Tuesday, December 27, 2011

So Christmas Happened

The Christmas festivities started the 23rd, which meant Partner had to get his nose out of the books and stop thinking for a bit.  After all, everyone should know thinking too much gives you wrinkles.  Originally, we planned on leaving Rennes around 3 pm to get to Ploërmel around 4 or 4:30.  I was running around getting the last of the cleaning done, there really is almost nothing worse than coming home to a dirty house (especially when you know you have to clean it), while Partner finished up studying physics.  As we all know, nothing gets one in the Christmas spirit like Laws of Thermodynamics.  So I finish around 10 after 3, and start packing a bit for tomorrow, waiting for Partner to find a good place to stop.  He comes out around 4, and we go. 

Now as we pull onto the rocades, things seem to be going pretty well...until we get to our exit.  Of course, traffic headed west is backed up to lord only knows.  Well, we do in fact know.  It was right around Cleunay.  After a bit of finagling, we finally get onto the Rue National....only to end up in another traffic jam in Les Trois Marches.  By now, we're only about 2 hours behind.  So with the traffic, we made it there around 6.  We stopped over at Taty's, but she was the only one there.  It looked like Partner's father was celebrating a co-worker's retirement, so he'd show up later, which meant someone needed to pick up Partner's grandmother.  Naturally, the most simple was for us to go get her, so back to the car....

We parked over by the Mairie and stopped by.  Grandmother was delighted to see Partner and I!  That's one of the best things about being there.  Nothing makes her happier than seeing her grandchildren.  Her smile could light up a room.  She reminds me a lot of my grandmothers, especially my mother's mother.  Kisses and hugs were exchanged, and we walked with her back to the car.  Apparently though she had walked in the rain that day to pick up the bread.  (It's Bretagne.  There's practically no snow, but it rains buckets in the winter.)  So her sack was soaked.  It wasn't raining now though, but it was getting later.  I helped her into the car, and we went back to his aunt's.

The evening was pretty great.  We all exchanged gifts and we had a great dinner.  Everyone was smiles and sunshine.  Grandmother told some stories about Partner's father and aunt, and we had a bit of an aperitif before we ate.  Oh, and how we ate.  We started with smoked salmon, of which I could eat my body weight.  Taty had also made some blinis, specifically for Partner as they're salty pancakes to me, and the rest of us had pain de mie.  After that, coquilles-saint-jacques, and they were in the cutest plates, ever!  They were ceramic plates shaped to be like scallop shells.  Grandmother had made it yesterday, and oh, it was perfect.  All warm and covered with gruyère.  Heaven.  

It was around this time that Father-in-Law showed up.  He had eaten a bit before, so he wasn't feeling all that hungry.  He had drunk a bit, so that might have had something to do with it.  The next course; rosbif, which is nothing like an American roast beef, with pommes dauphine.  Everything was really well done, but what we didn't know is that neither Grandmother or Taty were going to have any of the rosbif or potatoes either.  So basically, Partner and I were splitting almost a kilo of potatoes and a rosbif that usually serves five.  We tried, but there was no way we were going to finish it before we left.  So we ate what we could and moved on to dessert. 

No matter how much I eat, I will always find room for dessert.  As tradition demands in France, we had Galette des Rois.  With everything that we had eaten though, we split it in half and each had a small piece.  It was really good, apparently the bakery it came from is nationally recognized for its kouign amann and galette des rois, but there was no way we could eat a whole galette after everything else we'd eaten.  We took our time between courses and we ended the evening with a nice tisane.  Partner is in love with everything fruits rouges, so of course, we had some loose leaf.  We talked and drank a bit of tisane to help digest.  All and all, it was a wonderful night.  Most importantly, I had an answer to what I would wear for the Réveillion.

After that, we picked up mother-in-law and headed back to Rennes so we wouldn't have to come back West before we headed East.  We talked the whole way about everything's that been going on with her, and how she was excited.  She had a lot of small sacks that we had to be careful with.  She, much like me, hates wrapping, and had all of the gifts wrapped in the store, so they were all beautifully done.  Now, positive and negatives of that story are that they're all perfect, but all have ribbons that are easily crushed.  So to avoid it, each has to be in its own sack.  We made it back to Rennes unscathed, and got some much needed sleep. 

