Category Archives: Christmas Letters

This website started when I posted my Christmas Letters on the Internet, and it has grown since then. I read my sister’s boyfriend’s Christmas letter back in 1995 and realized that these letters don’t have to be dry, stuffy, or 100% accurate. So remember, next time you write a Christmas letter, throw in an Evil Alien Overlord or fictional alter-ego character– trust me, everyone will appreciate it.

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.”

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.

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.

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 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.”

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

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.”

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.

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 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 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.

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.

1997 Christmas Letter

Well folks, it’s that time of year again– the days are getting shorter, annoying Christmas music is playing at the mall, the political forces that run our nation are gearing up for the next presidential election, and, of course, it’s time to publish my third annual Christmas letter. This brings up the question of whether I should even try to construct a letter that surpasses the high standard that I set for myself when writing the first two Christmas letters. Consider the world of movies for a moment. By the time they get to making a third movie in a series it pretty much just sucks. I am sure they meant well when they made “Superman 3”, but putting Christopher Reeves, Richard Prior, and a wacky evil computer together isn’t something to be proud of. Even “Return of the Jedi” wasn’t as good as its predecessors. Oh no, they built ANOTHER Death Star for the good guys to blow up at the very end. On the other hand, I listened to the School House Rock CD (which I own, of course) and learned that three is a magic number. I don’t think they would have made a number magical if there was an inherent problem with it. In conclusion (of the introduction), I know the risks but I am none the less going to give it a shot. If you are not completely satisfied with this product, just send any unused portion to the address provided for a full refund.

In case you didn’t already know, I left my job at Saxe, Inc. Among other things, the thought of developing software to help companies send out more junk mail slowly wore down my will to live. After a while I would wake up in the morning and stare at the ceiling thinking the world would be a better place if I just called in sick for the day. Even the lure of the cappuccino machine and the ping pong table (see last year’s Christmas letter) wasn’t enough to convince me to stay. My departure was civil and professional, considering the fact that several of the upper level managers were (and to the best of my knowledge still are) minions of Satan.

One of the last things I did before leaving Saxe was use up all of my vacation time on a road trip to see the Indianapolis 500. My friend Tina and I drove a total of 2,048 miles to watch thirty-three men drive around a big loop 200 times. Of course not all of them made it all the way through to finish the race. I don’t have exact numbers, but quite a few of the racers stopped themselves by smashing into the outside walls, a few just ran into each other, and then there was one guy who was driving along minding his own business when his car just caught on fire. I felt bad for the guy, but then a bunch of people came along and extinguished him.

The sheer magnitude of the Indianapolis 500 is impressive. Hundreds of thousands of people converge to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway one day a year to see the big race. The planning required to pull something like this off is extensive– roads are blocked off, businesses are closed down, and special busses are brought in to move the masses more efficiently. Every effort is made to ensure the audience enjoys the race. Having taken all of this into consideration, I don’t understand why they built one of the world’s largest racing facilities in a climate that on average receives more precipitation during the last weekend in May than the entire Amazon Basin gets all year. I guess I am still a little bitter about the fact that we were forced to go to the race track three different days before the race track was dry enough to get the race finished.

I really should have had a new job lined up BEFORE I left my old job at Saxe, but then it would have been a lot harder to take the entire summer off. After a few weeks of doing no productive work, I realized my summer needed a little more structure. Applying the theory that there cannot be light without darkness, good without evil, and “tastes great” without “less filling” to my otherwise unproductive summer free time, I decided to go back to school to start working toward my Masters Degree. After a rather flimsy search, I decided to take a graduate level mathematics class at the University of Colorado at Denver. It was rough, but twice a week all summer I got up, shaved, showered, and made my way to downtown Denver in time for my 4 PM class– even if it was raining. A lesser person might have just stayed home and watched that old episode of “The A Team” where George Peppard and company save the defenseless workers from the evil bad guy while narrowly eluding the military forces that are relentlessly pursuing them for the crime they didn’t commit. You know the one. Anyway, I got through summer school with only minor bruises and am planning on receiving my Masters degree sometime in the next 8 to 10 years.

All good things must come to an end, and my “summer of unemployment” was no exception. After evaluating my bank account, I begrudgingly realized that an “autumn of unemployment” was not a financial option. I started sending my resume out to companies and eventually was hired at company called Rogue Wave Software. Rogue Wave’s current focus involves brokering brides of the Philippines to wealthy but socially underdeveloped gentlemen. Of course it’s all a front to hide the fact they are really developing, marketing, and supporting digital dynamic reusable hierarchical multi-platform modularized procedural language libraries.

