making it Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, but that is always on Monday, and I didn’t want Kristin accusing me of playing the race card.

Semi-random thought: Since I’ve gotten in the habit of having Kristin proofread my writing most people don’t get to see the way my brain and fingers like to spell words. In my own defense I get most of the words right. My favorite spelling mistake was in an E-mail message to a friend of mine talking about how difficult it is for me to shave my face on a daily basis. I meant to ask if there was some kind of personal hygiene product designed to permanently remove facial hair for men. I wanted to say “beard nair,” but I wrote “bread nair.” I don’t think either product currently exists.

In February I went on a road trip with Kristin to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. We decided to take the northern route through Wyoming. Now I truly understand why it is the least populated state in the country. This was the first time I had ever been to Salt Lake City, and the only thing I can say is [NOTE TO READER: insert your favorite Morman joke here.] No matter where we were in Utah, we couldn’t escape the Olympic hype. Olympic pins sat prominently on the counter of gas stations, highway signs pointed the way to Olympic venues, and twelve-story high images of figure skaters clung to the sides of various twelve-story buildings. I spent most of the long journey home going on about curling being an Olympic sport. Kristin enjoyed my rambling thoughts so much she only tried to throw herself out of the moving car once or twice.

After staying put for a few years, I decided I was tired living in Boulder, Colorado. Sure, it has its share of liberal wackos, but in the end I decided to move in with a friend of mine in Loveland, Colorado. Moving was a lot more work than, say, staying put, but now that I am all settled in I really enjoy the area. Traffic really isn’t an issue in Loveland, so I always enjoy listening to the Denver radio stations during rush hour to find out how bad the situation is fifty miles south of me. The biggest problem I have with the town involves a lack of a book superstore such as Borders or Barnes and Noble. Oh yeah, and someone stole one of our recycling bins a few months ago, but it turned up a few days later. Other than that, things are going pretty well.

This year I altered my shopping habits when I got a membership to Sam’s Club. Well, OK, I didn’t actually buy it– my mom got herself a membership and added my name to the account. Anyone who is familiar with these types of large-volume discount retailers knows they are the perfect place to pick up life’s necessitates such as a ten pound container of salted cashews and a battery-powered atomic clock. Which, coincidentally, is exactly what I came home with after my first visit. While I can’t recall anything particularly fun or exciting about the cashews, the atomic clock is quite a piece of work.

I need to start out by saying that, to the best of my knowledge (and despite the name), this device does not contain any significant levels of radioactive material. I’m not sure exactly how it works on the inside, but I suspect the heart of the device utilizes a government operated cesium powered chronometer, encoded radio signals, and a genetically designed race of miniature gnome slaves. What I do know is you enter your time zone and whether or not your township or local municipality follows daylight savings time and suddenly POW! Radioactive gnomes fly out of the clock in an effort to enter your ear canal and take control of your higher brain functions. STRIKE THAT– WE ARE NOT CONTROLLING YOUR THOUGHTS OMAR. STRIKE THAT– GNOMES DO NOT EXIST, YOU, I MEAN I, JUST MADE THAT PART UP.

Next to my move to Loveland, the biggest change in my life this year was moving back to the ranks of the employed. In September I started working part-time for UPS. I get up way too early in the morning, load boxes into delivery trucks, and clock out with plenty of time to stop by Burger King before they stop serving breakfast. When I first started working, I quickly realized that this type of work is more physically demanding than, say, surfing the Internet all day. It took me a while to acclimate to this change, but I am in much better shape now and have even managed to lose a few pounds. I like to think of the whole situation as going to the gym five days a week. The most significant difference is that at this gym you get in trouble if you don’t show up every day.

I think that about wraps things up for this Christmas letter. Since I never really know how to end these letters, I’ll just stick with my traditional mechanism of quoting whatever movie comes to mind. So until next year, just remember what Jack Nicholson said in As Good As It Gets– “Sell crazy someplace else– we’re all stocked up here.”

