The travel itself was some of the longest and most tedious I've experienced. Certainly more stressful than fun. The train ride down to Portland, OR was awesome, right up until the next-to-last stop, where a woman decided to drive her car onto the tracks, delaying us for 90 minutes. Portland itself was fantastic, as always, although the guy I was supposed to meet for coffee flaked out on me. The flight back up to Seatac was fine; PDX's security had a bunch of little details to make the process as painless as possible, and of course they don't (yet) have the Privacy Stealer 3000's installed. I was standby on the red-eye from SEA to EWR, but did not make it on the plane (as didn't many other people), so it was spending the night in SeaTac for me. It wasn't so bad; I found a nice corner of the terminal (relatively dark and quiet) against a support column, and moved the row of seats so that I had a corner for my luggage between me and the wall. Used my sweatshirts for a pillow and padding, and my coat for a blanket, had a decent nap, and left on my 6am flight. Had a massive layover at EWR, followed by an equipment change which required a sudden run to the freaking other end of the airport.
The way back was only marginally better, and arguably more stressful. Although I wasn't caught in the weather, many others were, leading to massive demand for seats. So when I went to check in around 1am for my 6am flight out, it turned out that the plane which was supposed to be that flight hadn't made it in on time, so my flight was now going to be delayed 5 hours. Which means I wouldn't make my connection in ORD. And the next itinerary they could give me out of that airport was on Jan 2. Fuck no! So after quite a lot of negotiation on the phone, we found a 6am flight out of a nearby airport (only 90 min away) that could get me to ORD on time, except that... my seat assignment on the ORD->SEA trip had magically vanished! So even if I got to ORD on time, there'd be no guarantee I'd get back here! I decided to go for it, and since it was almost 2am at this point, I just had to stay up (no point in trying to sleep for only 60-90 minutes). So, fine, mad dash to the airport (no Porno Scanners at ABE either, thankfully), got to ORD OK, and went right to the gate. Fortunately, it all worked out, and I was even able to get an exit row seat! Whee! And I was able to get a little bit of sleep on the flight. So it all worked out, though it was hugely stressful.
Christmas itself was pretty good, although there was a rough spot or two. Family is never going to be perfect, I suppose. Still, I got a lot of neat presents (both expansions to Smallworld that I didn't already have, and binoculars! for my awesome new view), and my brother Joe went as crazy over his present as I hoped he would! Many months back, he mentioned he was interested in a game from our childhood called Fireball Island. In September, I went to the Blue Highway Games used game auction. While looking over their games listing, I happened to notice... Fireball Island! It was actually hilarious bidding on it, because it was in the family games section, and tons of little kids would see the massive box and their eyes would become like saucers ("Dad! How about this one!"). The starting bid of $20 put the parents off, though, so I won! :D :D :D Did I mention that this game goes for $175-$350 online, and this copy was in nearly perfect condition? Anyway, he was over the moon when he opened it. We played 3 times with my siblings (oh, the fighting and yelling and jumping around over the rules! It was like we were 10 again! :D ), and he played a bunch more with his friends.
Since I got back, I got caught up on my work email (1300 messages!), and have slept a lot. Had a surprisingly wonderful New Year's, as I was able to take a few friends (including snowboardjoe) along for my usual low-key celebration: walk up to the Space Needle for the fireworks, and walk home for some champagne. It was great! Sure, Seattle, was its usual Amateur Hour with hilarious drunk/high people everywhere, but seeing them on my way to/from the event is all the party I really need. It is always fun for me, but having my friends along made it that much more enjoyable. We had a great time at my place talking, hanging out, and trying a bunch of different sparking wines. I still haven't found anything to directly replace my White Star champagne (which seems to be not made anymore; Imperial just isn't as good), but the surprise winner of the night was Mountain Dome's Cuvee. They're a local (well, Spokane) winery, and I'd thoroughly enjoyed their NV sparkler (at $12, it was a huge value), and the Cuvee was so much better! More minerally, but still fruity, and very, very smooth; only a short body, but a clean (not acid/crisp) finish. Thumbs up! Especially for $27!
Wow, I'd been planning a short "Hi, LJ, I'm OK", but that was way longer than I'd planned. Woo! Well, I have an errand to run, then I have to continue working on my massive todo list, and dinner with ctseawa. Have fun everyone! Hope you are all well!