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.

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.

2007 Christmas Letter

Welcome Humanoid—I, Ertok the Evil Alien Overlord, have been assigned the process of downloading and summarizing recent memories from unit 5d-301, also known as Omar. On a side note, he didn’t seem to enjoy the memory nasal probe. None of them do, which is strange considering how much recreational time these humans spend on digitally probing their own nasal cavities. Sure, the NP-5000 penetrates slightly deeper and contains various sharp, pointy objects similar to a Swiss Army Knife, but otherwise the processes are identical. And really, why am I stuck on this remote planet monitoring meaningless humans anyway? Just because I drank a bit too much space ale last holiday and vaporized the arm of the Assistant Regional Supervisor of Remote Planet Observations? His two other arms remain intact, so as long as he doesn’t plan on a career in professional hyper-circuit-plasma-ball, he should be fine. And trust me, he doesn’t have anywhere near the upper thorax for it anyways. But I digress– commencing download.

What’s going on? Where am I? Where is that voice coming from? I have to think about what I did this year? Why does it feel like someone crammed a Swiss Army Knife up my nose? It’s extracting my memories and digitally recording them—GREAT!

I spent a considerable amount of time getting my team ready for the annual Boulder Kinetics race. By team I mean myself, Katherine, and the sprawling mass of Styrofoam, random bicycle parts, and strategically placed duct tape that calls itself home in the two car garage of my house. As many alert readers recall, my first attempt at the kinetics race ended about 5 feet into the Boulder reservoir. This year I actually completed roughly 70 percent of the race. Three things kept me from finishing the race: 1) the paddle mechanism was too deep in the water, 2) I wasn’t exactly in peak physical form, and 3) a previously unknown sea monster was covertly attaching itself to my craft during the water portions of the race, thereby significantly increasing my coefficient of drag. Obviously, I need to spend more time on the last issue.

A few weeks after wrapping up the loose ends at Kinetics, Katherine and I decided to spice up our lives a bit by getting a dog. We discussed our dog needs, looked around at the local animal shelters, and finally decided to adopt Maury—a six month old black lab mix that was too scared to let anyone else play with him. They warned us Maury was what they called a “high energy” animal. I think a better way to describe his situation is to say he smokes crack several times a day. (Side note—our attempts to take a cute picture of Maury holding a crack pipe in his front paws were unsuccessful.) To go along with his high energy, Maury has a perpetual appetite. We feed him twice a day, and he thinks that every meal has barely managed to save him from starvation. Maury also has “jaws of death” teeth. Much like firefighters use the “jaws of life” to open up damaged vehicles, Maury’s teeth are very effective at ripping apart any type of dog toy we throw at him, regardless of any “indestructible” rating on the label. Despite his very active lifestyle, we have found that making him fetch his dog toy down one and a half flights of stairs fifteen to twenty times in a row will somewhat wear him out.

We spent a lot of effort this year deciding where to go for a vacation in November. After shooting down almost all of Katherine’s ideas, I finally agreed on a Caribbean cruise. My main objection, obviously, was that I couldn’t hone my bowling skills while sailing to the Grand Caymans. Thanks to Norwegian Cruise Lines this is no longer a problem. The Pearl, one of their newest and largest ships, is equipped with just about every possible leisure activity known to man—including a fully equipped four lane bowling alley. We flew to into Miami, got on board the ship, and spent five days getting spoiled with great food and entertainment. The highlight of the Grand Caymans was going on a snorkeling excursion where we found ourselves up close and personal with a friendly group of stingrays. On the ship we got to see Second City—a Chicago based comedy improvisation group—on several nights of the cruise.

I can’t, in good faith, write this letter without mentioning the worst crisis this country has been forced to deal with since the Monica Lewinski ordeal. Yes, I’m talking about the ongoing Writers Guild strike. Whose life hasn’t been radically altered now that new movies and television shows have been indefinitely put on hold? Several of my own personal creative ideas will have to wait until the strike is over to see the light of day. Here are a few gems from my computer’s hard drive:

Saturday Night Live News Story: …and now for a special report on Senator Larry Craig, we present Tobias Fünke….

OK, this might need a bit of an explanation here just in case a) you don’t watch as much TV as I do or b) you are from the far, far, future, (perhaps an alien species too far advanced for us to understand) taking a bit of a look-see at our Inter-Web and none of this makes any sense. Actor (adult humanoid) David Cross played Tobias Fünke on the regrettably short lived TV show (primitive two dimensional serial image and sound display device) “Arrested Development” who was, much like the Senator (regrettable evil needed to keep social order), in deep denial about his homosexuality (eww, if it involves old men, hot if it involves attractive college-aged women).

House: Special Billing Unit

Doctor House addressing a group of twenty accountants waiting patiently in the large classroom: “OK, team—my REAL team has, for this fiscal year, seen fifteen patients, saved eleven of them (eventually), and been forced to defend itself in five malpractice lawsuits. Strangely enough, it appears that most of our patients don’t have any insurance to pay for the extensive battery of tests we run with our revolutionary shotgun approach to diagnosis. In order to keep this facility financially solvent, you will find new, creative, and possibly ethical ways to make these deadbeats pay their bills.”

So that about wraps it up for the year. And as the snowy weather moves in, here are a few things to consider: wear dry socks, put on plenty of Chapstick, and always remember that the dog can jump the fence in the front yard if he is standing on top of two feet of snow.

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.”

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 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.”