Happy Christmas Eve!

We just spent a fabulous evening with some friends of ours, enjoying delicious temaki-zushi, excellent whisky, and exotic teramisu all evening.  Since we punched into Dec 24th and we’re spending the evening tomorrow with friends, we decided to exploit a loophole in the Christmas Eve gift opening option. The Eminent Child got the tie-die T-shirt set she’s been wanting, the Eminent Spouse got a food chopper (not quite the food processor she wanted but not a bad second gift after a new mixer), and I got a bottle of Buffalo Trace bourbon. Clearly, I’m winning.

Because we’re having dinner with some friends tomorrow our traditional waffles and sausage dinner will be postponed till Dec 25th proper, but it makes a fitting final meal for us as they depart to Japan and I to the home grounds the day thereafter.


‘Twas a real tree after all!

I recently wrote about our family visit to the National Christmas Tree and mentioned that the tree looked just like a teepee of lights.  Apparently this was just a visual effect from all the lights on it when in fact I’ve been told itt was cut in northeast Washington, loaded on a special enclosed truck with windows in the sides so you could see the tree, and toured back to DC.  John Boehner and a young boy from Colville, flipped the switch to light it.  I thought the President was planning to light it but apparently not.

A visit to the National Christmas Tree 12.13.2013

Friday night the Eminent Team picked me up after studies and we headed downtown to check out the National Tree.  We hadn’t been downtown during normal hours and had a fun time experiencing the joys of DC traffic at night. We muddled around looking for parking and lucked out to find a pay-to-park spot right near the White House and wandered over to the south lawn to check it out. I don’t think it’s an actual tree anymore, more of a teepee of lights, but it was pretty. It had large scale model trains running all over and over 50 smaller trees representing each state and territory (and commonwealth. Apparently Kentucky is a commonwealth, not a state??) around the periphery.  There was a small stage and bleachers set up that had musical performances by visiting choirs and bands. We listened to a great set of arranged Christmas Carols sung by an out of state high school choir.

I tried to take some pictures but its quite difficult to get good images of the low light environment with a bright shining tree (and it was the spot lights on the periphery that really made it hard.  I’ve included a few but wasn’t really satisfied with any of them.  Ideally I’d use a tripod and take a few different shots, then blend them for the best result.  No tripod at the moment though.

There was also a Santa’s workshop that thankfully wasn’t crowded. We got pic of the Eminent Child (and an almost decent pic of the cute elves!). We found the Idaho tree too!












Snow! (The Horror!)

So it snowed a little bit yesterday, not much more than a dusting, really.  It was enough for the local school district to cancel all school related activities which meant that the second ballet show had to be cancelled (it was hosted in a local school auditorium). It was disappointing for the Eminent Child as she’d arrived early in case she was needed as an understudy (she wasn’t) but most of all, she’d finally gotten some fantastic sausage curls in her hair.


The weather did get a bit uglier at night when the temperatures dropped and freezing rain coated all the trees. The Eminent Canine woke me up around 2:30 and we went out for a constitutional break where I was impressed with the austere beauty of the iced up trees. I could hear branches breaking in the distance. If I had a tripod I would have set it up but had to settle for some high ISO handheld shots.

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This ice was enough to cancel classes for the local school district on Monday. Apparently they are still without power late into the day so I’m expecting Tuesday to be a snow day too.  There’s also forecasts of up to 4 inches of fluffy too. Considering how ill-prepared people around here are for snow (it’s almost as if I’m in Seattle!), I wouldn’t be surprised if I get the day off tomorrow.

The Nutcracker

I'm currently sitting in an empty theater watching the dancers warm up for the show. We found what seemed to be a decent ballet studio for the Emminent Child when we arrived and she was excited to qualify for an advanced class. She has rehearsal thrice weekly and was able to get a spot in The Nutcracker even though she joined in September. It's been a lot of fun for us.

They have 6 shows: Thursday, Friday, two on Saturday and two on Sunday. The EC opened on Thursday and performs early today and late tomorrow. Between when I started writing and just now I was informed the house wasn't open and I had to leave, so now I'm sitting outside enjoying the 50 degree sunshine.

This morning I made pancakes, muffins, eggs, bacon and coffee but didn't have time to drink my coffee. Sure wish I had it here now but we were rushing out of the house late (predictably).

12.05.2013 Thursday

I’ve been a member of a few different online communities over the last 15 years with 2 in particular being my main hangouts. I don’t visit the first one very often any more and its really just a shadow of itself now, but there were some great friendships forged there, some of which continue to this day in meatspace.  The other one is a tech site that I initially only posted at for information on computers, but then I spread out and started to get involved with some of the gaming and social forums.  This year I joined up in the secret santa they run every year. My Santee is in Sweden and we sent them some pepper jelly from Pike Place Market, a Star Trek onesie (he’s a fan and has a baby due soon), and one of my favorite books, Cryptonomicon, for the kindle.  It was fun putting it together but holy sheesh is international shipping expensive.  For just a small box with 3 tiny jars of pepper jelly and a single piece of baby clothing, I wasn’t expecting it to be THAT expensive.