Now, because Partner already felt culpable enough for letting the 25th slip by without the ability to study, he needed to suck the marrow out of the bones on the 24th and 26th.  He had to study the morning of the 24th before we left, and would be studying the evening the 26th pretty much as soon as we got back.  As a result, he was literally studying while putting the clothes he was going to wear for Christmas Eve dinner in the suitcase.  He did get the studying he needed done on the 24th though, and we packed up the car and made the two hour trip East with Christmas music playing the whole way!

You know how sometimes when you go places, it's like you just instantly just kind of decompress?  That's how it happens when we go to see sister-in-law's family.  Probably what makes it best is the nieces.  It's always great to see them, and we always have a great time, but it's just something about Christmas that makes it better.  The best of all is the youngest niece.  Shes' only 8 years old, so it's everything about Christmas is great for her.  Pretty much the second we got there she was stuck to Partner.  He is her partner in Pokémon crime.  They play a lot of games together and all kinds of stuff like that.  It was just so nice to be there.  

Given the situation, sister in law, mother in law, and Partner all needed to leave to get some last things for that night.  If I were to go along, I'd be hanging back like a little kid.  To better avoid this fate, I was on the couch watching Cuisine TV with a kitty on my lap.  I'm not big into decorating, much to my mother's chagrin,  and I've learned that it's best not to have an opinion on either French decor or Fashion.  So I hung back until it was time to help with dinner. 

We decided to do a more simple version than years past.  We made a lot of stuff for the aperitif, and just had mostly a lot of small dishes and the like.  After that we had shrimp and salmon both marinated and smoked.  We had oysters too, but really it's better just to have two or three.  Of course there was wine and champagne, and lots and lots of cider.  It's hard to explain how French cider is different, but, it's just better than any cider I had in the US.  I was just happy there weren't any crayfish.  It always makes me sad to see them lying there on a plate.  (We had a pet crayfish, an ecrevisse really, when I was a kid and I swear we named it.  We were geeky kids like that.)

Between the courses, we took a break to open presents.  La Petite Niece was very much ready after waiting patiently until 10 pm.  She started with the small gifts, surprise surprise all Pokémon toys, and then we had the plat.  After the plat, we started with the big gifts.  Partner and I hung back with Sister and Brother and Mother in law while the nieces opened their presents.  It was wonderful.  I have more video games than are necessary, and we even got some pretty nice decorations for the house.  We got everything we wanted, and what we needed.  We finished opening presents around midnight, and finally went to bed around 3 am.  

The 25th was more marathon eating.  The grandparents, brother in law's parents, came in from Tours.  This time we had a few less plates for the aperitif, but a much bigger main dish.  The maigret de canard was good, and so were the potatoes.  We found it much better to do something simple than to gorge ourselves.  Finally, more galette des rois and a bûche de Noël, as if we hadn't eaten enough.  All things considered it was a very nice time, and a quiet night of gluttony.  We capped it off with the first two Harry Potter movies.  I still wish we had watched a third, because the third is my favorite, The Prisoner of Azkaban.  

In an ideal world, we would have left around noon as planned.  However; none of us really felt like leaving and trying to wake up Partner when he doesn't want to get up is unfun.  Getting around the bags went pretty fast, and I managed to download 10 gigs of music from brother in law.  He usually has a lot of good stuff, so quite a haul!  We left Centre right around 2pm, so we were really not that far off.  We came back to Rennes, had another small quiet dinner and went to bed. 

Such was our Christmas odyssey.  I think Partner and I are planning a very quiet New Year's Eve.  I'll probably buy a bottle or two of cider and maybe some blinis.  We have some smoked salmon, and I might try and make something a bit special to go with.  I have to talk more with him to know exactly what it is he wants to do, exactly. 

In any case, je vous souhaite une Bonne Année du fond de mon coeur!  Be safe, be happy, and most importantly enjoy who and what you have!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Five Christmas Songs!

Yes, I have to start with this.  Hate me if you must!

He's absolutely right though.  I was spending a night trying to get all the numbers right.  I got confused after 6.  I know there are Lords a Leaping and Drummers Drumming, but well, never figured out.

