Holiday Letter

Every year, I attempt to write a humorous holiday letter. Here's the 2003 edition, for your perusal - and with any luck, enjoyment.


Holiday Letter Reloaded – Gunnerson 2003

Now with 30% fewer laughs!


I hope you are well during this holiday season. I had resolved after last year that I would attempt to write something humorous every month (note that I’m not saying that I would write something humorous, merely that I would attempt to), but like most resolutions, I didn’t keep to it, so I’m pretty much starting from scratch, and I’m late.

Our New Arrival

On July 15th we welcomed a new 6 pound addition to our family. Now, you can say what you want about pets. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Done? Okay. As I was saying before you interrupted, pets provide a lot of benefits, but you can’t deny that they can make things a bit messy (yes, go ahead and deny it, if you must…). Our two cats (official motto: “eat, sleep, poop, and shed”) certainly bear that out.

While I’m not looking to replace them, it would be nice to have a pet that provides companionship and entertainment, but is a little lower maintenance. Or – let’s dream a little – perhaps one that actually makes life easier for you.

Enter Alfred. Alfred is our roomba. Unless you spend your time as inefficiently as I do, you probably don’t know that a roomba is a robotic vacuum cleaner. Set it down, turn it on, and it vacuums a room for you.

Now, some may think that a robotic vacuum cleaner is not a true pet. They are wrong.

Top 8 Reasons why Alfred qualifies as a pet:

1.      It has a name.

2.      If you leave things out, it messes them up.

3.      It’s unpredictable. Have you ever sat and watched a cat play with a feather for 15 minutes. That’s nothing – you’ll find yourself following your roomba around, wondering what it’s going to do next. For half an hour.

4.      It knows when it’s messed up. One day, after it broke a picture that I had stupidly left out (see reason #2), it went into our room and hid under the bed.

5.      You remember the whole pet rock thing, right?

6.      You can get college credit for studying them

7.      You force other people to watch it do tricks. Now, some say that “clean” isn’t much of a trick, but when the other residents of the house can only perform “run away and hide” and “yowl until you feed me”, I say that “clean” starts looking pretty good.

8.      When it does something cute, you take pictures of it.



Equine Insanity  (Equinsanity?)

Loyal readers may remember that last year Samantha took up horseback riding. Kim and I had a long discussion where we came up with some ground rules around Samantha’s interest, including the very important “we will not buy a horse” (craftily phrased as, “You could ride all the poor horses that other people don’t have time to ride?”).  This worked will for several months, until Kim started taking lessons. Now, the house is carpeted with tack catalogs, and dinner conversation revolves around ‘cantering’. This has me more than a bit concerned. Two bits, or perhaps even three bits concerned.

To be fair, Samantha has started learning some of the things that should one day make her a crackerjack stablehand (ie “somebody who earns her lessons”). She’s starting with the simple things, like getting horses tacked up, brushing them, washing them, but my guess is that in 6 months, she’ll be replacing their shoes and driving them to the vet for checkups. As long as I don’t have to buy a horse trailer.

Crisis Planning

As many of you know, next April I will be 40 years old. Though only ¼ of the way towards my planned lifetime of 160 years, it is a major milestone, and the traditional age at which the male of the species has a “mid-life crisis”.

I don’t want to be unprepared for this, so I’ve decided to take the bull by the horns, avoid the dilemma, and give the horse a drink.  My crisis will “push the envelope” enough to make people doubt my good judgment (perhaps that doesn’t really push the envelope…) while still carrying a reasonable chance that, with a good lawyer, jail time will be minimal.

It wasn’t easy coming up with something, as doing so clashes with my innate laziness.

Fate smiled on me, however, in the form of a bonus I got from my job. Not a monetary bonus, nor a fruit basket, nor even a commemorative “thanks for showing up for the last 5 years” clock, but an extra 20 pounds, courtesy of stress and a hectic schedule. (To be fair, my “eat ‘til bedtime” diet probably didn’t help).

If I worked things right, I could kill two birds with one activity. Bicycling would meet the fitness goal, but I had to figure out how to make it meet the “poor judgment” requirement. It turns out you can do this if you merely gradually escalate the “Insanity quotient” to the proper level. Read the following items, and my guess is that you’ll hit that point by the third one…

  1. Riding for an hour at lunchtime.

  2. Riding to Bothel and back on a sunny summer day.

  3. Adding extra steep hills to your 30 mile ride for “fun”.

  4. Riding the 56 miles it takes to go Lake Washington on a windy day.

This approach was quite successful, with about 600 miles of riding during the summer, culminating in a 66 mile ride in early September. It’s not clear, however, if it counts towards your crisis if your wife and daughter ride 44 of those miles. I’m still waiting for the sanctioning body to rule on that issue.

Doctor in the House?

Samantha and I are very proud of Kim’s performance in school this year. She’s getting good grades in all her classes, and though she still has problems with her language at times, her deportment has improved noticeably. This year of classes will be followed by research, a dissertation, and exultation, if everything goes right.

That’s all for now. If you want to keep track of what I’m up to, you can read my weblog at It’s a combination of job related items and some of my other hobbies, such as really bad jokes.

Eric, Kim, Samantha, Tastrophe, Earl, and Alfred

The Challenge

It was a typical hotel room, with a typical bathroom, except for a small placard:

Together we can save millions of gallons of water from chlorine and detergents

You decide

Leave towels you wish to re-use hung up or on the rack

Towels you leave on the floor will be washed.

Conservation takes care of everyone

Help us make a world of difference









I had to help. Millions of gallons were at stake.

After I showered the first morning, I dried off, and then went to hang my towel. Intrigued by the obvious lack of a towel rod, I carefully searched the bathroom to determine where to hang my towel. Did I miss it, distracted by the attractively arrayed display of toiletries? No. Time to re-consider...

Obviously, the placard wasn't interested in working with people who gave up easily, but rather with those who could operate in a towel rod-hostile enivironment. The secret had to be one of camouflage. There was a towel rod, but not an obvious one.

Once I realized that, the solution was easy. I put my towel over the shower curtain rod, and confident in success, I exited the area.

I returned several hours later, only to find that my towel had disappeared. What had gone wrong? I retraced my steps, and realized my error. In my haste, I had ignored the regulations, and had neglected to arrange the towel to maximize the evaporation coefficient. I went to sleep, confident that the next day would bring success.

When the time came to try again, I carefully draped my towel over the rod, arranging it in the proper manner. Before leaving I performed a standard towel check, and everything was fine.

I returned that afternoon only to find the towel gone again. Knowing that my procedures were correct, the only alternative was that I had  misunderstood the directions. As I re-read them, there it was, staring me in the face. That morning I had draped my towel over the curtain when I was supposed to have hung it instead. That had to be it.

That night, my mind was in turmoil. Would I be given a third chance? If not, would I be responsible for the wastage of millions? Could I live with myself if that happened?

Sleep came with difficulty.

I was jittery that third morning. I left the towel placement for the end, so I wouldn't mess it up accidentally. I don't know how it happened, but I left the room, leaving my towel lying on the floor. My lack of attention to detail sealed the fate of many gallons.

I now must live with my failure.


Comments (12)

  1. The 8 reasons "Alfred" qualifies as a pet was hilarious! Classic!

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