Categories
Christmas Letters

2001 Christmas Letter

Welcome to yet another Christmas letter. Having been writing these annual summaries of my life since 1995, one might develop the notion that I somehow know what I’m doing. Over the years I have noticed that other people notice when I spell words wrong or put completely incorrect words where they just don’t belong. While I see this as “cute” and “charming”, the rest of the world generally does not. For example, the words “assess” and “asses” contain almost the same letters, but their meaning is quite different. If any of these types of mistakes have been made in the following letter, please rest assured that it is the work of the Evil Alien Overlord who controls all my outgoing communications. Having said that, please enjoy the rest of this letter.

After reading through my past Christmas letters, I’ve noticed a rather disturbing trend. Much like the Academy Awards, events that occurred in the first few months of the year are underrepresented in the end of the year production. While I don’t consciously omit stories from the beginning of the year, it just seems to happen. To correct for this grievous injustice, I have made the proactive decision to document events which occured in January. Let me think (envision me sitting at my desk scratching my head as I thoughtfully stare up at the ceiling)—I remember it was cold, and it snowed a little bit in Boulder. Hmm… that’s not really witty or insightful. OK, next year I will take better notes throughout the year so I can present a balanced portrayal of my life. I promise.

The most significant event of my life this year involved me getting the thought into my head that I should become a writer. The idea of finding another computer programming job just was about as appealing as a “Three’s Company” television reunion special (likely plot line: Chrissy isn’t pregnant—she’s menopausal.). While I’m generally not good at things like “making plans” or “developing strategies”, I did manage to come up with a vague notion of writing a weekly story for a web site I run. Since the beginning of February I have written about random thoughts and ideas that happen to be running around my head when I sit down at my computer. Notable topics include a squishy ball, playing laser tag, and dreams of becoming a lounge singer. And just in case I haven’t plugged my web site enough this year, all my stories can be found on the Internet at www.newfunny.com.

While I consider my weekly writing efforts to be a noble cause, it does make writing my Christmas letter this year is a bit more challenging than usual. For example, I could write extensively about my trip to Germany in August, but I’ve already composed three separate stories on my web site. For everyone who has not read about my adventures in Europe the first time around, here is the abbreviated version: I flew to Germany, experienced numerous amusing encounters with the local population, developed several insightful observations, and then got home safely.

While my efforts to establish myself in the writing world kept me in front of my computer for extended periods of time, I have managed to continue volunteering at Habitat For Humanity. As all men know, the call of the compressed air nail gun can not be left for the answering machine. In addition to helping out at the construction site, I have built a web site for the Boulder Valley Habitat affiliate. When my otherwise hectic schedule permits, I go and take pictures of people as they work on the houses. While making no admission of guilt, there seems to be a strange correlation between those who are not nice to me at the construction site and unflattering photographs of people picking their nose and scratching themselves inappropriately.

After spending last Christmas in Minnesota at my sister’s apartment where the temperature varied from a low of negative 20 to a high of zero, my mom and I declared that the location of the next family get together was to be held below the Tropic of Cancer. Hawaii was discussed, but in the end we decided to make my sister fly back to Denver. For the duration of her stay the temperature in Denver was actually lower than in Minneapolis. This helped Karen appreciate our jokes about Minnesota being a frozen wasteland just that much more.

Despite my general inability to buy interesting and unique presents for my family and friends during the holidays, I did have one flash of brilliance when it came to my cousin Ted. After seeing how much his daughters loved singing along with the karaoke machine, I went out and found a Britney Spears karaoke CD. Now I just want to return to Pennsylvania for the sole purpose of getting the girls all wound up singing “Hit me baby one more time” and then taking off after I grow tired of the experience.

Unfortunately, the rest of my Christmas shopping experience was not nearly as productive.

A week before Christmas I drove to Target to try and find two presents for my sister and cousin. I walked around aimlessly trying to visualize what two twenty something women might like to have under the tree this year. Somehow I ended up looking at new Playstation video games. While I did not seem to remember either of them owning a Playstation console, I could not dismiss the possibility they both secretly play video games whenever I leave the room. If this hypothesis was true, I would really have no other choice but to buy each of them a new Playstation game. If I happened to be wrong all they would have to do is send the stuff back to me and I would, uhhh, return the games and find them an alternate gift. Unless of course the plastic packaging was opened, in which case I would be unable to return the games to the store.