I am currently working in the Technical Support division of Rogue Wave Software. We have constructed an international array of computers connected through a highly evolved network of PPP, ISDN, and T1 telecommunication lines that allow for the fast, efficient, and reliable movement of information allowing us to seamlessly communicate in our ever increasing global community. Does this investment in time and money improve our relationship with our customers? I don’t know, but it runs Quake really well.

One of the more interesting aspects of this job, besides, of course, playing Quake, involves the notion that part of our responsibility involves helping the customers so they don’t have to call us in the first place. To achieve this goal we are constantly reporting bugs in our software, finding problems with our documentation, and publishing helpful hints on the Internet. The more successful we become at this venture the more people get fired due to a decrease in the number of customer calls. But, since most of us in technical support were just recently hired, we are only performing our jobs at a level where our wages are garnished.

With the possible exception of leaving a bunch of store bought tortillas in my refrigerator for an entire year just to see what would happen (they shattered when I tried to move them), I believe that my crowning accomplishment of the year would have to be the day that I completed all the levels on the “Duke Nukem 3D” CD that I bought for my computer in January. Anyone can get through a few levels and then give up, but I had what it takes to get through all 30 levels (and one of the secret levels that I am not allowed to talk about) without getting burned out. Sure, I could have stopped half way through and gone outside or read a book, but that would have been a cop out. I stuck by my guns– knowing that I made it down a path where so few see any value whatsoever.

I am sending this letter by E-mail as much as possible in an effort to promote living environmentally friendly lifestyles. Remember to recycle folks, because if you don’t all of us will have to live with the garbage until the sun runs out of fuel and collapses on itself with the resulting explosion enveloping the planet Earth as we know it– instantaneously converting countless generations of accomplishments back into the basic building blocks of matter from which we were created. And that’s a long time.

That about wraps things up here. If you ever question how to live your life, just remember what everyone tells John Cusack in the movie “Better Off Dead”– “Go that way really fast. If something gets in your way, turn.”

1996 Christmas Letter

The earth and the sun have once again completed another round of their cosmic tag team, no holds barred wrestling match which means it is time for the second annual publication of my Christmas letter. My goal for this year is to have at least three people (including myself) read this letter. I am sure that there are some people who are skeptical about this letter reaching such a vast audience. To you naysayers out there I would like to proudly introduce my new ally– exponential growth. In much the same way rabbits procreate and chain letters clog your mailbox, this plan revolves around my ability to harness this largely unexplored force of nature. After you read this, pass it on to two of your friends and then give $100 to the Mission Impossible guy who is outside posing as a garbage collector. Here is how the conversation will go:

IMF agent (a.k.a. “Garbage man”): “How much for the women?”
You: “My spleen is fine, thank you”
IMF agent “What the hell are you talking about? Just give me the damn money!”
(You give him the money and then he kills you)

Believe it or not, I managed to graduate from college. I received degrees in both Computer Science and Mathematics. When I tell people that I have a CS degree the usual response is “You won’t have any problem finding a good job.” And when I tell people that I have a degree in general Mathematics they say “So you’re going to grad school.” I guess getting the math part is like being on the game show “Jeopardy” and knowing the Final Jeopardy question only to realize that the guy next to you has three times as much money as you do.

I have very mixed feelings about graduating college. On one hand I don’t miss the “cultural anthropology” class I was required to take or the “Oh, but he does a lot of research” professors that are forced to teach classes. On the other hand, I liked being able to watch television until my eyes hurt and spend most of my time on campus with 10,000 women, most of whom were between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five.

It wasn’t long after graduation that my parents expressed an interest in my time management skills. (“Get your ass of the couch and find a job or we will put you up for adoption”) After pounding the pavement for a while (until I got to my car) I drove to a building often referred to as “McDonalds.” I told them about my situation and they were very interested in giving me one of those legendary high paying cushy cashier jobs with my own personal secretary and limousine driver. This didn’t last very long, however, due to the fact that I have a very rare neurological disorder that I only found out about after my training. It seems that whenever I try and say “would you like fries with that?” my vocal chords take over and produce wildly inappropriate phases like “There are squirrels in my pants. Hee hee hee,” “I did it. I did it. I shot JR!”, and “Have you ever showered with Rush Limbaugh? It’s not as bad as people say.”

