Welcome to 2002- The Backwards Year

January, 2002

Greetings, puzzlers!

Welcome to 2002- the year written backwards. I was born in 1961-- the upside down year. (figure it out.)

This letter may be a little choppy. There's been a lot going on.

Both James and Peter received as Christmas presents one of the great mysteries of life-- a pair of kits for building a sailing ship for display inside of a bottle. They were gifts from a well- meaning but somewhat
deluded relative who thought it would be fun for the boys to put together masted sailing schooners and rig them inside a display bottle. It was a nice idea, and it should have worked well-- except for the fact that the kits were designed and fabricated by lunatics who take immense pleasure in sadistically frustrating innocent children and their parents. I'd like to meet the weasel who would market a model kit to children containing instructions such as: "Using a 0.20 millimeter drill bit (which incidentally is about the same diameter as the period at the end of this sentence) drill a hole through the end of a toothpick." Short of a dentist, I am hard pressed to come up with ANYBODY who would have a drill bit that size.
       Anyway, shortly after assembly, our scale model of the "Cutty Sark" keeled over inside the bottle-- her majestically crooked masts and fouled rigging giving the impression that she had faced the likes of hurricane Camille-- and lost. Peter thought it looked pretty cool, but I have my doubts. If I ever build another ship in a bottle, it will be inside a bottle of Advil. 
        Actually we still have one kit to go. We will construct a scale model of the "Mayflower"-- after it comes home from the dentist.
       Another present James received was a computer game called "The Oregon Trail--5th Edition". This game is an historical adventure where the players try to cross the old west from Missouri to Oregon during the mid to late 1800s. It's a great game, and pretty reasonable historical simulation. What I don't understand is why the software company comes out with a new version of the game every year, each new one getting more and more intense. Are they creating new revisions of history? It makes me wonder. But at least it's not a Microsoft product. Those guys would have a version out called "Oregon TrailXP", where the players cross the desert in the Concorde, while getting blasted by aliens, and have to reboot their Conestoga wagons twice a day.....

Now we get choppy........

      On Monday, January 21st, I will be leaving on a little business trip--- to China. My company has asked me to assist in the setup and organization of our new factory in Shuzou (near Shanghai.) But this is not the most frightening event in my life right now. A major change has occurred. For the past 21 years of my life, nearly every job title I have had attached to my name has been some variation of the word "technician", (Electronic Technician, Service Technician, Audio/Video Tech, Engine Technician, Senior Technician, SuperTechnician, Blood and Guts Technician, etc), but no more. I have always said that one should always be careful about who one associates himself with-- because one will eventually become just like one's peers. I have also said that one must be wary as to who one makes fun of-- because what goes around comes around. There is an entire department of individuals that over the years have provided me with nearly endless mirth and constant vexation-- a group that I have rarely missed a chance to comically humble and even humiliate--- and now I am one of them. I have been promoted----- I am --- I am -- (I can't say it) ----they made me---- an ---- an ------ engineer. I am now officially the butt of my own jokes.

      Anyway, I will be in Asia for over a week, after a brief stop in San Diego for a trade show. That's just the first trip. There is another one later on, after the factory is running, and hopefully I will be taking Wendy and the boys with on that one.
      After diligent study, I have decided that the best I can do for foreign relations is to keep my mouth shut and not massacre the Mandarin language. I got a book on "Instant Chinese", and as I was attempting to conjugate my way through it, showed it to another engineer who happened to be of Mandarin descent. Mingshu thumbed through the book, laughing hysterically as she went. "This is not a very accurate book," she said, wiping the tears from her eyes, "because there are words in here that I have never heard of."
According to this tome, the Chinese translation for the word "taxicab" is pronounced "choo Chi cha chuh" -- which is totally senseless. Imagine trying to hail a cab on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, by simply waving your arms and shrieking "Hab a ta blab a ta bab!" I have been assured that it would work just as well.