Yes, I'm running a little behind this year. I can't remember if I was on time last year or not. Some of you may remember the ASCII art I made up and sent out last year. As I'm sure you've guessed if you saw those, I am not an artist. Anyway, I'm trying something a little different this year: pictures! If you want to see many funny pictures, take a look at the tribute I made for my dear online friend, whom I call "sis." I know it's not very well put together; I was in a rush. Why? Because I was late meeting her online! Once she saw it, though, she forgave me. :)

So let me tell you more than you ever wanted to know about me and what I did during the holdays!

We had a gift exchange at the bank where I work. (Yes, I know. I'm a male bank teller, an outcast from respectable society.) I drew the name of a nice older lady that I work with, Elaine. I got her some earrings, then tried to think of how to wrap them. "Normally," is, of course, out of the question for me. So I made a silly slot machine, mainly using cardboard. You turn the handle a couple times and the earrings fall out. Elaine loved it, and says her granddaughters enjoyed playing with it.

Then there's the presents I got for my youngest siblings. My sister is 9, and my youngest brother is 7, so they get spoiled rotten. I gave my sister an empty gift bag with a note, and my youngest sibling a gift bag with kindling sticks and another note. Here are the notes:

For my sister: We regret to inform you that there were difficulties in the delivery of your gifts. The Elf Authorization Team noticed some white powder on some of your gift. Fearing anthrax, we thoroughly inspected all 500 candies, inside and out, just to be on the safe side, and then disposed of them into approved Elf Authorization Team containers. As it turned out, it was simply powdered sugar, but we had to be on the safe side.

EAT Inspector #76

).deb ruoy rednu kooL(

For my youngest brother: Unfortunately, due to an overabundance of whininess this year, we are unable to give you your requested presents. Besides, we couldn't find a bazooka anywhere, not even in military surplus. However, we have given you two better presents instead.

"Kindling Co. MODEL LOG CABIN made with real wood! 100% natural! No glue required, although it is helpful! This set can also build the MODEL RIVER RAFT or MODEL COLONIAL FORT. Kindling Co.- 'it is better to light one match than to curse the darkness.'

"DeKamPoze MAKE YOUR OWN SPUD HEAD! Provides hours of amusement for animals that act like vegetables! Roll the completely biodegradable SPUD HEAD around in your hands and draw faces on it for hours and you might even be eligible to join the SPECIAL KIDS CLUB. Some of those kids are so good, you'd think /they/ were the SPUD HEAD! DeKamPoze- 'you don't have to like it, you just have to eat it.'"

We hope you will find these to your utter satisfaction (the rotten potatos are underneath the kindling sticks). If not, all you have to do is complete our fiendishly difficult exchange policy. (We know it's difficult because we hired an actual fiend and he couldn't solve it.) Fill in the missing letters in the phrases below, then put those letters together to form a sentence.

"Watch out!" said the elephant. "I'm __ing __ sneeze!"
The _oot Book
Bl_e's Clues
Merry Chris_mas
"Rick's been talking on the ph__e for six hours!"

__ __ _____

I thought it was interesting, BTW, to talk to my older brother. He's of the opinion that I'm more profane than he is. Something I'll have to work on, I suppose!

Of course, I can't talk about Christmas without mentioning my church's Christmas program. It was incredibly dull and unimaginative. On the other hand, our program director had to really rush around to get anything at all ready. So she found this play a month before the program. We only had four or five rehearsals. Fortunately, although the play had five acts and many characters, each individual part was quite small, and so didn't take too long to learn. Unfortunately, illness was sweeping the area at this time, and many of our actors were sick. Few made it to even half of the rehearsals. As it turned out, we had to replace Joseph the day of the program- with a girl. I myself had to learn extra lines, on the day of the program, no less!