Fortunately, a nearby female shopper was reading my thoughts as if they were popping up above my head in cartoon caption bubbles. She grabbed the games out of my hands and told me that in no uncertain terms was I to buy anything from the electronics department.

As I continued my search, I experienced a moment of insight and clarity where I saw the light. To clarify: this was not a metaphorical light, but rather a light bulb for sale. While I’m usually not the type of person who gets excited about this kind of thing, this bulb was like no other I’ve ever seen. It was a green 40 watt bulb that looked as though it had lost a battle with a glue gun. I was totally mesmerized. I grabbed one and headed immediately to the checkout lane—figuring that Karen and Robin would be happy receiving my unconditional love and admiration this holiday season. Again.

That closes the books on another year for me. I have learned quite a bit in 2001. Like how my mom gets unreasonably upset when I make a “dead hooker in the trunk” joke in front of my Grandmother. Which I find strange since she finds them quite entertaining when its just the two of us. My mom and I, that is. As tradition dictates, I’m ending with some useful and inspirational advice from one of my favorite movies. As Vizzini from “The Princess Bride” once said: You fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is “Never get involved in a land war in Asia.”

Categories
Christmas Letters

2000 Christmas Letter

Welcome to the sixth year of the increasingly inaccurately named “Christmas Letter Trilogy.” The world seemed to have survived the whole Y2K scare without too much pillaging and plundering. Or at least there wasn’t any more than last year (adjusted for inflation). Despite the fact I didn’t get to spend six months in Europe this year and I didn’t have any awkward experiences in the women’s bathroom of any fast food establishments, I did manage to keep myself busy enough to write a witty and amusing end-of-the-year letter. My name is Omar Lutfey, and these are my stories.

I started off the year Dr. Evil style by giving the command to fire the (make quotation mark gesture with your fingers) “laser” on my eyes in an attempt to improve my less-than-perfect vision. The entire procedure took 15 minutes for both eyes and I was awake and alert the whole time. Overall I would say the procedure was roughly as uncomfortable as sitting through an entire episode of “Threes Company” where, because of some wacky misunderstanding, Jack, Janet, and Mr. Furley think that Chrissy is pregnant. I was quite amused by the smell produced as the laser sculpted my eyes. I kept thinking how little pieces of my eye were vaporized and then sucked into my nasal cavity. Then I realized the entire operating staff was probably having the same experience. At that exact moment in time I stopped worrying about my personal safety or how my eyesight was going to be the next day, and focused exclusively on the fact a room full of people I will most likely never see again were calmly sitting there breathing in little pieces of my eye. In retrospect, my state of mind may have been affected by the fact the doctors had me hopped up on Valium.

The new year is all about making changes, and at the beginning of the year 2000 I changed my work hours at my job to four ten-hour days a week. Dispensing technical advise for C++ libraries ten hours a day isn’t the best way to spend time, but having a three day weekend every week was pretty damn cool. I had every Saturday, Sunday, and Monday free from any job-related responsibilities. I quickly discovered that going skiing during the week is preferable to the weekends. The traffic on I-70 is 80 percent less likely to get you killed, you can actually park close to where you want to ski, and you can go into the ski lodge and leisurely enjoy a 14 dollar greasy hamburger without the weekend levels of noise and commotion. I am by no stretch of the imagination a good skier, but there were a lot fewer people around to see me perform the ever embarrassing “mogul wedgie.”

In February I decided to use some of my extra free time by helping out at Habitat For Humanity. As a nonprofit organization, Habitat builds affordable, quality houses for families in need. I’ve picked up many new skills helping out– everything from building foundations to installing drywall. I’m not sure it’s going to help me out in the world of computer programming, but I think they are good general skills to have under my belt. Some people have told me volunteering my time at Habitat is a good way to meet women. I won’t disagree with that statement, but I have also taken a liking to the various power tools they let me use during the construction process. Oh yeah, and helping out poor people– that’s good too.

