Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Great Christmas Letter War

Like so many others, my parents (mom & step-dad) send a Christmas letter. In addition to newsy tidbits about their hiking, gardening, and tromboning, there are updates on the kids - myself and my step-brother, Ben.

Let me give you a little context: when our parents married, Ben was 21 and I was 12, so we didn't "grow up together" the way other siblings do. Ben came home from college in the summers, but we never had the share-a-room-fight-over-the-phone-hair-pulling kind of sibling relationship. We like each other, we like to spend time together. We're cool. In fact, I admire him because he's a really awesome person. No spats. No rivalry. No nonsense.

Here's the problem: Ben's exceedingly proud papa is the author of the family Christmas letter. And it shows. Anyone reading the letter gets all kinds of updates on all the ways Ben is overachieving and/or saving the world this year.

Ben bought the most beautiful historic home.

Ben is restoring that beautiful historic home himself. Impeccably.

Ben is the President of a fancy community organization.

Ben gives trombone recitals to benefit aforementioned organization. No one has ever played more beautifully.

Ben hiked here and there. More miles than anyone's ever hiked before.

Ben summited Mt. Rainier. Uphill both ways in the snow. WITH MONO.

Ben qualified for the Boston Marathon. They will surely award him a key to the city.

Ben negotiated peace in the middle east.

Ben single-handedly found a cure for cancer. On his lunch break.

Ben walks on water.

Ben is better than Jesus.

And Nicole? Oh...right...yes, she's there too. If I'm lucky, I get three lines about how I'm still related to them. Sometimes my information isn't even accurate! One year the letter said I work for the University of Oregon. THE HORROR!

Needless to say, the annual Christmas Letter Disparity has been a hot-button issue for this unsung youngest child. Last year I finally pointed it out to Ben, who found it hilarious and not at all problematic! Punk. He even hassles me about it. "I'm gonna take the trash out - betcha it'll be in the Christmas letter!" Har-dee-har-har.

In March, everybody was gathered at our parent's house, and the wine had been flowing over dinner. Ben passed the salt and his wife muttered under her breath about how that would probably be in the Christmas letter, and that was the end of it. I took the opportunity to call our parent's attention to the epic inequity to which I'd been subjected. I politely pointed out that I would be getting married this year and maybe - just maybe - that would give me equal billing in the Christmas letter. I also reminded them that I was marrying a fellow named JIM. A little accuracy, people.

And then, in December, the dreaded Family Christmas Letter arrived.


Just unfolding the letter put me into fits of laughter. Most of the letter is written in teensy-weensy 8 pt. font. But Nicole's update? 24 pt for the win!

And my paragraph came before Ben's.

And my paragraph was totally 100% accurate.

And I have never loved or savored the Family Christmas Letter more. This sucker will be immortalized in my scrapbook: The Year I Won the Christmas Letter War.

I claim this victory in the name of the underrepresented siblings of the world! We shall overcome!

Love,
NICOLE

P.S. Later I discovered how this miraculous missive came to be. My Mom wrote the letter this year.

P.P.S. I also found out that I was the only one who got the special large-type format. But I'm okay with that. I put it on the internet so it will live on forever.

P.P.P.S. This will surely be my first and last victory in the Christmas Letter War. Ben got a new job this year. And he's running the Boston Marathon. And he's probably on the short list for a Nobel Prize.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Really?!? Really Verizon?!?! (WARNING: NERD CONTENT!)


"iPhone. The phone that changed everything. Coming to America's most reliable network." - Directly from VerizonWireless.com

Really?!? Really?!? Sucks that it changed everything WITHOUT you and now...well, it might help your bottom line but you have to change your whole business model just to make it work. Really?

5 Reasons that Verizon (although a more robust network than AT&T) sucks.

1. Verizon forces all it's own firmware on phones they release. They want you to pay them for EVERYTHING. It costs $2 for visual voicemail! There is an audio file somewhere waiting for its recipient to listen to it...why can't they just digitally download it and store it on the phone so it could be listened to that person wants and in the order that person wants? Why should you have to go through the voicemail system just to hear your message when it's all digital anyway? OH I see, cause you can just tack on extra charges for data that the person ALREADY PAYS FOR! I am sure that Verizon will make its iPhone users do the same as Android Users. At least Apple forced Verizon's hand at letting them control the firmware.

2. The greatest thing about my iPhone 3G is the Data. I can look at the maps, get a website, check my mail, calendar, etc. no matter what. Why do I want a phone that cuts off the Data when I answer a call? So when I'm lost, trying to find my way I can't just put them on speaker phone and look at the map? Totally negates the iPhone in my book.

