All I Want For Christmas Is…

Let’s all sing along boys and girls! (To the tune of All I WantFor Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.)

All I want for Christmas is to get some sleep!
Get some sleep!
Get some sleep!

I’ve been a wreck all week. I’ve been burning the candle at both endsoff and on for the last couple months and I think it has finallycaught up with me. My body finally figured out that it could finallycatch up on some sleep this week and it decided to do it in kind.I’ve really had little to no motivation to do much of anything allweek. Of course, that’s what vacations are really for.

When an old friend called up tonight and invited us to a New Year’sEve party, I said no. It was a party at the house of people I don’tknow and the estimate was that few good friends would be there. Ifeel a little disappointed, but Mrs. Geek and I had packing for ourreturn trip tomorrow to do and I am not feeling particularly convivialor conversational tonight.

So it was an evening in with the family tonight. Whoopie! Happy NewYear!

Christmas II today went well. Mrs. Geek got some scrapbookingsupplies. I got a few cooking utensils I was looking for… knowingthat the speakers I really wanted had arrived some weeks back.Everyone liked the gifts we brought. My nephew J. really cleaned upon his first Christmas.

It’s been a year of some great personal gains (like getting married toMrs. Geek) and some intellectual disappointments (four more years ofGeorge W. “The Shrub” Bush). I know that the coming year will likelybring additional highs and lows. I hope that there are more of theformer than the latter.

Happy New Year everyone!

Christmas and Christmas II

I currently write to you from The Land of My Birth. The last weekor so has proven to be very busy for me and Mrs. Geek. I’ll try togive a quick blow-by-blow of our holiday experiences just go get allof you up to date.

The week leading up to Christmas was all about cooking for me. I wasasked to bring dessert items to dinner on Christmas Day, and proceededto bake up a storm. I made my Mom’s fruitcake, a batch of homemadefudge (Mary See’s “Original” recipe), and pecan pie at a pace of moreor less one item each night after I got home from work at night. Wealso re-cycled some Hershey Peanut Blossom cookies that I made theprevious week. More about this later, however.

Christmas Eve was spent with Mrs. Geek’s father’s side of the family.We had dinner at the house of Mrs. Geek’s stepbrother J. and hispartner R. Dinner was a joyous delicious affair of oxtail soup androast turkey all made by R. Dessert was homemade apple and blueberrypies also made by R., supplemented by a plate of fruitcake, cookies,and fudge brought by Mrs. Geek and yours truly. It was my first timeexperiencing oxtail soup — though truly this was more stew than soupbecause the broth was so thick. We capped the evening off byexchanging and opening presents as “Secret Santa”. We gave a musicstand to Mrs. Geek’s step-nephew, H. I got a bottle of Port finishGlenmorangie single malt. My Mom was pleased to hear that more than one in-lawwho tried her cake said “well, I guess this is not the one fruitcakethat’s been circling the globe for all these years, finally cut up –this is delicous!”.

Mrs. Geek and I attended Midnight Mass at the Church where we weremarried six months ago. Choristers and those of a musical bent may beinterested in a detailed round-up of the carols and Mass partsexecuted that night. A more detailed entry to follow will discussthis. For now, I will just say that there was forty-five minutes ofcaroling by the church choir prior to the Mass, Mass parts weregenerally by Proulx, with a part or two from Haydn’s Missa NicolasSancti and (arranged?) organ music by Monteverdi.

Christmas Day dinner was spent with Mrs. Geek’s (late) mother’s sideof her family. This was a combination of grilled beef and smokedsalmon supplemented with our pecan pie, more fruitcake, more fudge,and the peanut blossom cookies. Knowing that one of Mrs. Geek’s moredistant relations was also something of a single malt fiend, I broughtalong some of the Compass Box Eleuthra. We also brought gifts forrelations on this side of the family — an iTunes gift card, someDisney-related gear, the LEGO Moss Iseley cantina, some Jack Daniel’scoffee, and a Waterford crystal shamrock. Everything waswell-received by all. I got some interesting marinades and BBQ dryrubs in return.

Sunday was spent dismembering our Christmas tree. That task waslargely completed by noon, and then spent the afternoon running acouple errands and doing a little shopping.

