KnLRanch Christmas Letter 2009 

For both of the regular readers of this blog, this Christmas letter probably won't deliver any real 'news'. But, since readership has blossomed with the recent uptick in posting (up 18.1% over last year - thanks Google Analytics!), I thought I'd scrawl out the traditional seasonal missive for any new readers. And maybe if I post this to all the social networking sites, it'll go viral!

Last Year this time Seattle was a winter wonderland, with Snowpocalypse 2009 closing Seattle schools for a full week before Christmas. We had lots of fun skiing and sledding around the neighborhood.

Louise had 6 weeks of ski lessons in Jan-Feb 2009; we had a blast - Louise mastered Monster Alley at Summit West the last day of lessons, and we're looking forward to starting up another 6-week session (this time at Crystal Mtn) 2010! Ken didn't get to ski as much as he had hoped last season, but what else is new.

For spring break, we visited Disneyland! I had not thought much about Disney in years, and just lumped them with any other giant corporation that markets stuff to kids. But after visiting, and seeing so much of the park was how I remember it from 30 years ago (and apparently 20 years before that), and Louise had SUCH a great time ... I'm Mr. Disney Fan-Boy now. Following Disneyland, we saw Christine, Marco & Sue in Santa Monica - spent a little time at the beach, and had fun. Louise wants to visit LA every year now.

Summer flew by. Louise was in summer day-camp for a while, but then her month-plus end-of-summer adventure began. 1st, a road trip with Mom, through Spokane, Portland, OR, Vancouver, WA, - then ending up in McCall, ID. That's where I met up with 'em - for a week of fun in the sun at Payette Lake. Then ... Clay and I cut out to go to the FC-Barcelona v. Seattle Sounders game, and Louse had "Grandma Camp" for the next week and a half. This was a LONG time for Louise to be away from Seattle and her folks, and she was ready to come home by the end of it all, but it was a fantastic experience all around, I think.

The school year started with Louise's school moving to a new locations - ditching the funky, old Genesee Hill building for the fancy, new Cooper Elementary building. She's in 2nd grade (the Owl Clan), and is loving her new class - which is a 2/3 class, so there's some bigger kids in there as well. She also was able to sign up for an after-school class offered through the PTSA - Happy Song Time with Caspar BabyPants. Basically, Louise and 5 other kids would sit around with Chris Balew and make up songs. Sounds like fun, huh?

Early October brought BrickCon to Seattle, the big Lego convention that happens every year around this time. This year I signed up this year as a registered participant, which let me and Louise get into the event for set-up and some of the special events. Lots of cool things to see! After spending my 40th birthday in Guangzhou, China, I came back to Seattle, and the following weekend took a Kenmore Air sea-plane to Victoria, BC with Lisa to celebrate our 15th anniversary! It was a quick trip, but fun - Victoria is a interesting little town, and the 2010 Olympic torch relay was kicking off when we arrived, so there was lots going on. Another highlight of the fall was our Family Circus class at SANCA - all 3 of us enrolled, and we'd work on hand stands, trapeze, tumbling, trampoline, jugging, tightwire - all sorts of circus arts. Lots of fun, and a good workout! Scheduling was a big tight for all of us to get to class on time, so we're taking a break during the winter, but I'm sure we'll be back.

And now we're looking forward to 2010. As I said, Louise is signed up for ski lessons again - this time at Crystal - so we're excited about that. Feburary will take us to McCall, for a 1/2 week stay at the Cabin with some friends from Seattle. I've booked a trip to ski the Haute Route in April - the "high route" from Chamonix, France to Zermatt, Switzerland - a week-long backcountry ski trip through the Alps. So ... I've got to get in better shape, so I can enjoy it and not suffer through the trip. And for the family - We're waffling back-and-forth on our late July summer vacation plans. We've got the frequent flyer miles racked up to go big - but where? Always a tough decision.


OLPC X03? 

So, back in 2007 for Christmas we got Louise an OLPC XO-1 through the Give-One, Get-One program.


