Friday, December 31, 2010

Mike's Top Ten Experiences of 2010

Hi everyone!

I liked this format last year... I figured it made sense to use it again!  Enjoy this revery of a year now past.

There were no new babies born this year -- to Steph, at least -- and we neither moved nor reached any particular career milestones.  The year 2010, then, was all about the direct experiences.  And of those we had plenty.  In chronological order again, since why organize when you can just look it up:

1. January was fantastic.  Steph and I reached three years married, and celebrated by spending a weekend in Vegas that was paid for by our poker table opponents.  Allie reached two years alive and breathing, though little has changed with her since then.  My friends the Daltons welcomed their third child, Aitana.  Finally, the Cardinals beat the Packers 51-45 in overtime to end one of the wildest Wild Card games in NFL history.  I still watch YouTube clips of Karlos Dansby's fumble recovery in overtime that won it.  (For now, it's available here; that link may die because they keep pulling down the videos due to copyright claims -- but if you go to YouTube and search for it, you'll find it.)  I don't think I'll ever get tired of hearing Joe Buck's horrible call of the play: "Extra man on the blitz, Rodgers gets a hand to the face, the BALL is OUT, the Arizona Cardinals win it!"  In fact, every time the Cardinals got pounded in 2010 by some cream-puff team they would have shredded if Warner hadn't retired, I watched that Dansby play again and found my happy place.

2. Finally bought the dorkmobile.  Yep, minivan time.  After all was said and done, no vehicle has even close to the same utility when transporting multiple infants and/or toddlers.  I picked up a deal in February on a 2005 Honda Odyssey, and it has served us well enough that ten months later it is our only vehicle.  Not bad for someone else's castoff.  I figure once the girls get toward ages five to eight or so, I can convert us back to normal cars or trucks.  I'm still on the lookout for a cheap commuting appliance, and offers like the $99 Civic lease definitely have my attention.  We'll see.  In another positive note, I managed to improve my sleep disorder situation considerably.

3. In April, Steph and I took Evey to Dallas to see Steph's brother James get married to his college sweetheart, Danielle.  I discovered that in parts of Texas, it just rains 24/7.  I suppose there must be little demand for underground sprinkler systems in that region.  The entire trip was enjoyable, and both Steph's family and Danielle's family are excellent people, which is consolation that I missed Ray Powers's 40th birthday party in Vegas that weekend.  Almost.

4. The end of the band thing... or is it?  Aaron, Johan, and I put together "Premium Blend," a cover band project with all the potential in the world but no established lead singer and logistical difficulties galore.  The experience was so frustrating I put aside all musical attentions for the rest of the year... until December, when my muse was rekindled by the arrival of my new Ovation acoustic guitar to replace the precious axe I lost when our home was robbed in 2009.  To play my new guitar is to experience musical joy.  It is that simple.  Now I'm not sure what the outlook is.  Johan and I have the skill and discipline to perform at a high level.  Aaron and I have the trust and dedication to put together a robust project.  We may need to move a few people around on instruments, but I'm convinced we can forge a functional project out of this.  The entire experience prompted me to sort through my old band memorabilia, a process still underway as of this writing -- I have posted some of my past tourography here on this blog and I have a bevy of video that's headed toward YouTube and that will be shared here also.

5. By mid-year, we discovered that child care was so expensive that we were losing money by having Steph work instead of taking care of the girls.  The flip side of that equation was that we did not yet have the luxury of living on my salary alone (though with ramen and oatmeal, we might be able to scratch things out at that level).  The solution?  Steph came through with flying colors by doing day care for a couple of her friends on the side.  It's a lot of work for the small amount of money it earns, but the main benefit is the cost it defrays -- the cost of day care for Allie and Evey!  So, in a way, Steph makes more now than when she was working.  We just don't see the gross revenue from that.  Only the "net."  How strange is that, though?  Having to quit your job to save money?  The math doesn't lie, but that still just seems wrong.

6. Year of the Barbecue!  We kicked off the late spring with some grillin' gatherings at my place, then had Aaron and Dalton and their families over for the 4th of July, and then four monthly NFL Football Sundays at my place with an assortment of friends and acquaintances.  I got passing decent at cooking steaks, I pretty much completely mastered rolled meat (dogs, sausages, brats), and with the help of some friends I got to grill up everything from teriyaki chicken strips to filet mignon.  We have some elk steaks in the freezer... guess what's next on the agenda?  I finally outgrew the ol' charcoal griller, too.  For some future year, perhaps 2011 but perhaps later, I'll need a larger gas grill with the various accoutrements.

7. 2010 was a particularly good year for me at the poker tables.  There were times I attended the quarterly Stenger Tournament and donated to the cause, and certainly there were pickup games in which I earned nothing, but most of the games I sat this year ended up as significant wins.  Steph and I turned a few hundred dollars into around a grand in Vegas in January, I split the overall win twice at Stenger's and once at Ray's, and I did well in ad-hoc games.  In particular, my Omaha hi-lo game improved, mainly due to two pieces of advice I heeded: First, I tried to avoid playing into all-in situations.  There's no need to risk an entire tournament on most hands, even if they feel really strong.  Second, when playing Omaha in particular, I tried to play for the entire pot.  This meant I mucked hands that did not look likely to be able to play both high and nut-low, unless I had a blowout hand for potential no-low boards (something like 9s 9h 10s 10h, for example).  The results speak for themselves.

8. October brought with it the publication of my most successful nonfiction book yet.  Again, no discussion of it here as it is under a different pen name and "brand," but it's not exactly a big secret.  I am not exactly rolling in the Benjamins or anything, but it really helped us compensate for the time Steph had to spend out of work before starting day care.

9. Steph and her College Republican friends were thrilled with the outcome of the midterm elections in early November.  As an Objectivist, I did not have quite as much to celebrate, but anything that contributes to gridlock in the context of a Leviathan state is a victory for liberty on some level.  This time period added one great chestnut to my year, though, and a review here on this blog is definitely in the cards: The Wheel of Time, Book 13: "The Towers of Midnight," by Brandon Sanderson, brought the decades-spanning epic to the doorstep of its grand finale, and was Sealed Awesome In A Can the entire way through.  My rankings for the books in the series, now, from best to worst, go: 4, 13, 5, 12, 1, 6, 2, 3, 9, 11, 7, 8, 10.

10. The holidays this year were a nonstop crush, not the least of which was because I was slammed with high-profile projectry at work and ended up sick during my brief winter vacation at home.  The girls absolutely loved it, though -- so much so that they were "Christmased Out" after the toys and gifts kept on coming -- and that put a smile on my face!  Just before Thanksgiving, I finished my first run through the P90X fitness "lean" program.  Things went well -- my muscle mass increased and my sleep patterns improved further -- and I am excited to start again in January.  Also awesome during this time period was TRON Legacy.  I don't care what the reviews say: it was an excellent sequel to the original, and in the context of the original it not only made sense but was great fun.  And it looked outstanding.

May your 2011 be happy and prosperous!