Monday, December 31, 2012

The Final Countdown

Believe it or not, there are mere hours left in 2012.  It was a big year, chock full of newsworthy and unexpected events.  Personally, my selection for the top story of 2012 is a recent development: Grandma has embraced the internet!  Somewhere across the country, Al Gore is smiling without fully understanding why.  Here's Grandma  learning about her iPad earlier this week:

It was a shocking development--for the past 80 years, Grandma and the internet always stayed at least 500 feet away from each other.  Granted, that wasn't very difficult for the first 60 years.  But here we are closing in on 2013, and Grandma now owns an iPad and a wireless router.

I see good things in her future--she won her first game of solitaire on her iPad.  Even more surprising, she decided to drop her land line telephone!  Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?  It's like Grandma embraced some kind of pre-New Year's resolution.  I must say, I'm inspired.

I'm not one to make resolutions, but maybe 2013 will be the year that I try something car washes or reading for fun.  Then again, I already switched from boiled to baked chicken in 2012, so I don't want to overdo it with the spontaneity.  What will 2013 bring?  We'll just have to wait and see...

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


The local YMCA was closed for the holiday, which meant that I was able to spend Christmas the way it was meant to be spent: lots of eating and absolutely no rigorous physical activity.  The morning started with an unusually lifelike, cat-looking ornament in the tree.  It managed to leap safely from the tree after some worried glances around the nearby branches:

An incredibly large portion of the rest of Christmas Day was spent completing a game of Settlers of Catan that began last night and carried through until almost 5PM today.  I didn't technically emerge victorious, but I was so tired of the full-day game that by the time it finally ended, I've never had so much trouble discerning defeat from victory.

The more experienced players in the family claim that this was the longest, most closely-contested game they've ever seen...I'm not sure if I feel proud, unfortunate, or just plain exhausted to have been a part of history.

All in all, it was a great Christmas.  The sun was shining all day, though I would have preferred unseasonable warmth over the single-digit temperatures in the afternoon.  You'd think Mother Nature could do better than that for Santa's birthday...

Opening most of the presents on Christmas Day successfully delayed the post-Christmas letdown for another 12 hours as I'd hoped, but with Christmas coming to a close, it's hard not to feel the disappointment of a holiday gone by. I'll have to focus my attention on the second jab of the one-two holiday punch: New Year's.  Another chance to eat big and exercise little for a day.  In the meantime, I'll be devoting most of my writing efforts to the family Christmas letter, which is sure to entertain a few and offend many.  See you next year, Christmas...

Monday, December 24, 2012

Santa's Birthday Eve

I can't believe Christmas Eve is already upon us.  That's the downside of Christmas falling on a Tuesday--I feel like I'm jumping straight from work right into the holidays, and that's never an easy transition.  I completed my annual newspaper gift wrapping session yesterday and pre-stretched my favorite eating pants earlier today, so I'm all set to let the celebration begin.

The greater the number of people who learn that I wrap Christmas gifts in newspaper, the more I find myself explaining the benefits of a black and white Christmas.  Luckily, I can simply send people to last year's holiday blog post on Passionately Apathetic, where I detailed the benfits of eschewing traditional wrapping paper in favor of old school media. However, I feel my wrapping skills may have regressed a bit this year--for some reason, I even found myself struggling with standard rectangular gifts.  But buried deep within my shoddy wrapping lies an important lesson.

The holidays are all about appreciating the things in life that truly matter, right?  I've seen people so skilled at gift wrapping that they can wrap a gift brilliantly while only using two pieces of tape.  I'm not one of those people. What better way to teach people that it's what's on the inside that counts than handing them a gift that looks like it (barely) survived World War II?  Tattered newspaper, exhorbitatnt amounts of scotch tape, and a desh of holiday spirit are the key ingredients in my annual holiday gift wrapping sessions. 

