(Click photos to enlarge.)
Is it too late to wish everyone a happy new year? Before you answer that, bear in mind that the Chinese celebrated the lunar new year (year 4701 to be exact) on January 22 -- the first day of the Year of the Monkey. They didn't turn off the lights and take down the decorations until the beginning of February, so by this measure, my newsletter and holiday greetings aren't comically overdue. Well, in all honesty, this newsletter is 3 years overdue. Because I haven't written one since January 2001, I resolved I wasn't going to let another year go by without sitting down and taking stock of the events of 2003, er, 4700.
Despite the fact that I'm half Chinese, the lunar new year normally means little to me. But this year was different. On January 22, I ate dinner in a restaurant in Hong Kong and watched the city's new year parade pass by below me. If you're surprised to learn I was in Hong Kong, I've done a horrendous job of keeping in touch. Most people (I hope) know that I've been dating Janice Lai, a Hong Kong high school teacher, since September 2001. Last January's 2-week trip was my fourth to the city. (For those keeping count, Janice has been stateside five times.) This trip also included a 4-day tour of Guilin, a scenic region in mainland China, with Janice and her parents.
Janice visited me twice last year -- in April on her spring break and in August during her summer vacation. On August 4 we crammed camping gear and clothes into my convertible's tiny trunk and toured the Canadian province of Quebec for 2 weeks. By sustaining a relationship for over 2 years while separated by 13 time zones, Janice and I have defied the predictions of many. But even we have our limits, and this year we agreed it was time to either call it quits or take it to the next level. So, Janice will not be renewing her teaching contract. This summer she will arrive for an extended work/study visit, and we'll finally determine if living together can be just as enjoyable as vacationing together.
I'm still working for the same company (my 5-year anniversary is coming up in June), although recently the name Active Matter was officially retired. In February 2003, Advanced Solutions International acquired Active Matter, and last month we were renamed the ASI Web Services Group. Alas, the thousands of stock options I had with Active Matter didn't turn into a pot of gold with the merger. Because ASI, like Active Matter, is privately held, my old stock options were simply written off and new ones were issued -- faded and dog-eared Monopoly money effectively replaced by crisp, clean, equally worthless bills. At least there was one immediate, tangible benefit of the merger for old timers like me: I now have 5 1/2 weeks of annual vacation. Woohoo! My current position is Development Manager. Last March I was sent to New Delhi, India, for 3 weeks to train some software developers. I'd like to think I was selected on merit, but more likely it's because I was the only unmarried and childless DM (with a travel bug and a desire to be in closer proximity to Hong Kong to boot).
I continue to live in the same apartment complex in Arlington, Virginia, I've lived in for nearly 4 years, but during that time I've occupied three different units. The most recent move occurred last May. It's a long, sordid story I detail elsewhere on my Web site, but in short my previous apartment was taken over by a colony of mice and a plague of flies. For a while it seemed like I was going to get a handsome monetary settlement for my troubles and my silence (my sordid story gets more traffic than the apartment complex's own Web site). I never received a payout, but I'm convinced I will have the last laugh yet. Hopefully this time next year I will be writing to describe the new home I've purchased. Wish me luck! Despite government warnings that terrorists are still eyeing Washington, people are buying real estate in droves around here and pushing up housing prices to alarming levels.
Early last year I began to contemplate giving up owning a motorcycle. On my third bike and with over 60,000 miles under my butt, it was becoming harder and harder to find time to ride. But then I befriended a motorcycle enthusiast, another friend discovered the sport, and before long I bought myself a new motorcycle: a 2003 Yamaha R6. I can think of no nicer torment than trying to decide between the bike and the convertible on a beautiful spring day. On the other hand, I lament the impracticality of these vehicles every time the weather turns foul or I have to transport anything larger than a soccer ball.
Speaking of soccer, injuries to an ankle and a knee kept me from playing for much of last year. Luckily I had enough discipline to not drown my sorrows and boredom in greasy food while I rested and rehabilitated them. I feel okay now, and I'm looking forward to another year of play while crossing my fingers that my joints hold up.
My parents are doing well. Dad, who turns 80 this year, may be a little more achy, but he still walks around the block every day (thanks to Mom's prodding) and flies through crossword puzzles. Mom is a whirlwind of activity who focuses her abundant energy on cooking (she teaches privately and professionally and is authoring a cookbook), tap dancing, and spoiling the men in her life. I cherish my Sundays when my brother Andrew, his new fiancée Anna, and I get together with my parents for lunch or dinner.
Every year, as friends get married and families get larger, it becomes harder and harder to stay in touch. I know this e-mail is no substitute for a handshake or a hug, but I hope it conveys to you that you are in my thoughts. Best wishes to you and yours for a happy and healthy 4701!