We've used it some, but it's been a bit of a mixed bag. I love the ID and the overall hardware design, but as a computer for Louise, it pales in comparison to the iMac we've got (no flash, small screen, etc), and the LEGO WEDO software never came out for it, which was a disappointment (expected to be compatible with the OLPC XO by mid-year 2009!). And then, admittedly, she was a bit young for it at the time. It's a good thing her dad's a bit of a geek, or we'd have really felt burned.

Since then, netbooks have taken off - a market that didn't exist just two years ago, and, arguably, was created by the XO-1. And Louise still does pull it out from time to time. And I've learned more about the pros and cons and quirks of open-source projects and Linux. And some kid who the machine was designed for has one now, thanks to the "Give One" aspect of the program. So upon reflection, all-in-all - we've gotten our money's worth out of the little green guy.

I wonder what the X03 will do? Looks pretty slick.

And then there's the new Chumby (2007 was a big gadget year for our house). I'm not sure I'll jump on that one, but we have been enjoying the "Classic" lately, in it's perch on top of our refrigerator. It's like the "TV in the kitchen" from yesteryear, but jacked into the interwebs.....



For those of you who didn't know - at Louise's school, each class is referred to as a "Clan" (Native American focus and all), with an animal's name. While it takes a little getting used to, and I'll admit at 1st I thought it was a bit hokey and contrived, this year I have fully embraced it.

She was a Turtle the last two years, and I learned more about the cosmic importance of Turtles. Good info to know.

And this year she's an Owl. Dissecting "owl pellets" was one of her early science projects this year. I had no idea this was such a common elementary school science project, and I love that you can buy sterilized Owl Pellets on the internet in bulk for less than $1.50 each. Just google "owl pellets" and you'll be amazed what's out there.

It's great to have an animal that you focus on for a year or two to learn more about that you would otherwise - and an animal you don't select yourself is good too, I think. Her friends in the Spider Clan may not be posting pictures of spiders on their blogs (at least I wouldn't be), but they are fascinating creatures....

A few more before I sign off...

Here's another Lego Advent Calendar on Flickr. I really like this one - apparently the photographer is not some lego-freak (excuse, AFOL), but just a guy who got this year's advent calendar, and is staging great pictures of the items he finds behind each door. I am kicking myself for not purchasing that advent calendar in time :0(

And here's what I saw when I arrived at work at the end of last week. Despite the seasonal stress (the irony of being too busy at work to take time off and ski), There are some good things about working at K2, and seeing this ranks up there with the best of them....



C'mon Christmas Break! 

So, today's my last day I'll go into work 'til 2010. Yep, I'm excited.

No pictures today (haven't taken any lately), but thought I'd post some links to music, etc.

* I love MP3 blogs. I use PEEL on my Mac to download the tunes and plop them into iTunes. Some of my favorites include: Soul-sides, Motel de Moka, Moistworks, Radio Me La Sudas, and You Ain't No Picasso. Loronix is good - it has full-album downloads - mostly of out-of-print brazilian music, but you only get one download a day via rapidshare, so it's kinda clonky, but worth a visit....

* God Help the Girl. This may be Louise's new favorite band, and they're good. Asya from Seattle-area's SMOOSH (her 1st favorite band) singing on two tracks, so that's funny.

* Skreemr has been a good way for me to find specific songs I want to sample before I 'buy' any albums. It's no Naptser circa 2000, but it's surprisingly good....

Merry Christmas! -KS


Wacky Maps and a Free (e)book 

Just two quick links:

Atlas Obscura

A free ebook from Seth Godin. Looks interesting, but I'll probably want to print it.


The Rain in Spain.... 

Actually, Uncle Jim says it's snowing in Spain (Lekeitio), but the rain has returned to Seattle. Lisa said she missed it, and I think I did too, but can't admit it so readily. Rain in Seattle with temps in the low 40's means SNOW in the Cascades which means SKIING!


Sunday we went to a brunch and saw Santa and a puppet show from Puppets Please, a company that doesn't seem to exist on the web. They really have a great show for kids about Louise's age (7) and under, and the last skit had a bear chasing his red union-suit long-johns around. Comedy Gold. I wish I was able to get some better pictures of it all, but oh well...


What does that expression on Louise's face mean. So much, but I'm not sure what....