I did just fine with my new lines, until the actual performance. Then I forgot them! I had to ad-lib, but at least it worked, more or less. As I did last year, I tried to make my characters more interesting. I didn't have much to work with, but I did my best. One character boomed as he paced back and forth (many people were shocked that I even could be loud, as I'm usually very quiet), and another was eating constantly, throwing fruit over his shoulder, wiping his mouth on his sleeve, or talking with his mouth full. My new character gained an accent. I told several people that I should write a play for the 2004 Christmas program, since it's impossible to find anything interesting. We'll see, I suppose. I do have a couple ideas, one being a parody of the Lord of the Rings, sort of. Hee. I have strange ideas.

Speaking of the Lord of the Rings, I have seen all three movies. I have even seen the first and third in the theater, the only two times I have gone to the movie theater in my life. Even more astoundingly, I saw "The Return of the King" at the very first showing... 11:59 PM Tuesday, or extremely early Wednesday (opening day) morning, however you prefer. It was my younger brother's idea. Since as it turned out we couldn't go another night that week together, because of his work schedule and my classes, he suggested going then. I told him he was only saying that because he didn't have to go to work the next morning. Usually he just works nights. He told me he had to be at work at 8 AM. I figured that if he could handle 8, I could handle 10. So we went.

He called in sick.

Anyway... great movies. Really fantastic. The special effects were really something. I'll admit that Legolas' impossible feats do still annoy me. I'd say that he was inhuman, but... duh... he's an elf. I'd say he did things no mortal could, but there again... right. Maybe I should say that he does things no bipedal creature should be able to do in this universe. Anyway, enough whining: fantastic movies. Much, much better than I expected when I first learned that someone was going to create an adaptation of "The Lord of the Rings". At least I had forgotten everything from the books, so I wasn't griping about how different the movies were. Now that I've watched the movies, I've started reading the books. They /did/ really change things. I still say that the best thing to do is to both watch the movies and read the books.

Where was I? Oh yes. Holidays. Let me see... photo books, right. Elaine at work was making these little photo books. Closed, it simply seemed to be two square covers held together with ribbon. However, when opened, several sheets of photos could be revealed. The paper is creased in a certain way so that it will automatically fold up when the book is shut. An interesting craft project; she showed two of my other coworkers how to make them. I made up several to give to my aunts, grandparents, and a few others. I think I'll make just one more... a round one, using AOL CDs as the covers. Just for the fun of it. I'm weird that way.

There was something else different about this year's Christmas, and not just that my youngest brother got a ton of tiger stuff (even a tiger costume. I have a problem keeping from laughing- it came with a plastic coat hanger on the top of the costume's head, and he doesn't want to remove it, so he walks around with a coat hanger sticking out of his head). Our family seems a little larger. My younger brother's girlfriend was with us. Let me tell you, I didn't even think seriously about getting her a present until I visited my family one day and noticed that there was a stocking there with her name on it!

Let me digress a moment. There have not been many such relationships in my family. In fact, my older brother, as often as he dates, has only had one girlfriend, and that this summer. They met online and were together for two months. She told him that she would never leave him and knew they were destined to be together... about a week before she broke up with him. One thing she said when they broke up was that she liked one of his friends.

This girl, however, is clearly different. She's more talkative, open, friendly, and... well... Christian. She's a pastor's adopted daughter, even.

Me? I've never even had a date. I'm picky, and antisocial. I think of it this way: my older brother looks for people and social activities, and finds them. I look, and can't get anybody to do anything with me. My younger brother /doesn't/ look or exert any effort, as far as I can tell, and people find him. They call him up and ask him to hang out with them. What makes it even funnier is that, at least in my admittedly poor judgment, he's the least attractive of us three, and the least physically fit.

Where was I? Oh yes, bigger family, photo books, yadda yadda... I had hoped to get a lot done during Christmas, when I didn't have to work, but I was busy. Okay, so a lot of the time I spent reading or playing "Lord of the Rings Risk," but I did some troubleshooting on my uncle's family's computers, too, since that's where the family goes every Christmas.

There. I've opened up and talked about myself. Are you so sure it was a good thing now? I think that's enough talking about myself for at least another year. ;) Then there's the actual card, and then my New Year's resolutions!

BTW, here's something I hope you'll appreciate: A Viking Christmas Carol.

Christmas Card | New Year's Resolutions