When I was a kid, my mother used to listen to tapes, because remember, this was back in the early  90's.  CDs still costed about $20 a pop.  We didn't have a K-Mart or a Wal-Mart to buy CDs at for the longest time, so it was really between three tapes.  (If you wanted a CD, it meant having to go to National Record Mart and most likely ordering it!)  The first was all those very classical Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas songs.  This may have also been my grandmother's but I'm not entirely sure.  So whenever I hear certain versions of large choir songs, I get a big smile.  I don't know why, but of all these songs, probably my favorite is their version of "Away in a Manger."  I think it's the key they sing it in.  I find it lovely.

The second Christmas song that really makes me happy is another song off the tapes.  My mother was a fan of Nat King Cole, and as a result she had that Nat King Cole Christmas tape as well.  Now there were really a couple, but this was the first experience I had with jazz of any kind.  It was the first time I had heard Lou Rwals, and my brother's swear by his version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

My favorite though was a song by Nancy Wilson.  I just always thought it was such a beautiful song.  I loved her voice too.  It just made me so happy whenever I heard it, and it just really symbolized how I felt about Christmas in general.  I actually bought CDs of her music based on that one song.  I'm sure that people will think I'm silly because she's an amazing singer in her own right.  But I will always love "That's What I Want for Christmas."

Now, another station that my mother used to listen to used to play a lot of Carpenters, so it was only a matter of time before they played the Carpenters Christmas album, A Christmas Portrait.  I am a sucker for anything that involves Karen Carpenter, so yes when I found out that she used to have a show, I was about ready to fly right on out of there.  When I found out that there was a video with this, well....there was cleanup involved.  Anyway, continuing, here's the Carpenters with "Merry Christmas, Darling."

Finally, the first Christmas song I ever came to love without any family involvement.  I actually found a version of it I really liked, because I'm not actually a huge fan of Bing Crosby, even though my mother is.  She had his tape too, but well, I am just not a fan.  I can listen to it, and sing along with most of the songs, but I just can't bring myself to really play most of his stuff.  However; I really liked one of the most unconventional of his Christmas songs I had ever heard, "Mele Kalikimaka."  It was one of those songs my mother hated, and she would always comment on how she didn't like it.  She is very traditional, especially in her Christmas music.  I found a version I like even more though, done by KT Tunstall.  It.  Has.  Kazoos!  That was all it took.  That, and I love her voice.  

Now there are a lot of traditional songs that didnt' make the list.  I have an entire collection of Mormon Tabernacle Choir music over at Grooveshark, should you be so inclined.  I also have a collection of other Christmas music I love.

There are a lot of other ridiculous songs that I remember laughing about with family like Gene Autrey's version of  Here Comes Santa Claus.  If you've never heard it, listen to it, because it's ridiculous, and perfect.  I also hate it, but well, you have to hear Gayla Peevey's I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.  I find it cringe-worthy.  And of course, what list of songs would be complete without The Voice Actress for Sailor Mars covering  Last Christmas by Wham.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Fourth Day of January

As hard as he may try, it seems like Partner really can't catch a break when it comes to schooling.  He finished off a degree in chemical engineering in France in 2004 only to find out that it wasn't really what he wanted to be doing, but it was a foot in the door.  However, the university he graduated from in Lyon did have Biochemistry classes, and an exchange program with the US.  So he could chose.  He could go to a school with a great reputation, but in the middle of nowhere, or he could go to a school in the center of a fairly large city with a well respected medical campus.  He chose the big city with the medical campus.

After starting in his Biochemistry masters at Ohio State, he comes to find out that he won't actually be able to do drug trials and hospital research with this degree.  He'll only be able to design drugs for pharmaceutical companies.  With this degree though, he's light years ahead of the competition in France.  So he keeps working on his Masters, and finishes.  After all his hard work, he graduates during the height of the American economic crisis.  No one is looking to sponsor anyone foreign to work; credentials and excellent grades or not.  So it's decided: we'll have to move back to France to start looking for work there. 

Every corner he turns, it's the same response.  You have a ton of experience, but it's all university experience.  None of it is practical, real world application.  (The problem is, French companies don't understand that an American Masters degree and a French Master are not the same.  With the new education regroupments in France, my B. A. in Medieval History may be the same as a French Master.)  We'll forget that he was basically running his own project on using proteins for cancer treatment and had around 6 articles published in peer reviewed journals in the US.  Apparently that has no real world application according to France.  Remind me to thank Sarkozy for the state of research in France.  So that was a no go. 