I’m really good at putting things off a lot longer than I probably should at times, so this year I decided to get a jump on my mid-life crisis and learn how to ride a motorcycle. A coworker of mine and I decided to sign up for a motorcycle training class in April. I called up and discovered there was only one open position left in the next session. Being the kind and helpful friend I am, I told Scott that motorcycles are too dangerous, and I signed myself up for the last spot as to protect him from any temptation of taking the class. Ironically, a few months later he took a friend’s motorcycle out for a spin and crashed it into someone’s front yard. Scott is fine, the lawn he crashed into survived, but the motorcycle wasn’t really happy about the whole incident.

I learned quite a bit about motorcycles during the weekend training class. We started Friday night by learning what all the knobs, levers, switches, and pedals do on a motorcycle and worked our way up to actually riding them around on the driving range Saturday and Sunday. We practiced just about every combination of how to stop, start, turn, and accelerate. I was one of the few students taking the class that had never ridden a motorcycle. I never got the cone weave down as well as I wanted, but I managed to get through the class without hitting anyone else or tipping the bike over, and for that I received my motorcycle license.

Once I could legally drive a motorcycle in the state of Colorado, the next step was to go out and buy a motorcycle. For me, this was by far the most annoying part of the entire process. I’m not very good at shopping in general (my wardrobe is strikingly similar to what it was in high school), and my total motorcycle experience started two weekends ago when I spent hours riding the same motorcycle around a small training course. I started by looking around at different motorcycle shops to see what they had to offer. That didn’t turn up anything that I liked that also happened to be in my price range, so I turned to the classified section of the newspaper. I eventually found a motorcycle that I liked and could afford– a dark blue 1993 Honda Nighthawk 750. After driving my motorcycle a few thousand miles since April I have become very comfortable with its abilities and limitations. If I ever encounter a police officer who wants to pull me over, I won’t have any reservations about eluding him in a high speed chase through residential neighborhoods.

October 31 was the last day I worked at Rogue Wave Software. I had been working in the Technical Support Department for 3 1/2 years, and I decided that it was time for a change in my life. I’m going to miss working with everyone in my department and all the good times we had over the years. I can’t possibly list every cool aspect of my job, but I’ll never forget the foosball table, arsenal of Nerf guns, and occasional boxing matches with the phone coordinators. Of course I can’t leave out our annual Gashos/Haunted House fun activity. Each year in October we would go to the Gashos of Japan (a Japanese restaurant where they cook the food right in front of you), get really drunk on saki and plum wine, and then go to a local haunted house. If you are wondering why I left such a fun work environment, I discovered that some of the people in the company received their positions by selling their souls to the Devil and go about their daily business as nothing more than minions of Satan.

I decided to celebrate my last day at Rogue Wave Software by going out that night and getting a four point speeding ticket. It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. The cop clocked me going 57 in a 45. To make matters worse, he didn’t even give me a chance to beg and grovel my way out of the ticket. I was telling a friend I had met online about what happened, and it turned out that she knew the officer who issued me the ticket. When I went into the courthouse to defend my driving skills, the clerk at the main desk informed me that the district attorney has offered me a zero point plea bargain. How cool is that? I accepted the offer and got out of there before they had a chance to change their minds. I never thought anything useful would ever come about from meeting women over the Internet, but I stand corrected. Thank you, Jenny 🙂

Where am I going to go from here? What will the true new millennium hold for me? If you know the answers to these questions, please e-mail me so I can get on with my life. I’m thinking of getting out of the computer industry all together and following my dream of dying my hair blue and forming a comedic guitar duo that sings funny songs for spare change out on the Pearl Street Mall when the weather is nice. I’m not sure exactly what kind of 401K plan that would provide, but I’ve already written a few songs such as “Taco Bell– Village of the Damned” and “Tupperware Death Party” that I believe will help me earn a name for myself in the cut throat world of street performing.

Well, I guess I’ve rambled on enough for this year. I wish only the best for everyone in 2001. Everyone, that is, except for Jar Jar Binks– I wish only bad and evil things for that computer generated monstrosity. I fantasize about him being pummeled to death in the next Star Wars movie by the Ewoks after some wacky misunderstanding during his gratuitous vacation scene on the third moon of Endor. But that’s just me. Thank you for coming, have a good night, and drive safely.