Monday was spent in transit from to the Land of My Birth. The tripwent largely without incident though we were briefly delayed during aconnection at Washington’s Dulles airport. Bad weather in the EasternU.S. was delaying incoming flights and it appeared that the captain ofour plane was MIA. We don’t exactly where he was during all this, butit left us with an extra 90 minutes or so to wonder if we should headout to an adjoining terminal to get something substantial to eat, orjust stick it out. We were paranoid and decided to stick it out.

Since then, Mrs. Geek and I have largely enjoyed sleeping late in the morning and just laying about, relaxing. We went out to afamily-style Italian restaurant last night to celebrate my birthdayearlier in the month and Mrs. Geek’s coming birthday in a coupleweeks. I got a couple cookbooks and Mrs. Geek got some jewelry andscrapbooking supplies — which proved to be a point of contention forMrs. Geek with her relations because a lot of her family didn’t evenacknowledge my birthday, much less give any gifts at all.

Tonight we are gearing up for a delayed Christmas celebration with myrelations. My sister, brother-in-law, and nephew have come to townand my Aunt has returned from the Land of the Confederacy where shespent Christmas day with her son’s family — including my goddaughterK. We will be exchanging (delayed) Christmas gifts tomorrow morningand returning home on Saturday.

Peace on earth and many prayers the many, MANY dead and suffering dueto tsunami damage in Asia.

completed transformations

Mrs. Geek and I paid a visit to her sorority’s annual alumnae Christmas party on Sunday night. It was held in the same venerable, beautiful location as last year. Plus, a number of the other attendees were either invited and/or were present at our wedding last June… which made it much more relaxing for me to see some familar names and faces in the room.

There was a certain point during the evening when I found myself thinking a lot about a Christmas party I attended about almost four years ago. At that time, I was newly out of the academic coccoon and feeling a little lost. I hadn’t yet “gotten a life” after graduate school. I was making a good stab at it with my girlfriend at the time (who brought me to the party) but I still felt a little out place in the more adult, professional setting. True, my Ph.D. guaranteed me an immediate sense of social equality and acceptance with the other degreed professionals (medical doctors, MBAs, lawyers) in the room… but I didn’t feel like I really had anything to say or stories to tell that would interest these people. It was as if all the space in my brain formerly taken up by dissertation earlier in the year was suddenly empty and nothing else had happened yet to fill the void.

I noticed this particularly when I was hanging out in the kitchen and trying to select a friendly vintage for my wine glass. That lead to some friendly banter about different wines with some older gentlemen also in attendance, some discussion of locally produced gin and whiskey, and the retelling of some old tales of making vodka in my dorm room at college to some “active” sorority members (i.e. 21 year olds going to a local University) in attendance.

In comparing the two Christmas party experiences, I realized how much more comfortable I felt in my own skin; I am really living a life I enjoy now. I feel more whole. A transformation is now complete… though there is always transformation going on in every life.

wedding footage follies

My wedding to Mrs. Geek was one that truly has few bad memories for either of us. Unfortunately, one of those bad memories has to do with how that day was recorded. One of Mrs. Geek’s cousins who had children in our wedding made a great show of how she bought a brand new video camera so she could video tape our wedding (we opted against professional video as it wasn’t in the budget.) Well, we discovered upon review of the tapes that when the cousin said “tape our wedding”, she meant “tape her children in our wedding.” Through a combination of technical missteps with a new camera (such as putting the camera down and accidently turning it off when her daughter – a flower girl – reached the front of the Church) and poor handling choices (such as giving it to her 10 year old son for the bulk of the reception), key parts of our day were not preserved on tape. This includes parts like my bride walking up the aisle of the Church with her Dad. You know, just the things that Mrs. Geek and I would like to remember about our wedding.

Well, this situation was thankfully rectified the other night when we got a gift from a friend of mine who was unable to travel to our wedding. Along with a decorative ceramic bowl made by my friend, we found a DVD entitled “Geek Wedding 2004” in the box. After popping the disc in our DVD player, we discovered that it was a decent little DVD transfer of wedding footage shot by some friends of mine who were able to attend. While not all the footage is perfect… it was bright, clear, and generally captured most of the important highlights of our wedding ceremony and the reception that followed. True, we only got footage of Mrs. Geek walking up the last third of the aisle of the Church… but hey, something is FAR better than nothing.