He had spent a good long while looking for work in any city in Europe he could find.  Pretty much the only requirement was that I could go with him and have some kind of legal standing.  He applied for work in Bordeaux, Lyon, Paris, Lausanne, Brussels, Bern, Berlin, Dublin, London, etc.  Hell, one job was even in New Delhi!  We both eventually got pretty despondent.  Partner took a job in his hometown, well below his qualifications, working in a medical analysis lab.  The good thing was is that the pay was good, and he found he really liked the medical aspects.  

So in January of last year, we start talking.  He had decided that what he wanted more than anything was to follow his original dream.  Partner wanted to know if I would mind, because it was very much outside of our initial plans, if he applied to Medical School.  We talked about everything this meant.  We'd be poor for a while, and I'd still not have much in the way of legal standing.  However; we'd get back to our own life, and be on our own two feet.  We'd finally get a chance to be back to something resembling the life we had in Columbus.  I told him the most important thing for me was that he was happy with what he was doing.  After all, Partner has always been the pony on which to bet the farm.

So we move to Rennes and we start living a great life.  This has been a horribly stressful first semester of his first year.  He had to be up for classes around 6:30 and when he got home, it meant he would spend the entire night studying.  We got into a rhythm and I came to enjoy the life we had here.  Partner and I are living now believing that this is a temporary year.  Afterwards, maybe things will work out better.  There's really only one way to find out.

Now, why title this post as I did?  Because true to form with the rotten luck he pulls for education, Partner's concours, the test that determines his placement at the end of the first semester and will let him know whether or not he can continue on and become a doctor, isn't until January 4th.  That means he has to spend his entire break studying for this exam.  Every time he takes a break, he feels guilty.  

Today for example, he started studying at 10 am.  He studied clean through with one break until 3:30 pm.  Then we went out and had some hot chocolate and wandered around town for a bit.  (Also, I may have found a Mountain Dew source!)  We also took in the light show on the Mairie.  It was really pretty and made fun of Sarkozy.  Absolutely hilarious.  We had a great time.  

The only problem was that Parther was worried the entire time.  He enjoyed the time with me, but sure enough, in the back of his mind he was panicking about the time he was losing by not being at home studying the five binders worth that he has to commit to memory to pass this thing.  I could tell he was worried, and slightly distracted.  I mean, he was really happy that we got to have a night like that together, but you know how it is.  Also, finding a parking place was murder.  Partner is not known for his patience, so after we couldn't find a parking space for about 30 minutes, he started getting annoyed.  

The recompense that he does have though, is the week after is break for him.  There will be a week where he doesn't have to do anything at all after his concours, but before he starts the new quarter.  So that will be his decompression time, and I hope somewhat of a chance for us to really enjoy a bit of the break.  I get the feeling we'll probably just  spend the entire week trading off on playing Skyrim, but you know that sounds perfectly lovely to me!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Three Christmas Venues

So instead of just one big Christmas, and then the tele-Christmas I do with my parents, there will be two observances, and a tele-Christmas.  I'm not horribly upset by it, because it means actually getting to see everyone for the holiday, but it complicates the way we plan out our time.  (Yes, I'm fully aware 4 hours of Skyrim per day is not normally accorded to most people, but well, it's Skyrim!  I'm taking on fecking dragons.  Let's see another game compete with that!)  However; it means that we now have three observed Christmases.

The first will be on the 23rd at partner's aunt house.  It should be pretty quiet, as it will just be partner, his grandmother, aunt, father, and myself.  Partner's grandmother incredible when it comes to cooking so we're looking forward to a good night.  I'm not a huge fan of scallops, but I'd kill for her Coquille-Saint-Jacques.  It's just mind blowingly wonderful.  Of course there will be smoked salmon, which is a universal good, especially with the shallot rye bread and a bit of butter.  I still can't stomach a blini myself.  Sorry, but salty pancakes, just not my idea of a good time.  Everything the grandmother makes is poetry.  So this will all go down smoothly, I think.

