It's been quite a year. Lot's changing, near and far.
On a pleasant note, it's January and I'm laying in a field of grass in a park near my apartment. The sun is hot, with a gentle breeze blowing. My shirt off, I'm enjoying the day lounging, relaxing, and writing a few letters. This is my "annual" bulk letter I try and send every year ~ not very successfully since I moved to Florida and started working full time for a telephony company. This work stuff sure cuts into the rest of life.
The job is no longer as glamorous as it once seemed to me. Having been bought out by a Massachusetts-based company with poor upper management, we've been through some rough times. Every three months as the quarter ends, inevitably a big change occurs. Mass layoffs and a major shift in company focus. From over 100 people down here a year ago, to just 19 as of the last round of layoffs in mid-January.
Part of me is preparing to move on, speaking with recruiters from various places around the country. Who knows what changes are in store in the relatively near future. With more and more of my friends moving on to new jobs in new places, there's less incentive for me to stick around. On the other hand, I've been actively learning to program in C at work these days (a common computer language), and the chance to learn may keep me around a while longer. (Not to mention my addiction to these beautiful, sunny and warm January days.)
Last June, a major rain storm impeded my daily bike ride home from work. The very next day I broke down and bought a new form of transportation, a yellow rag-top Jeep Wrangler. Certainly a fun way to get around down here in Florida. (Though then it took me 7 months to remember my bike. Finally I've started riding it to work again, a couple times a week.)
A couple of weeks after getting my Jeep, I was rear-ended at high speed, in what turned into a four car pile up. (Three of us were already stopped at a red light. The fourth, a three-quarter ton '77 Chevy pickup evidently didn't notice.) Though nobody was hurt, I got a first hand lesson into the world of auto insurance ~ an institution designed only to help itself. I got on a first name basis with an entire Miami-based insurance company, finally annoying them into action with hourly phone calls for several weeks. (That's no joke! It was when I managed to track down the president of the company's direct phone number, and began giving him regular calls that everyone else started becoming quite helpful.)
My brother, Josh, and his wife, Shelby, both were down to visit this summer. Shelby passed through a couple of times, once on her way to South America, and again on her way back. Josh stayed for about a month. Both of them on vacation from life in Craig, Alaska. It was lots of fun, though work was pretty stressful at the time. They are doing well, both working for the school district there in Craig. Their latest passion is scuba diving, which they enjoy every chance they get.
A couple days after my car got out of the shop, fully repaired, my brother and I set off on a major road trip. I nearly lost my job when I explained I was taking six weeks off, but in the end they let it slide.
In eight days, Josh and I covered some six thousand miles, driving from South Florida all the way up to Haines, Alaska. Pretty incredible, traveling through so many places I'd only read of and seen in movies. Obviously we didn't take time to stop and hang out much along the way, but it was still a great trip. Perhaps what most stood out was South Dakota, from the Badlands in the east, to the Black Hills in the west. After seeing the mountain that is being carved into the likeness of Crazy Horse, I became obsessed for a while with learning about him. An amazing individual.
I spent three weeks in Alaska, visiting friends, helping my parents finish a barn, and being cold. (Two years in South Florida really thins the blood.) I still consider Alaska my home, without question, and intend to return at some point. For now, though, I'm content to be seeing new things.
My parents are doing well. My mom's been sick a lot, common cold type symptoms, but she's beat breast cancer which is wonderful. They're living on 44 acres nearly forty miles from Haines, the nearest town. A beautiful piece of land. It seems to be turning into a farm, with countless fowl (chickens, turkeys, ducks and obnoxious geese), a small flock of sheep, three dogs and possibly soon a pig. Also a very nice garden that I was compelled to raid daily while there. Though retired, they both seem to keep themselves perpetually busy.
I brought my own dog, Haelo, along for the trip as well. For her it was a paradise, as never before has she been able to run free for weeks on end, forever playing with my parent's dogs. She's a fairly spastic girl, and yet for the entire round trip, over twelve thousand miles, she was perfectly behaved. (There were a few exceptions, but she was quick to learn that chasing my parents' free running animals meant she would be tied up, thus quickly giving up on that sport.)
