Well, I'm back. Actually, I've been back for more than 24 hours. And come to think of it, I never actually said I was going anywhere, so saying that I'm back is, ultimately, kind of meaningless.
So, let's start again. Last Saturday, I flew to Chicago to spend the holidays with my family. And now I'm back. Some random points of “interest” from the week I spent in Illinois:
- The trip was like most of my other Christmas Day flights, which is to say largely uneventful. There was virtually no traffic on the roads, the flight took off and landed on time, and the plane was no more than half full. Flying on Christmas morning is great. There was one small problem: my checked suitcase arrived several hours after I did, apparently because it was taken aside for physical inspection and didn't make it out to the tarmac to make it onto my plane. (I guess the four jars of apple butter I had in there looked suspicious.) But the airline eventually delivered it to my dad's house, so it all worked out in the end.
- I got some neat gifts. From my dad and Lois: The DC Comics Encyclopedia, which is definitely one of the nerdiest presents I've ever received. (The talking Dalek probably has it beat, but not by much.) From my sister: a 2005 calendar, each month featuring a cute picture of my nephew Matthew. Aw!
- My grandmother and my sister and her family came to Wheaton on Christmas Day for a few hours; we returned the favor by driving out to Dekalb on Tueday to see Grandma and up to Madison, Wisc., on Thursday to see my sister. Grandma and I had lunch together at Steak 'n Shake, a beloved Midwestern fast food chain, and spent a few hours in her apartment chit-chatting. That's pretty much the same thing I did at my sister's, except we ate in and spent as much time playing with my nephew as we did talking. My sister thought it was weird that we would drive two-and-a-half hours each way for a four hour visit, but asI explained, I've driven farther to do less, so it really wasn't a big deal.
- Over two consecutive nights, I established myself as the Scrabble champion of Wheaton, taking three games out of five against my dad and his friend Steve. We don't exactly play by tournament rules—we frequently consult the Scrabble dictionary and the lists of words that start with Q, and asking the other players to help you find a place to play your seven letter words is encouraged—but they play all the time, so beating them isn't easy. Anyway, counting the game I played with rustydog and boliver in May, my Scrabble record for the year stands at four games won, two lost. Cool.
- On the way back to D.C., I got pulled aside for a random search when I went through security. Fun!
- I spent New Year's Eve at First Night Leesburg, an annual “family-friendly” New Year's celebration held in downtown Leesburg. There are musical performances, jugglers, magicians, and a candlelight ceremony on the Courthouse lawn at midnight. Nice. And it was a beautiful night, with temps in the low 50s or high 40s. Not exactly the most exciting way to spent New Year's Eve, but not bad.
2005 is off to sort of a weird start; it was up in the mid-60s, about 20 degrees warmer than usual for January 1. This winter has been extraordinarily mild. Not that I'm complaining! Better this than record amounts of snow, or a tsunami. Still, it doesn't seem right to see people walking around wearing shorts and T shirts in January.