Then on the 24th, we'll be heading to the central restart La Révellion.  This is the celebration basically to ring in Christmas.  We'll be stuffed afterwards, because I'm betting it will involve lots of smoked salmon, probably shrimp, and most likely oysters.  Oysters are something that are a bit of an acquired taste, but I think they taste a bit like watermelon.  Yes, I know, strange.  I have had some great meals, and this year should be no exception.  We'll probably open gifts the 24th, which should make things pretty smooth for the 25th.  It'll be nice to see everyone, and just have a small Christmas.  It would be nice to have everyone together, but well, what can you do?  Oh well.

Third will be tele-Christmas with my parents on the phone.  It should be a very quiet Christmas, as I believe it's just my brothers.  I'm never sure how people react to small Christmases.  Then again, I'm almost done with trying to have traditions.  Something always comes along and spoils them.  I find it better just to try and enjoy the holiday the most that you can, and then just go with the flow.  I have gotten a lot less traditional over the years though.

I get the feeling a non cold Christmas might be a little more than Partner can support.  We have a few years though before that's official though.  But well, who knows.  Merry Christmas, in any case, wherever it may find you!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Two Christmas Trees

So back when I was in Columbus, I was a big time into Christmas.  I was that guy who was decorating directly after Thanksgiving as my mother did before me.  I started playing Christmas music on All Saint's Day.  There aren't really any good Halloween songs anyway, and no I don't believe Monster Mash counts, much less decent Thanksgiving songs.  I don't think I've ever met anyone who knows more than "We gather together . . . ."  So I blast the Carpenters starting in November.    Our real enjoyment came when the Christmas tree was going up.

Partner and I had it down to a science by the fifth year.  We found the best place to put it was in the dining room between the table and the pantry that led into the kitchen.  There was a plug right there, so we were set.  It was my responsibility to get the tree out of the guest closet and set all the branches in place.  For some reason, Partner always put them at wonky angles, and it looked really artificial.  That or he was just really good at making it look like he had no idea what he was doing.  I always positioned all the branches.  We would look at the tree for a bit undecorated and make sure all the lights were plugged in.  Then we'd start decorating.

My family had always had an angel on the tree.  Not just any angel either.  There was a specific angel that always worked, much to my mother's chagrin.  She would buy these little French Country Styled Angels and every year they'd blow out or they wouldn't work when we plugged them in.  So instead, we'd go back to this plastic angel that my parents had since they were married.  It's worked since 1973, and is the only one that worked with every set of lights we had on the tree, ever.

My partner's family though, were always star people.  When we got our tree, we talked about it, and since neither of us were terribly religious, we decided to go with a star.  Both are religious artifacts, but stars, less so.  Of course, the star we ended up getting was rather big, and fairly gaudy.  I loved it!

Now, we didn't have any decorations of our own, so we had to buy all our stuff.  We found a lot of stuff we liked, and absolutely loved the tree skirt.  It was all shiny.  I was always afraid of getting it caught in the sweeper.  I tend to be good like that.  But it was perfect because it was ours, and we made it ourselves.  It was wonderful.

It was really sad to pack it away every year, and especially sad to pack away the last time.  It's still in my parent's basement.  We'll probably just end up giving the tree itself to goodwill if we ever move back to the US, but the decorations we'll finally take back for our own.  I miss the Christmas that my partner and I had.  I miss going for coffee and having pumpkin spice lattes.  There aren't really any starbucks in this part of France, which is pretty unfortunate.  I do miss what all went into the tree though.

This year's Christmas tree is far more loaded with memories for Partner than for me.  These are the old decorations that he used to have when he was young.  If you notice, there's an angel ornament just to the right of the red bow towards the top center.  Apparently no one was allowed to put on that ornament except him.  He said it's very odd to see them.  I am really happy to have a Christmas tree though.  I just feel wrong if I don't.  It's hard to explain.  It is reassuring though.  I think even if I'm living in Thailand or Guam or someplace that feels completely foreign, I'll still have a Christmas tree.  I think it's impossible to feel right without one.

Monday, December 12, 2011


On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, A Santa that looks this creepy!

Ok, now I've learned to let nothing relating to Père Noël throw me off,  but literally, this plastic decoration was enough to make me fear for the sanity of the decorators in our building.  It started out small, just with some garland and tinsel in the hallways, and a few boxes wrapped up to look like presents.  It was actually really cute and understated.  However, with the introduction of this bit of horror greeting me every time I come into the building, it's a bit different we'll say.