Leaving Haines, a friend (my best friend in fifth grade, whom I've only seen sporadically since) decided to come along as far as Seattle, he returning to California. We took our time in Canada, greatly enjoying fishing and ogling over the scenery. A decision to buy no food, surviving instead off of our fishing and gathering skills for the whole week was ended the first evening when hunger pains struck. It would seem that city life softens a person. Dropping him off at the Seattle airport, it was just Haelo and I for the rest of the trip.
I visited numerous friends on my way back to Ft. Lauderdale. But by the end of my 13 day return drive, I was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to be immobile for a while. Even the ever-excitable Haelo was ready to relax. I slept away my few remaining vacation days, in a non-moving bliss.
Months later, around Thanksgiving, I took a second vacation. One week to "finish" my road trip, self-justified by feeling the need to escape the stress at work. I'd missed the Grand Canyon, as well as California, intended destinations. On a strict budget I reserved an economy car, however, the car rental company randomly and kindly gave me a free upgrade to a plush convertible. In style, I cruised from the Vegas airport to the Grand Canyon, just in time for an unbelievable meteor shower. Under a clear sky, I laid back on a cold slab of stone along the south rim, oohing and aahing along with dozens of other vague faceless bodies in the dark, through the night until the sun came up. I've not been so cold in years, but it was absolutely worth it. Shooting stars brightly filled the sky like fireworks on the fourth of July. The following day I dropped a couple thousand feet down into the canyon itself for a bit of a hike.
From there, I cruised into California to visit some friends. Again, a very mobile vacation, going as far north as Napa, and as far south as the outskirts of Los Angeles. Thanksgiving Day found me exhausted in the middle of the Mojave desert, on my way back to Vegas for my return flight. I spent only a few hours in that city of lights, dropping ten dollars on a single spin of the roulette wheel and two nickles in a slot machine before giving up the gambling as hopeless.
It may sound from this letter like all I've been doing is taking vacations. As nice as that would be, it's not true. Other than those adventures - which are highlights of the past year - I've been mostly working. I've also been obsessed with a hobby on my computer, running a web page focused on computer kernels. It's recently gotten unexpectedly popular, to the point that my web host couldn't handle the traffic any more. While searching for a new host (which was looking to be ridiculously expensive) several people made amazing offers to host it for free. I'm currently migrating to a new free server with an unbelievably quick connection to the Internet. Pretty fun. (http://kerneltrap.org/)
I was shaken up in September, as were most, but am in no way united with our self-serving war efforts. I know I have a good life afforded by living in the United States, but there are much more noble and constructive ways that we could apply our might. Trying to stop terrorism with sustained acts of terror simply does not make sense. I do not claim to have the answers, but continue to hope that common sense will eventually prevail.
Back to now, here in the park the sun has set in the west, behind a row of palm trees. A lone trumpet player's voice is echoing across the (artificial) lake. Parents are rounding up their children as the weekend winds down.
I suppose I've put off my weekend chores long enough. Haelo has not learned to do the laundry, nor to clean up her own continuously shed fur, so it's up to me.
I hope this letter find you healthy and well.
P.S. The pictures on the back of this sheet were the result of me playing on my computer. The background photo was taken on top of Rapinski, a mountain I climbed this summer in Haines, Alaska. (A mountain I used to climb all the time growing up there) The upper left oval is my parents and I, posing on their land for a picture a few minutes before I started my drive back to Florida. In the upper right is me sitting in the Grand Canyon around Thanksgiving, severely lacking sleep after a night of star gazing and freezing. The lower right is me enjoying the convertible the rental agency upgraded me to in Vegas. And the lower left is Josh (on the left) and Shelby (on the right) posing on the ocean floor with an impressive group of large sea anemones.
7475 NW 44th St. #808
Lauderhill, FL 33319
jeremy AT kerneltrap.org