Speaking of Kindles, I lost mine a month or so ago when it fell out of my bag on public transit.  I did have a bunch of points saved up on my credit card so I cashed them in for Amazon gift cards. It took over a month for those cards to arrive, very disappointing performance by the Flexpoints redemption service, but then again, it’s free money, so I shouldn’t complain. I finally got the point cards and ordered a new Paperwhite with a mustard yellow case.  It’s nice to have it back but I’m not looking forward to reorganizing all of my titles. The touchscreen interface on Kindle’s e-ink sucks and it takes a long time to put books into folders, etc.  I had it mostly organized the way I wanted in my old one but this new one is sure to be just a big fat open directory of stuff that I’ll have to figure out.  I’ve got some collections that I bought via StoryBundle that I like to keep together and will have to go through all of those.  But again, this is some pretty lame sauce to be complaining about considering how good I’ve got it.

Finally, I was all excited to get together with some friends tonight and only remembered at the last minute that it’s NEXT Thursday, not tonight. So now I have to figure out something to eat.

10 Easy Things That Will Make You Happier, Backed By Science

10 Easy Things That Will Make You Happier, Backed By Science – The Mind Unleashed.  I don’t really know what else to add to this succinct description except that this stuff really isn’t hard to do and likely has real effects on quality of life.

Is there pressure to marry in the U.S.?

According to this article, the Dutch aren’t hung up on marriage and have a better quality of life as a result. Maybe (probably) its due to how little I’ve lived stateside as an adult, but I was surprised to hear of any pressure at all.  Do Americans really feel that they aren’t achieving or are otherwise unsuccessful if they don’t get married? Even the desire to get married seems odd to me. Marriage should be something that finds you, not something that you go looking for. Searching for it is going to lead one to make bad decisions as people are more likely to overlook issues and elements upfront that ultimately manifest in stressful and perhaps relationship-ruining ways later on.

An Eminent Silence

All three of my girls, the Eminent Wife, the Eminent Daughter, and the Eminent Feline, departed Abuja for the last time last Friday. The paperwork for the Feline came down to the last hour before the driver picked us up for the airport but we got everything done (including a last minute photocopy on a neighbor’s printer after the constant power outages blew mine up. So many wasted ink cartridges, grrrrrr……). They departed Abuja without incident but had a helluva time in Frankfurt when the Feline decided to go DevilCat on everyone and escaped from her carry-on case. It took a couple hours, threats by staff to call the apparently uber-expensive fire response team, and several scratches to get her calmed down and back in her case. But she made it on the flight and through customs without the 180 quarantine, so all’s well that ends well.

Today marks 4 weeks till my own permanent departure. Plenty of work to do, including a significant amount of writing as well as the standard rigamorole of checking out (changing magazine subscription addresses, arranging packouts, selling vehicles, selling personal goods, saying goodbye, final meetings, separating clothes and other household effects into three categories: vacation (2 suitcases)/ training (600 lbs for a year) / Korean (see everything else in a year!), and so on).  Busy busy!

And as a slight aside, I’m oh-so-excited to watch tonight’s episode of Game of Thrones. Several friends are watching but haven’t read the books and it’s going to be so much fun to see their reactions!

Excuses, excuses

How quickly five months flies past.

The biggest reason I haven’t posted much here is that much of what is going on with me isn’t suitable for posting on a public blog. Not that there is any big problem or scandal going on, but when one’s life is dominated by office politics during the day and scotch and cigars in the evening, it’s better to ride it out in silence.

I’m down to four weeks left at post. During the last few weeks, I’ve got to finish up 3 large writing assignments, host some representational events, and complete my annual review. The latter will be quite an interesting experience due to the aforementioned office politics and deadlines. In addition, there’s a lot of work to do winding down and checking out of the embassy and housing. I’m hoping to sell off most of my stuff as well, so there’s that additional negotiation and hassle. Needless to say, it’s going to be a whirlwind.

My family has been visiting here for the last week or so. They came down to help sort out what stuff goes to the States for our year or so of training and what goes to Korea. We only get 600 pounds of stuff to the U.S. which boils down to about 6 suitcases. The rest of everything else gets put in storage until we arrive in Asia in June 2014. They are also bringing the Emminent Feline back to Japan with them to avoid logistic hassles with me and my intended month-long road trip in July. It looks to be good to go but we’re finding that the interface between the Japanese and Nigerian ways of doing things isn’t easy. Hopefully we avoid the 6 month quarantine in Japan.

My band has played its last show, at least the last with me.  It was an amazing adventure with them and we really turned into a good band by the end. We went from by-the-book covers to originals with our own arrangements of covers and a lot of jamming and just relaxed fun music making.  Every show was better than the one before and while I still have a long way to go before I can confidently call myself a bassist, I know I made huge strides in what I brought to the stage. Being able to have the confidence to play a song I’d never played before live on stage with just a couple notes whispered to me as the music started was so exciting.  It’s honestly quite sad to say goodbye to it, as we all know we still had a lot of growth potential if we’d been able to play together for another year. But no regrets, only tremendous memories.

I’m done brewing beer. I only made about half of what I intended. Two of my last three batches didn’t ferment. I know that I messed up the first of those two by letting my mash temps get too high but I don’t know what happened with the last one. Perhaps my yeast finally gave up the ghost? I wish I would have been more consistent with it but it was fun and produced some drinkable swill.  I’m excited to pick it up again eventually.

I don’t know what all will happen between now and then but I can say with relative consequence I’ll be back in Idaho for the 4th of July.