This DVD positively thrilled Mrs. Geek and myself. We’ve been hoping that there was some other, better video of our wedding out there… and to have it show up suddenly was a very nice surprise. Mrs. Geek spent the rest of evening and much of the following day saying “your friends rock.”

I always thought that they do rock. I’m glad to see that she thinks so too.

oh Christmas tree! oh Christmas tree!

Here’s what the 2004 edition of the Geek family Christmas tree looks like:

As you might be able to see, we tend to favor glass ornaments with different shapes and not just red, gold, and green ball ornaments. I tend to think that this is partly due to my Slovak heritage; it is precisely that part of the world where the idea of Christmas ornaments originated and where ornamental glass makers still abound. I grew up with ornaments my mother inherited from her family… and those were purchased in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s from stores in areas with large Eastern European communities who wanted such items. Mrs. Geek told me that she was very impressed with my Christmas ornament collection when we first decorated a tree two years ago. I guess most bachelors are not that interested in buying Christmas ornaments. Me, I love them — though I think this largely because I broke so many of my mother’s beautiful ornaments when I was small.

Fortunately, fancy Christmas ornaments are back “in”. I think part of it must have to do with renewed trading ties with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe where they were formerly produced. This has allowed Mrs. Geek and myself to purchase more than a few ornaments in the two years since our last tree.

These include some of Christopher Radko’s Shiny Brite replicas that I was able to pick up cheap at a post-Christmas sale in 2002: My mother still has a couple boxes of the originals. She says that maybe the two sets will mix and mingle someday.

Mrs. Geek also took some pics of some of the new ornaments we got in the last year. These include: a married couple, an Irish dancer, and a number of Hawaii-themed ornaments from our honeymoon.

Check back later. I’ll try to include a few of them here.

a foolish consistency…

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.
– Ralph Waldo Emmerson

It’s been a busy few days… and expensive. Plus, the Geek family casa has become a den of plague and pestilence… but more about that later.

First off, what to say about the weekend. Mrs. Geek and I more or less finished off our Christmas shopping on Saturday. We have one more gift to get (a folding music stand for Mrs. Geek’s step-nephew)… that I will have get sometime later this week. Another few gifts, another couple hundred dollars out of the checking account, even though we got some good deals. I know, I know… those of you who have been carving popsicle sticks and tongue depressors since late July to make your own Christmas gifts are laughing at our sordid materialism. So, sue us… we like a good old fashioned capitalist Christmas around here. On the flip side, I guess I have no right to complain about the fact that there’s almost too much month at the end of the money thanks to our gift purchases.

I got to have lots of fun with tools on Sunday. First, I took apart the paper shredder that Mrs. Geek and I share for turning all those nasty charge receipts into confetti to keep the identity thief evil-doers at bay. I tried shredding a few things for the first time in a couple weeks and the shredder was a LOT noisier than I remembered. Alas, nothing to do there except anticipate buying a new shredder in the New Year.

Next, I took apart a vacuum cleaner that also started making an ungodly racket. We planned to get a Christmas tree later in the day, and I wanted to sweep the floor in anticipation of the event. (Why sweep before all the needles fall off the tree? There’s room before all the Christmas decorations are strewn everywhere. I think. Hey… it’s what my Mother always did!) I was more successful there… discovering that hair was preventing the free and easy movement of the spinning brush in the vacuum cleaner.

Then there was a lot of hammering to get the stand on the tree. That actually proved to be surprisingly easy this year. Go me!

Lastly, I ended the day by running speaker wire under wall-to-wall carpet. My parents decided to send me the two rear channel surround speakers from Polk Audio I serendipitiously put on my Amazon wish list as a combined birthday/Christmas present. Thing is, the TV and home theater decoder are on one side of the room and the sofa is on the other and the placement of doors, sliding doors, fire places, and other such openings makes running wire between the two points difficult. A twelve dollar investment in some “fish tape” (a metal strap for running wire in walls, in conduit, and under carpet) allowed me to “fold space” by running the wire under a six foot span under the wall-to-wall carpet.

