Well, I'm back. It's been a wonderful break for myself and my family here, I enjoyed having time with family and time to get some good sleep and quality time in over the past few weeks and more importantly, time to reflect on 2003 and think about 2004.
It was good to step away from the computer and my Palm for much of that time as well -- in fact from Wednesday evening (New Years Eve) through Sunday afternoon, I often carried my Tungsten E along but used it very sparingly. I only stopped in the basement office to check email here and there during that time, choosing to spend time with my family and doing non-techy things for the weekend instead. I spend all year using my Mac and Palm, so it made sense to have a nice long break, allowing techy stuff to regain freshness.
Christmas was a good time, meeting with family and friends for food and gift giving. Unfortunately our family (Gail, Nathan and I) all came down with colds shortly before the holidays began and battled them for a few weeks. That was the only bummer and that's not bad, though I'm glad we're all better now.
Gift highlights for this year were Lord of the Rings Two Towers extended edition DVD (the two Appendices discs are awesome viewing), Get Shorty DVD, clothes, two Caribou Coffee gift cards and a lighted hex-head screwdriver. ;-)
During the break I saw the final episode of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Return of the King. I enjoyed this film immensely, finding myself yelling out loud with joy at several points during the film. As you may recall, our church youth group had a marathon of LOTR, watching parts 1 and 2 then seeing Return of the King together at the local Ultra Screen. This was alot of fun to do, though we didn't finish both extended editions of films 1 and 2 until about 2am! :-)
However, there was a big payoff in doing the marathon. Seeing all three in a row (and the extended editions) really help tie things together and help bring out things to ponder. I'm amazed that no matter how many times I read or see or hear Lord of the Rings story, I'm always presented with new insights from the story -- very much like my experience reading Scripture. Cool stuff.
Our family also rented a few films (with a Hollywood Video $0.99 each coupon): Seabiscuit, which was nicely done for its historical look but not as surprising an ending as I expected. Pirates of the Caribbean, a very fun film with Johnny Depp as the Keith Richards-styled pirate and great special effects. Lastly, we rented Finding Nemo, which Gail and I loved in the theaters and was good on DVD, though the DVDs extra features were a little disappointing.
An interesting side-effect of watching Seabiscuit was a sudden interest in the Depression era, which led me to John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath which I started just after Christmas. I've been really enjoying Grapes of Wrath and Steinbeck's writing styles; his ability to build tension with his description and narrative is very enjoyable. I'm several chapters into the book and I am glad to report it has passed my 100 page test. As I go through or complete the book, I may mention tidbits here and there. Funny how required reading in school seems like a bear, but when you come to these same books on your own they can have such a different feeling about them.
And as an NFL and Green Bay Packer fan, these past few weeks have been a wild ride to say the least! If you're not a fan or just haven't been in the loop, the Packers have been on a winning streak the past 5 weeks. Brett Favre, the quarterback of the Packers lost his dad several weeks ago prior to a Monday Night Football game, but elected to play -- and had an incredible first half of 4 touchdowns against the Oakland Raiders.
But even better, the final week of the season Green Bay was launched into the NFL playoffs with an improbable 18-17 Arizona Cardinals win over the Minnesota Vikings in the final seconds of the game. The Vikings loss gave Green Bay the division title and a spot as a wildcard team, hosting a game at home (Lambeau Field).
That game, played this past Sunday with the Seattle Seahawks, was and incredible and emotional game as well. The Seahawks and Packers battled back and forth into overtime (sudden death) and neither could score. I was worried that the Pack would lose the game but didn't give up hope, as this team seems to find ways to win. Gail and I sat on the floor in front of our TV watching to see what happened.
Well, the end came on a second Seattle possession. Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (who started as a Packer years ago) threw a pass which was intercepted by the Green Bay defensive back Al Harris and run back for a winning touchdown to a howling Lambeau field crowd. I know we were screaming with joy along with Packer fans all over Wisconsin, the nation and the world! Wow, what a great ending. Wooohooo! :-)
I'm happy now as a Packer fan that Green Bay has made it as far as they have. If they lose the next divisional game, I'll still be very pleased with their run. They're a huge underdog from here to a potential Superbowl berth, playing Philadelphia Eagles at Philly, who they certainly have the advantage of playing at home and statistically being favored to win.
However, Philly has lost some critical games at home, including last year against the eventual Super Bowl winner Tampa Bay. Further, Green Bay is on a roll right now. So, who knows what might happen (which makes this alot of fun!). In any case, this season has at times been a hard one as a Packer fan, but the end of the season has been great fun.
As for the weblog, I've contacted Julie and Judie over at the Gadgeteer and they've agreed to do an interview. Questions are now off to them, so once they come back I'll post them here for your reading pleasure.
Also, I'm intending to do some rebuilding here on the weblog, re-building it using DIVs and CSS positioning instead of tables as an experimental project. I was inspired by a book sample I'd read last week and want to get serious about CSS table-less layouts. My own weblog seemed like one good way to experiment with these techniques.
Alright, that's enough rambling for today. I do hope your own holidays were enjoyable and that you feel refreshed and ready to take on 2004.
Happy New Year!! :-)