After the whole McDonalds episode, I ended up at a company called “Saxe Inc.” It is run by a guy named, strangely enough, Andrew Saxe. He spends half of his time in Denver and the other half in New York city. It turns out that he loves the legendary brown cloud found in Denver, but he just can’t tear himself away from the more traditional forms of pollution found in New York City. Talk about the best of both worlds.

Saxe Inc. is a very liberal company. So liberal, in fact, that all the employees are gay transvestites running around with pitchforks. No, wait a minute. I am thinking of the classic cult film “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” To the best of my knowledge, nobody at Saxe Inc. is a gay transvestite, and we only run around with pitchforks when there aren’t any of our clients in the building.

Saxe Inc. is a somewhat liberal company. Everyone is allowed to run around in shorts and T-shirts. The only rule is that you can’t run with scissors. We also have a place to play ping pong when we get frustrated and feel like hitting stuff. Just to make it perfect, we also have a cappuccino machine. The front of the machine shows a picture of some great looking cappuccino with perfect looking whip cream with just the right amount of evenly distributed sprinkles. Unfortunately, when I went to get some cappuccino I realized that the machine is not equipped to dispense either whip cream or sprinkles. In an angry fit of rage I ripped the machine out of the wall, raised it up over my head, yelled “Where are the fucking sprinkles?”, and proceeded to throw the entire apparatus at a prospective client. He didn’t die or anything, but I don’t know if he is retaining our services. My lawyer advised my not to disclose the terms of the settlement.

As a software developer, I spent some time working on a project to answer the question “What is the meaning of life?” After several months, I came up with an elegant and efficient solution for producing an answer to the question that has eluded philosophers, theologians, and Douglas Adams, author of the book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” for thousands of years. I started running the program only to discover to my dismay that the answer to the question “What is the meaning of life” cannot be answered by sitting inside a sterile office building at a desk with stale fluorescent lights and a 486 computer. It turns out I need a Pentium.

The other night I went out to an Avalanche game with some people I know, including a nose pierced, ex-stripper, bisexual Satan worshiper. No kidding. If I ever have kids I hope they never find out about this and use it to their advantage by saying stuff like “Come on Dad, I just want to go out and get drunk with this 24 year old guy I met at the bowling alley, it’s not like I’m going out with a nose pierced, ex-stripper, bisexual Satan worshiper or anything.” To be honest, we all had a reasonably good time and I can add her to the extensive list of women that I am too chicken to ever ask out.

Another highlight of this year was the condominium that I purchased in October. It came with two bedrooms, one bath, a huge loft, and a years supply of Spam. The biggest problem that I have right now is that I bought a couch that is too large to fit up the stairway. OOPS. All of my appliances are twenty years old and I say a prayer each night hoping that they don’t all die at once. It is a strange feeling to have a thirty year mortgage to think about. Saying that it will take thirty years to pay it off makes it seem like a huge deal. I just think of it as 358 more payments. Assuming that the postage rate for first class mail doesn’t go up in the next thirty years (hahahaha) I will be spending $114.56 on stamps alone. Sorry, I guess that the math-geek part of me is coming out.

While cleaning out all of my old college stuff, I came across a paper that I had written during my first year at CSU for a mathematics course. It started like this:

I can honestly say that I feel more complete as a human being now that I have written this paper. All my life I knew that there was some calling in my life that had remained, up until now, unanswered. Who knew that my calling would be to write a recursive algorithm for generating a lexicographical set of permutations from the set {1,2,3,…,N}? The Lord works in mysterious ways. Who am I to disagree with powers that I can hardly fathom?

Who says that science and religion can’t just get along? The best part of this paper, in my opinion, is the following passage:

After I finished the algorithm, I went home and showed it to my mother. I could go on about how my mother is an algorithm analysis expert and pulls in the big bucks at Hewlett Packard, but I will refrain from doing so because of the fact that it would be an outright lie. She is actually a registered nurse who really has absolutely no understanding of the world of computers, but she thought that it was wonderful and found space to display it on the refrigerator.

I am sure you will be happy to know that I received an “A” for my efforts.

I think that I have said enough for this year, so (insert cliché end of the year saying here) and remember folks– you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.