I feel like France has kind of a love/hate relationship with Santa Claus.  Of course, I remember my first time in 2004, I came just after Christmas, and feasted my eyes on this vision:

So herein lies the question:  Is Santa going to be breaking and entering, or is he just hanging on for dear life?  It turns out, apparently, neither is the case.  I don't know if it's all over France, but in Bretagne, a lot of the houses don't have chimneys, so Santa comes in through the windows.  I just remember thinking how absolutely insane it looked to have Santa Claus hanging off your house as a decoration.  (As if his being perfectly still in people's yards in the US is somehow more so.  Then again, decoration is always something I've had questions about.)

Of course, I had preparations for this for years in the US.  My mother changes the decorations for her house once a month.  (Seriously not joking here.  She has a different theme per month.)  Christmas though, used to start after Thanksgiving.  Not like, ok we wait a day and change over.  No, seriously, that afternoon when we got back from Thanksgiving dinner when Dad went to work, the entire house changed from turkeys to snowflakes and angels.  My mother never had a shortage of creepily happy santas, snowmen, elves, and reindeer.

The worst was this snowman she had.  It was life sized and she would st it on the stairs.  So there would be sometimes when you would come around the corner and feel like you're being watched.  Nope, just the creepy lifelike snowman sitting on the stairs, peering into your soul with his cold, dead eyes.  Sometimes I wonder if my mother was decorating to be cheery, or if she was actually creating this world of things being so cute they were creepy.  This coming from a woman who used to have a different festive sweatshirt for every holiday, would surprise me a little though.  

Hopefully there's nothing that makes you feel like pyramid head is watching you every time you step outside with your significant other!  Have a good first day of Christmas.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mele Kalikimaka

Am I the last person to realize that it's the 10th of December?  I have felt completely un-Christmased.  Almost anti-Christmased if you will.  I see the decorations in the stores, and some of the ones downtown, but it really didn't hit me until we went back to Ploërmel this weekend, and I realized that in two weeks, it's December 23rd.  Yeah, seriously, December 23rd.  So far Partner and I hadn't decorated.  Of course, all last week, I really wasn't fit to be anywhere besides on the couch or in the bathroom, so that's not really fair to consider.  Week long illnesses, suck.  

That also slightly worries me about Christmas.  In France, it's not like in the US.  At my house, Christmas dinner on the 24th meant ham, mashed potatoes, and probably a pie of some kind for dessert.  You might feel a bit full, considering that we would probably have spent the whole day eating all of the chocolate in the house, but generally, there were no major concerns. 

In France, there's the Revellion.  The Revellion is every imaginable thing to eat, served in shifts.  So there's smoked salmon and blinis, there's fois gras, usually about 3 difference sizes of shrimp, there's snails, there's langoustine, sometimes coquilles-st.-jacques, crab, basically imagine a type of seafood, it's there.  And that's just the first course. 

I still haven't completely recovered my appetite.  I eat a little, but I don't eat like I used to be able to.  I basically have two weeks for my GI tract to reestablish itself, or I'll be in the bathroom every 20 minutes.  Here's hoping that happens.  I can eat whatever I want, but I just don't feel well.  

Maybe there's more at play for why I don't really feel like Christmas anymore though.  Maybe I'm getting more and more annoyed by building traditions and just seeing it work out to nothing.  Part of me wonders if it would maybe be better once we have kids to never have two Christmases the same.  Maybe one Christmas will be in France, and the other in the US.  Then after that, maybe we'll be in Auckland, and maybe another year in Tokyo.  Of course, I would wonder how that idea would work with kids.  I dunno.  

I remember how much I loved Christmas as a kid.  Christmas music started in my house on the 1st of November.  We would come home from our grandmother's and start decorating for Christmas.  We bought our tree in December of course, but it was a real one.  I always was the one pushing for it to be put up that night.  I wanted Christmas to start as early as possible and end as late as it could.  

Probably since I started college, Christmas has been getting more and more depressing.  It feels like we're clinging to these traditions that just are losing what they meant.  I think everyone suffers from the same problem of Christmas not being what it was when they were young. 

I have an idea I'll start on the site the 12th.  Hopefully you'll find it amusing.  Why you've stuck around this long, leaves me with questions, even though it makes me happy that you have!