Links. I feel like I need to post random links (isn't that what blogs are for?), even if I'm not updating the blog daily like I thought I would. New posts every other day is still a LOT more frequent than anytime before. How about....

Ansel Adams Pictures of LA. He took these for Fortune Magazine in 1941. I wish I knew the area better and could identify some of the places....

(h/t kottke)

And ... I've mentioned Phineas and Ferb before, right? We just saw their Christmas special last weekend. Oooh, it was good. But this (below) might one of my favorite clips, even if it does feature Carl, and not Dr. Doofenshmirtz.


The Tree is Up! 

Today was a good day.


I started out with a run through Lincoln Park. It really is great having that park so close, and being able to take a run or a stroll or whatever along the water within 5 minutes. (This picture is at Sunset from our house, with our ham-radio enthusiast neighbor's antenna bisecting our view. Even that can't screw up a nice sunset near the end of a good day).

We got the tree up, and Louise had a 1st this PM - she ASKED me to take a picture and post it on knlranch, along with a suggested caption. I don't think she liked seeing some unknown kid playing ukulele on the top of our home page. Whatever the reason, here goes:


What happened to that snowflake?!?!

Tomorrow we go to see Santa, so that's exciting. It's felt like a busy, frantic holiday season off-and-on, but today was easier to kick-back and just enjoy.



And I've got to share this picture. Louise's friend Zovie (with her mom's help) made Louise's Doll, Mia, a Christmas Dress. Zovie has Mia's friend, Julie - so the two dolls have matching Christmas Dresses. And Louise looks pretty happy about it.


No parade of witty links today. Maybe a mention that Daptone records has a free Christmas song you can download by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - "Ain't no Chimneys in the Projects" - you just need to sign up for their newsletter. And if Sharon Jones is coming to town, you want to know. Good tunes.



Boy, December is busy, huh? I'm ready for a break.

It's been cold as the dickens the last few days here in Seattle. When I was leaving for work yesterday morning on my bike, the infranet said it was 18 degrees in Seattle, but it felt like 10. Sounds about right.

Some random finds from the webs - 1st, this kid playing Uke:

Impressive, no?

Some random links:

* Hey, Lisa and I were in Victoria to see this, the kick-off for the 2010 Winter Olympic Torch Relay. It was pretty cool.

* Skipping ahead, I've really got World Cup on the brain more than the Winter Olympics, I must admit.

* It's too bad Iran didn't make the World Cup this year. Impressive what's going on there, and good to see that despite not a lot of coverage, it's not being forgotten.

And our lives....

Louise had a bit of a fever this AM, so no school for her and no work for me. I didn't mind, as it's not currently frantic at work (I've got a couple of day reprieve while we're getting test fixtures cut - it'll ramp back up to manic early next week). Hopefully Lou will be back to normal tomorrow, but luckily she's feeling fine - just a bit tired, nothing else (yet). Lisa started her "Holiday hours" at the shop today. It's not too bad, she'll just be working an hour later each night and on Saturdays until Christmas.




Paper Planes 

Paper Plane

Not only a song by MIA with a great bass line for the intro, but also a fun way to pass time. I'm itchin' to make this one - it looks a lot what I remember to be the best flyer from back when I did this more often....


Chilly Seattle! 

Today was cold and clear. Not your typical Seattle winter day, but beautiful out there. I tried to find a picture on flickr - but no luck. I guess I'll have to take some tomorrow....

Tip o' the day: If you want to grab some free Christmas music, go to Amazon's MP3 download area, and click on their "25 days of free" deal - a free download a day from now until Xmas. And there's also a free album called "Sampler Claus" that's got Ol' blue eyes singing "It came upon a midnight clear". Of course - You need to download and install Amazon's MP3 downloader program, but it's worth it - There's actually lots of free MP3s on Amazon, there's lots of good deals (like 99 classical music songs for 9.99, or 50 tangos, or whatever), and they're all DRM-free straight-up share-em-with-your-friends MP3s!

What else - I hear my cousin-in-law Shawn Van Pelt and Logan have made a stop-motion Lego movie. I'm officially jealous, and plan on working on one with Louise sooner than later now - no more excuses. We can have a North-West-coast vs South-West-coast parent/kid lego-film festival/dance-off. Or something like that.