Nothing says "don't judge a book by it cover" like a brilliant gift ensconsed in scraps of hideous paper and a quarter pound of scotch tape.  Well, brilliant might be stretching it a bit on the gift department.  But don't let the lack of color fool you--my holiday spirit is alive and well.  Those black and white gifts look just fine under the tree, especially when they're mixed among the traditionally wrapped gifts from the less progressive members of the family:

We're also trying something new this year and saving the vast majority of the gift opening for Christmas morning.  It's a bold experiment, but I'm warming up to the concept.  I feel like Christmas Day should still be at least a week away, so putting off the main event is a step in the right direction.  And there's always a part of me that goes to bed after the Christmas Eve festivities a little disappointed, thinking "I have to wait another year to do this again?"  Now I can delay that disappointment for twelve more hours! 

That said, waiting won't be easy. I'm hoping that the anticpation of Christmas morning doesn't overwhelm me.  After all, there's nothing I love more than seeing the look of disappointment and confusion on the faces of my friends and family as they open my gifts.  It warms my heart every year.  Festivus may be over for 364 more days, but I still have Santa's birthday to look forward to tomorrow.

A second lesson also came from my gift wrapping this year: when you wrap gifts in newspaper, it's critical to immediately label the gifts.  If you wait a full day to bust out the Sharpie and apply the labels, it's nearly impossible to remember what's inside every package.  Then, of course, the unsolved packages end up with labels like this:

I'm not sure who's going to open this one, but I'll be just as surprised as the receipient, whomever that may be.  I love Christmas morning surprises, and now I'll even by surprised by the gifts I picked out.  Fantastic!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

It's Not The End Of The World...Or Is It?

Well, the Mayans were wrong again.  December 21st came and went, and the world is still intact.  It gets hard to follow all of these end-of-the-world predictions from ancient civilizations.  It seems like every few months I hear that the Mayans, the Aztecs, the Incans, or whoever has predicted that the end is upon us.  I didn't read the details, but I do wonder if the Mayans specified what time (and time zone) the apocalypse would strike.  Chances are, it would be December 20th or 22nd somewhere in the world when things started to go south, right?

From what little I did hear about the doomsday predictions over the past few weeks, they made little sense.  Apparently the Mayans didn't specifically predict that the world would come to an end on December 21st.  It turns out that their calendar just didn't extend beyond 12/21/2012.  By that logic, my VCR is predicting that the world will end next week, on 12/31/2012, when the timer  defaults back to 1996. (Apparently Sony didn't anticipate that anyone would still be using VCRs in 2013.  I showed them!!).  To make matters worse, I also heard that the Mayan calendar didn't take leap years into account, so it was actually off by a good six months anyway.

Regardless, the fortunate news for all of us is that these predictions are always wrong.  That news is a little less fortunate, I suppose, if you're one of the paranoid fools who's now sitting on a 20-year supply of Spam and Tang.  Even if a few crazy people thought they could escape the end of the world, I don't know why they'd want to go on living in a world where those are the only viable food options...that certainly can't do wonders for the life expectancy.

Leave it to America to turn the world not ending into another excuse to eat--I received this email offer from Red Robin when I woke up on December 22nd:

So the world goes on.  But interestingly enough, my days of life as I know it in Minneapolis are numbered, as I found out earlier this month that not one, but two MBA programs suffered serious computer errors and/or major lapses in judgment and issued me acceptances.  That's why I'm back to blogging again--that nightmare known as the application process, which ended my blogging streak back in July, is behind me forever.  I'm waiting to hear back from two more schools in January, but no matter where I end up, the one thing I know for sure is that I'll be leaving Minneapolis this summer.

More on that later...moving away and starting school will surely provide years worth of blog-worthy content.  But then again, not having anything interesting to blog about never stopped me in the past anyway.  The end is also near for Away from the Cubicle. With this Ad Sense nonsense, I'll have to retire this blog and start again from scratch.  But more on that later, too; I'll explain the details when I officially write this blog's final post and make the switch to the new one (suggestions for new names are welcome).

Before closing, I should point out one thing did come to and end recently: James's streak of exercising in public with his dignity intact.  Since returning from Africa, it's becoming harder and harder to admit that I know him when we're around heavy objects...or, for that matter, light objects.  Here's a shot of him from earlier today as he prepares to struggle with 65 pounds on the decline bench press.

It was embarrassing for both of us, but at least he made that squad of middle school cheerleaders that was working out on the next bench over feel good about themselves.  They seemed really proud of themselves and offered James lots of encouraging words during his workout.  Happy Festivus everyone!