*Phew* Don’t forget that we also got a Christmas tree, and it required decoration. It all sounds kind of tiring doesn’t it? It was.

This is where the plague and pestilence comes in. Mrs. Geek is a schoolteacher and therefore has an immune system that runs a Darwinian gantlet every year that I don’t even want to think about… so she doesn’t get sick much. After being sick off and on for the last three weeks, I finally brought home a virus that she caught. It’s not slowing her down TOO much, but she hasn’t been sleeping well at all… and me right with her because she’s been tossing, turning, and blowing all night.

All that tool use and tree decoration on Sunday ended about 11pm… which is way past my bedtime these days. I crawled into bed at about 11:20pm and promptly fell asleep for about 90 minutes. I awoke about 1am because I discovered that I tweaked my back moving the tree and Mrs. Geek was having trouble sleeping. I ended up taking some Advil, putting a heating pad on my back and then fell asleep again around 1:45am.That made for about 4 hours of sleep the whole night… which made me rather unresponsive at work yesterday.

Fast forward to last night… which is where the foolish consistency part comes in. (Didn’t think I would get back to that, did you?) After working a bit from home, and stocking up on facial tissues and packing tape, I decided to work on our Christmas cards. Our card list this year is monstrous because we got wedding picture Christmas cards and are sending them to the very-near-and-dear who made it to the wedding and the not-quite-so-near-and-dear who weren’t able to make our Big Day. I started that all by myself at around 9pm, and finished with all of them… you guessed it… just after 11pm. I turned in at just before 11:30 again, only to wake up just after 1am.

This time I woke up hopping mad — at myself. I was mad that I was tired earlier and didn’t do a better job of enlisting the help of Mrs. Geek with the cards. I was mad that I just didn’t give up at a more reasonable hour. I was also mad that I didn’t suggest that Mrs. Geek take some kind of cold medication that would let her sleep through the night. I was also worried that all this lack sleep would lower my immune response to the point that would get sick again… let’s hope.

It all turned out ok though. Company O. has pretty flexible working hours… so I just turned in for 2+ extra hours of sleep after Mrs. Geek left for school. I’ll work a little late tonight… but no harm, no foul.

p.s. I should be able to put up some pics of our decorated Christmas tree after we apply a few final touches.

p.p.s. Gladiator really sounds great with the complete compliment of speakers. My new favorite sound check DVD is Diana Krall – Live In Paris, however.

doing my best Kissinger

Mrs. Geek tells me that I’ve gotten sick right around the time of my birthday. This year is proving to be no exception. I feel like a some kind of viral petri dish… with white spots toward the bottom, green streaks near the top, and this big brown blob just left of center.

I first started to feel it almost three weeks ago. I began to feel… frail and a little stuffy. No matter, I thought. I’ll just start using some zinc. Problem solved.

It worked for a while. The stuffiness went away for a while. “Whew” I thought, “I dodged the bullet”. Then stuffiness came back right around Thanksgiving with a vengeance. It was nothing to really stop me from enjoying the holiday… but it wasn’t nice.

Things seemed to get a little better during the first week of December. I was still tired, but, I hoped that the worst was behind me. That all changed last Friday. I got up on Friday morning with a low grade fever. By Saturday afternoon, my temperature crossed the 100 degree mark, moving from bothersome to genuinely uncomfortable. That got better by Sunday afternoon.

Yet it is still with me. Whatever virus I have has decided to seek better climes by moving south… into my throat. I woke up this morning sounding more like Henry Kissinger than myself. Mrs. Geek says a deep, husky voice is sexy; she always tries to see the silver lining. Me, I’d much rather just feel healthy again.

Maybe the fact that I’ve been sick every December for the last four years is part of the reason that I complain about the Christmas season being harder than it used to be?

Christmas music update: Mrs. Geek got the Frank Sinatra Christmas Collection. While I am often generally in favor of Sinatra and specifically in favor of much of this CD, hearing Frank sing the old black spiritual “Go Tell It On The Mountain” with Bing Crosby and Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians… well, it’s just plain wrong (Christmas album or not.) Squaresville, hep cat. Worse than Michael Bolton.