Action Packed! 

Wow, that weekend was a blur.

Christmas shopping with Louise on Saturday, which actually went pretty well - we managed NOT to buy things for ourselves, only gifts, despite the magic words spoken by the sales staff @ Goodie Gumdrops in Burien: "Have you heard about our sale on Lego and Playmobil?"

Sunday PM, we watched Return of the Jedi. Louise likes Ewoks, decided that C3-PO is pretty cool, and jumped about a foot off the ground when Darth Vader fired up Luke's Light Saber near the end of the movie (quiet scene, high tension drama, then suddenly ZHWOOOOOMMMM!!!!).

Chair peak
Chair Peak, Snoqualmie Pass

Then, Sunday morning I squeezed in an early quickie Ski-Tour with Jimmy-Jam - snow conditions were just this side of horrible, and we wanted to get back to Seattle by noon so we didn't get far, but it was still fun. Happy to have gotten out to shake out the cobwebs and get some skinning in.

Then, Sunday PM it was FANTASTIC MR FOX in the theater. Rated PG for "Action, Smoking and Slang Humor", I want to see this movie again already. Roald Dahl. Wes Anderson. Stop-Motion Animation with puppets made from real fur. Bill Murray. There is much to like about this movie. And now I see from the website, I can "BUY THE IPHONE APP". There goes another $0.99....

And just to make sure there's a couple more random links thrown in here (to make up for not posting anything yesterday):

David Byrne Radio is often quite good, this week it's pretty standard indie-pop fare, but some good stuff (e.g. Thao and the get down, which Lisa said reminder her, in a bad way, of Mazzy Star). We listen to it on iTunes almost as much as Radio Deliro. I think they're both filed under 'eclectic'.


Merry Sithmas! 

Merry Sithmas!, originally uploaded by powerpig.

We're LEGO crazy around our house. And lately, we're STAR WARS LEGO crazy, since we watched movies 1 & 2 (episodes IV & V) last weekend. And, of course, being December, we're Christmas crazy.

So, when I saw this, I really got excited. If you've never looked at all the AMAZING LEGO creations posted on Flickr, and you've got some time to spare - it's worth a browse....


Circus class! 

Yikes, almost forgot to post today....

In keeping with my juggle post from 2 days ago... I need to mention SANCA. I think not only should everyone learn how to juggle, but everyone should learn a few other "circus arts". Louise and I are nearing the end of our 2nd session of "Family Circus" classes, and it's so fun.



We have the 2009 calendar on our wall, and I'm planning on getting the 2010 version.

It's really quite nice - hand silk-screened, and last year's had glow-in-the dark ink. We have it hanging next to our 'normal' calendar in the kitchen. And now it's even more exciting , since we've got a blue moon coming up on New Year's eve. Beautiful AND useful!

Today we got our Apple TV, and tonite I set it up (Step 1 in my reduce-our-cable bill plan). Even with our old-school tube-TV, since it has component inputs, it hooked up fine (w/ Apple-TV set for 480p resolution) although some of the text can be hard to read. But it hooked into our wireless home network easy as pie, and now I just used iSquint to covert some torrents I downloaded to a format it can read. This all looks pretty slick....



OK, Here's my plan: a post a day from now (Dec 1) thru Christmas 2009. Inspired by this advent calendar I read about today (h/t brothers-brick).

Of course, it won't be all LEGOs, I'm too scattered to focus like that. But I'll just post things I've found on the internet - like a 'normal' blog - rather than the usual family pictures. Also, Louise may be getting a bit old for constantly having her picture splashed across the blog. There's always flickr.

I saw a bumper sticker today from a recent Kenny Chesney tour, something about wanting to wear flip-flops all the time. Not really my type of music, but I do like flip-flops. But probably not music I'm excited about enough to write a blog post about.

But JUGGLING! There's something I can get behind (h/t kottke). Certainly normal people should juggle. As well as us abnormal people as well, I think.

So ... if I stick to my plan, it'll be fast-and-furious updates through X-mas, and maybe by then I'll have developed a habit, and there will be more frequent in 2010.

Ciao! -KS

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