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.