Entry for January 02, 2007 — Happy New Year!

Friends, I hope your holidays were happy and that the new year is better than the last one!

On Saturday, 23 December 2006, Janice and I drove to my parents' home in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Fortunately, the long drive from Massachusetts to Virginia was relatively smooth, since the rain could have been snow.

On the way, we visited Janice's grandmother in rural Pennsylvania for a few hours. I hadn't yet seen her apartment, which she moved into about a year ago after the death of her husband and the sale of the family homestead. We originally planned to have lunch at favorite local sandwich joint "Talarico's," but she topped that with barbecue (sloppy joes)!

On Christmas Eve, my younger brother Peter, his wife Kelly, and their toddler daughter Ava joined us from Alexandria, Va. As usual, my mother made sure we had abundant and excellent food throughout the weekend, including baked ham, egg rolls, artisan breads, and imported cheeses. My father's appetite has returned after radiotherapy and surgery, but he is still in pain and recovering his energy level. Alas, he also caught the bad cold we had been fighting.

We exchanged gifts then, since Peter & Kelly would be visiting her mother in Maryland the next day. Among other things, I got an astronomy book and the DVD set for Season 1 of the excellent animated fantasy "Avatar: the Last Airbender." Peter also brought gifts from Steve M.R. & Aleece Z.R.

Although the weather continued to be unseasonably warm, Kelly has been uncomfortable in the last months of her second pregnancy, and we didn't want to risk adorable Ava getting sick, so we played Uno. The simple card game has led to many fun hours for my family (see photo). Ava enjoyed the Lego Duplo zoo set we gave her.

Christmas was fairly quiet. I talked with my mother about our family in the Philippines and Belgium and with father about his latest book, travel, and politics. Unfortunately, I was unable to log into his wireless network with my work laptop. Janice read one of the books she had received, and we watched some European newscasts through my parents' satellite television.

On Tuesday, Dec. 26, Janice and I drove back to New England, stopping on the way at the new home of the Potenza family in Carmel, New York. High-school chum Damon F.P. showed off his spacious house, which he has been renovating. His wife Nicole prepared a nice cold-cut lunch, and her adolescent children Aaron and Katie have been growing like weeds!

We hit heavy traffic in Connecticut. Janice and I grabbed dinner at John Harvard's Brewpub near where I work in Natick, Mass., before unpacking and catching up on e-mail and phone calls. We haven't received as many holiday cards as in previous years, but a few friends such as Ron J.K. and Jim J.D'B. have sent thoughtful gifts.

On Wednesday, Dec. 27, I went into CW's offices to work, but fortunately, there weren't too many online news feed stories to copy edit. Janice and I also caught up on filing and went to the Emerald Square shopping mall near Rhode Island to use some gift certificates and coupons for books.

On Saturday, Dec. 30, David I.S. arrived from Upstate New York. Naturally, Dave and I stayed up late into the night talking about speculative fiction (more on that in future postings), games (mainly "City of Heroes"), relationships, and careers. We again ate well, thanks to Janice's chicken dinners. My college friend and I also enjoyed the rebroadcast of the animated "Hellboy: Sword of Storms" on the Cartoon Network.

The next day, we went to the shops in Central and Harvard Squares in Cambridge, Mass., as well as to "Border Café," our favorite Tex-Mex restaurant. Dave and I decided to pass on fantasy flick "Eragon," although the dystopian "Children of Men" looks promising. The deaths of musician James Brown, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and former U.S. president Jerry Ford also sparked conversation.

Thanks again to Damon F.P., Corbin A.Y., Ron J.K., Steve M.R., and David A.H. for their holiday wishes. Janice, Dave, and I celebrated New Year's Eve by watching heavy metal music videos. New Year's Day was relatively quiet, since the weather had turned damp and cooler. We also watched Dave's new DVD of "Time Bandits," one of my favorite Terry Gilliam fantastical comedies, but we missed the local broadcast of remastered episodes of 1960s "Star Trek" episodes.

Dave left this morning for New Hampshire, where he hopes to retrieve a drum set from Nate V.P., and my return to work has gone well so far. Tonight, the D&D3.5 "Vanished Lands: the Broken Chains" face-to-face game resumes, although we're again facing seasonal turnover.

Paul J. is back from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for winter break, Byron V.O. is up for videoconferencing, and newbie Robert F. has dropped out because of scheduling conflicts. Another prospective role-player, Doug H., will be sitting in! We'll see how the "Halmed Desert" heroic fantasy scenarios go… In the meantime, take it easy, -Gene