Categories
Christmas Letters

1999 Christmas Letter

Assuming that I am not going to get hit by a meteorite or trampled to death in some freak Y2K riot, I have made it through another year to write my fifth Christmas letter. I’m quite impressed with my ability to stick with the program for five years now. I can’t really think of anything else off the top of my head that has involved such a level of commitment. I left my “Tamaguchi” in a restaurant a day after it hatched, college only took four years, and my longest romantic relationship was wrapped up in a little more than three years. What does all this mean? Not a thing. Now that I think about it, I took care of my dog for more than a decade, and I have stood by the Denver Broncos for even longer than that. Heck, I’m still waiting for that Haley’s comet thing to come back again. Perhaps my level of commitment is not as underdeveloped as I first imagined.

In any case, it’s been a rather eventful year for me. As you may or may not know, I spent the first six months of the year working and playing in various parts of Europe. I wrote a letter about that way back in June, so feel free to read “Six Months in Amsterdam” if you haven’t done so already.

Getting back to Boulder was an interesting affair. For some reason that I don’t quite understand, it takes roughly 5 times longer to fly from Europe to the US than the other way around. I think it has something to do with the fact that the pilots have to convert all of their calculations from the metric system back to our way of doing things. I walked by the cockpit during the flight where one of the crew members was asking “Now how many gallons are there in a kilogram? I always get that mixed up.” Regardless of the reason, I have to say that I have never had the chance to watch four complete movies in an uninterrupted 16 hour period. It really wouldn’t have been so bad, except that United Airlines picks out all the movies they show during the flight from the “Goober Bin” at the local video store. You would think that with all the money they spend on in flight video equipment they could find something more interesting to show than sappy B movies and old episodes of “Home Improvement.”

Coming back to Boulder was a mixed blessing. I can’t really say that I like one city over the other, so I made two top ten lists about what I miss and don’t miss now that I am back in Boulder.

Top 10 reasons for coming back:

10. I’m afraid of the Euro.
9. Electrical outlets are all weird.
8. Company apartment has temperamental hot water heater.
7. No 24-hour supermarkets in Holland
6. I hated the “revolving door of death” at the Amsterdam office.
5. You think parking is bad in Boulder!
4. Cricket is just too hard to figure out.
3. I like seeing the sun every now and then.
2. No Taco Bell in Holland.
1. Poor news coverage of the ongoing Ramsey investigation.

Top 10 reasons for staying in Amsterdam:

10. I was just starting to get the hang of snooker.
9. Everyone sounds so smart on those BBC channels.
8. Chocolate eggs with the toys inside.
7. Eurodisney!
6. Nobody cares when you urinate in the canals.
5. Color coated money and coins that are actually worth something.
4. The novelty condom shops.
3. Numerous bars within walking distance of the apartment.
2. The Chunnel.
1. Public Transportation that doesn’t suck!!!

After watching various Initial Public Offerings increase the value of a select few individuals by a couple of billion dollars (give or take a few hundred million), I’ve decided to form my own company with the intention of taking it public in the future. In order to capitalize on both the current Internet craze and the recent success of Martha Stewart’s IPO, my new company is going to center around a web site devoted to food recipes that focus primarily on the wants and needs of men. Feel free to check it out at www.boxostuff.com. My personal favorite recipe: Box o’ Cheeze Its.

Well, every year I comment on my increasingly pathetic attempts at working toward my Master’s degree. I am proud to announce that this year I spent an all-time low three weeks attending classes. While still living and working in Amsterdam, I went through all of the trouble of applying to the Graduate Business program at CU. I started my Financial Accounting and Numerical Analysis night classes in late August. By early September I realized that neither subjects are very interesting in my own little world. I also discovered that as a reward for throwing in the towel quickly, the University gives back most of your money when you drop your classes in the first couple of weeks. At this rate, the only hope that I have of actually finishing a Masters degree is if scientists develop a computer chip that I can plug into my brain with all the relevant knowledge that I would have otherwise gained from sitting in class for two years.