3. GSM....It's a worldwide network so my phone works just about everywhere. Why would I want a phone that I can't use when I travel places? (Sure it costs me an arm and a leg to use but hey, IT WORKS!!). All you nerds out there probably will point out that CMDA really is a more powerful and solid network that works better in America over the great distances and space we have. GSM does lack in that manner but hey...I'll take some drop calls for an international standard, especially with the rate of growth of all the networks towers.

4. Shutting down your "New Every Two" days before the iPhone comes out? One of the greatest thing about Verizon was your ability to be rewarded for bellying up to the bar and renewing your 2 year contract and getting a new phone at reduced rates. Really? And you don't even mention it in your FAQ section or anywhere on your "New Every Two" information site.


5. 3G. The term is viral and does anybody really know what it means? It seems interesting that Verizon put out their version of 3G in 2003 which really was CMDA2000 1x EV-DO. I remember seeing the 1x on my Verizon phones knowing I was digital. But when AT&T put out a True 3G network, suddenly Verizon had to start calling it's digital network 3G too just to compete mostly because the world doesn't understand any of the technical mumbo jumbo. Odd that one of the first lines in the Wiki article on 3G states that the IMT-2000 standard states that 3G has to be able to simultaneously transfer voice and data with rates at least of 200kbit/s. See 2 above.

Really people. Verizon's iPhone will draw some people away from AT&T (which I say good riddance, gives me faster data rates) and will get Apple another round of new users. But it does nothing (accept potentially releasing iOS4.3 with tethering capabilities and all the drama that will bring). Oh wait, the net neutrality rules don't apply to Mobile networks so soon Data will be parsed out based on what you visit and Verizon I am confident will figure out ways to charge you extra to get access to just about anything beyond their own services.

Rant is done. Enjoy your new iPhone 4 and it's lack of functionality on America's most reliable and expensive network. I'll stick with my old iPhone 3G on AT&T's crummy little network which I don't pay an arm and a leg for...yet.

~jim

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010: Year of Awesome

Late in 2009 we looked ahead to the excitement of 2010 and dubbed it the "Year of Awesome." It definitely turned out that way, but more in keeping with the larger-than-life definition. I'm jumping on the retrospective bandwagon to take a look back at my biggest year yet.

Rang in 2010 with my Bestie. This is the only photo we managed to take.

January
Dog-sat "The Ladies" for my brother & sister-in-law (thus confirming that my life was dog-ready).

February
Spent a very snowy Valentine's Day in Minnesota (I like the juxtaposition of toting the tool-bag and guitar...)Said goodbye to my Dad.

March
Put Dad's estate into probate on my 32nd birthday.
BFF 4 in Minnesota with my grad school pals (including a suprise baby shower for Jill, and a surprise bachelorette party for me!)

One of my favorite little people turned 1.

April
Super-duper extra-fun bridal shower thrown by my best gals.

May
Jaunt to Minnesota for Jim's final concert.

Made my final trip to Minnesota for the express and joyful purpose of bringing Jimbo home.

June
Jimbo & I drive the U-Haul halfway across the country. Felt super grateful that he hadn't gone to school on the east coast.

Purchase our graduation/wedding/surviving-two-years-apart presents to each other. Meep meep!

I zip off to "work" in Hawaii while Jim & Tim drive to Montana to bring home our newest family member, Sugar.

July
Celebrated the 4th of July at the Thompson Compound for the umpteenth year in a row. Confirmed Sugar's fear of fireworks.

Enjoyed a Couple's Shower hosted by dear family & friends. (Yay for a blender that actually crushes ice!)

August
Take a "just us" day three days prior to the wedding to introduce Sugar to the coast. She puts on her party face.

Rehearsal Dinner & Treena's Birthday

Best Day Ever!
Honeymoon!

Sugar's first birthday (complete with Pupcakes ala Mimi!)

September
State Fair with another of my favorite little people (who shares my passion for soft-serve).
October
Saying goodbye to my Grandpa Vic.

Choir tour to Boston
Rad Halloween costumes

November
Said goodbye to Jim's Aunt Judy.

Super-relaxing Thanksgiving at the Coast with the Davidson's. So relaxing, in fact, that we couldn't be bothered to photograph it.

December
Celebrated a white Christmas with the Kent-Luety family in Montana.

With all that behind us I look forward to 2011, dubbed "Year of Nothing" cause we don't need a darn thing to happen. Regular everyday life suits us just fine.

Wishing you a very happy Year of Whatever-You-Want-It-To-Be!