December has been a pretty busy for me as I have been feverishly preparing for any and all Y2K issues that might arise at the end of the year. While most people are checking flashlight batteries and chopping firewood, I am busy watching a lot of TV. I don’t know what the future will hold in the brave new world of the upcoming millennium, but I want to start it off with the reassuring feeling that I have committed every episode of “Charles In Charge” to memory. OK, in all honesty, I have bought into the hype just a little bit by going to the grocery store and buying an extra box of “Cheeze Its.”

I’ve decided to start a new tradition of bestowing “Web Site of the Year” to the corner of the Internet that has arbitrarily provided me with the most laughs over the past year. This award goes to www.witcity.com. One section, called “The Lying Game” asks a new question every day and the top 10 most entertaining, insightful, or otherwise unique answers are posted the next day. It took me a while to get the hang of it, but in the past couple of weeks I have gotten five or six of my entries published the next day. I am not exactly sure why, but I’ve developed a knack for making fun of Sony’s latest high tech toy, the “Robotic Dog.” Here are some of the questions along with my winning entries:

Q: What features are part of Sony’s new Robotic Dog?
A: Docking procedure no longer requires human leg.

Q: What are some of the merchandise spin-offs from “Toy Story 2?”
A: “Toy Story 3” trailer: It’s Buzz Lightyear vs. Sony’s Robotic Dog.

Q: What’s the most appropriate holiday gift to get for your boss?
A: That Sony Robotic Dog, set to “Evil.”

Q: In the Year 3000, what will be remembered about New Year’s 2000?
A: Who would have imagined those Sony Robotic Dogs were going to evolve and enslave the human race?

Of course there is a lot more to me than an endless string of Robotic Dog jokes. For example, here is the very first Lying Game Entry of mine that was published:

Q: What is the plot of the new film, “Charlie’s Angels: The Movie?”
A: Instead of working for the mysterious man on speaker phone, the Angels start a new job investigating questions submitted to the “Ask Jeeves” web site.

That pretty much wraps things up for this year. All that is left to do is to wait and see how life is going to be different now that the year odometer is making the big flip. I’ve done extensive testing and I am cautiously optimistic that my lava lamp and drinking bird are both going to operate correctly come January 1st. I don’t think anything bad is going to happen, but if it does I’ll be able to relax a little bit knowing that even though I didn’t send out my Christmas letter until after December 25th, all of my friends will have gotten at least one good laugh before the world comes to an end.

Categories
Christmas Letters

1998 Christmas Letter

Welcome to my fourth annual Christmas letter. Well, I can’t pretend my life wasn’t drastically changed this year when my dad died. I’ve tried not to dwell on it too much, but I don’t think that I could write my annual Christmas letter pretending that it never happened. Don’t worry though– that isn’t all that has happened to me this year.January 6, 1998 was the date. I’m not going to explain what happened in any kind of detail, but I will say that he went to the hospital with Pneumococcal Pneumonia and died two days later from complications that followed. His down fall was very quick and relatively painless– not a bad way to go.The one piece of advice I have when someone is forced to deal with the loss of a loved one is to ask how to help instead of assuming to know what to do. Some of our neighbors brought over a bunch of greasy Chinese food and had dinner with us the night after my dad died. While I am usually a big fan of greasy Chinese food, that night I just wasn’t in the mood. They meant well, but it just didn’t really help much. On the other hand, I asked one of my best friends to drive me up to my apartment in Boulder so I could get some of my things. There is no better feeling than being driven across town in rush hour traffic so I could change out of the underwear I had been wearing for the past three days.

OK, I guess I can go on to talk about the rest of the year.

The next Saturday morning I tried to put the events of the previous week behind me by going on my company ski trip. It started out innocently enough when I boarded one of the two busses Rogue Wave chartered for the day. Once everyone was settled the busses headed up I-70– destination Summit County. A light snowfall greeted us as we arrived at the base of Copper Mountain. After making a not so quick stop in the ski rental shop I hit the slopes. The light crowds and constant snowfall made for excellent ski conditions. A dozen or so runs later I climbed back on the bus wet, sore, and immensely satisfied from the day’s activities.

Instead of commuting straight back to Boulder the plan was to stop in Silverthorn for dinner and drinks. The idea was to enjoy a relaxing dinner and miss the evening ski traffic returning to the metro area. The intentions were good, but the results turned out disastrous.

After a hearty meal at Old Chicago’s we got on the busses to head home. The only problem was that I-70 was closed by the highway patrol minutes before we arrived. Instead of preparing for hot showers and comfortable beds we patiently waited near the on ramp to I-70. Information was scarce and the mood quickly changed when we realized the busses were not moving anytime soon. To say that everyone handles stress differently would be a monstrous understatement in this situation. Most people slept, talked, or played charades. Some people, however, didn’t handle the situation quite so gracefully. The names are not important, but I honestly believe the threat of legal action was the only factor preventing some of the occupants of the bus from being physically restrained and placed in the under carriage storage compartments for the duration of the trip.

In February I had the honor and privilege of representing Rogue Wave Software at the 1998 Software Development West conference held in San Francisco, California. My only responsibility for the week was to spend several hours a day at the Rogue Wave company booth answering whatever questions the attendants would throw at us. I answered a lot of questions during my booth duty, but the most common question by far was “What is the coolest thing I can get from you guys for free?” It was kind of sad to see people who make a good living as computer programmers going from exhibit to exhibit begging for cheap pens and crappy T-shirts.

The coolest thing about going to trade shows is having an expense account and a whole lot of free time. Despite the week long cloud cover and constant drizzle, we sampled quite a few lovely restaurants and bars in the downtown San Francisco area. The most exciting evening started out at what was called the “Vendor Bender” party. As a reward for countless hours standing on the concrete floor of the convention center, the organizers of the convention hosted a party that included a dinner buffet, two open bars, a DJ, and a live band. As best I can remember, we stayed at the party for the entire time and didn’t leave until the bouncers started kicking people out. After a quick cab ride back to the hotel there were still quite a few of us that just weren’t ready to go to bed. We had a lot of fun in the wee hours of that morning, unfortunately I can’t reveal any more of the specific details of the night as a high level company executive reminded everyone that the events of the evening were not to be made available to the general public. I was kind of worried about waking up my roommate by coming in at such a late hour, but it turned out to be a non issue as he was already up and getting ready to go downstairs to eat breakfast. Needless to say I didn’t join him.

When the spring rolled around my mom decided that she wanted to move out of her big house and into a townhouse. Of course before that could happen we had to sort through the belongings all four members of our family had accumulated over the past 21 years. It’s easy to say that you love someone when things are going well in life. It’s even pretty easy when things are going bad. The true test of love is when you have to spend countless hours in the basement trying to decide what you want to keep and what to throw away. The whole thing was so stressful that I ended up getting in a big fight with my mom when I thought she was putting too much tape on the packing boxes. For a woman in her early fifties she put up quite a struggle when I decided to take matters into my own hands and wrestle the tape gun away from her. There were a few tense moments, but we somehow managed to survive the whole moving process.

In my continued half hearten attempt to earn a Masters degree, I enrolled in a graduate level mathematics class during the summer session at the Denver campus of the University of Colorado. It turns out the class was taught by the same teacher and convened in the same room as the class I took last year. This year, however, I had to deal with a full time job in addition to the demands of the class. This drastically reduced the amount of time I could allocate to my homework. Sometimes I could work on my assignments after work on the nights I didn’t have class. When that wasn’t an option I employed the time honored tradition of doing my homework on the bus on the way to school. At the rate I am going I will have all the required credits for my Masters degree in the year 2007.

That pretty much describes the important and/or entertaining events for 1998. The year didn’t go anything like I imagined, but I guess that is what life is all about. As I am writing this I am getting ready to spend the next 6 months in Europe on company business. I’ve never been out of the state of Colorado for more than two weeks at a time or out of the United States at all, so traveling half way around the world will be an exciting experience. Since I am leaving the beginning of January it will have to wait until my 1999 Christmas letter. Until then, I’ll end this letter with one of my favorite song lyrics:

Old man look at my life,
Twenty four and there’s so much more
I live alone in a paradise
That makes me think of two.