Saturday, December 17, 2011

2011 Round Up

Hello everyone,   Christmas 2011

Sometimes it feels like I am writing one of these every 20 minutes, but in fact it has been a whole year. They keep going faster and faster and I'm reminded of two great truths: nothing changes and everything changes.
Two-Thousand Eleven has been a pretty academic year for the Fosters. Zachary has finished his Associate's. Jennifer has finished her Bachelor's. I finished my Master's. Hannah, still in her Junior Year, has done her first college class. That's a lot of studying, but we are all in preparation for the future... because it is now.
This is likely the last year we will all be together in the same house. Zack is planning on leaving the nest and heading into the world, possibly by the time you read this. He's looking around for Law Enforcement positions and prepping his pepper spray. I thought I was raising Batman, but I think we got Commissioner Gordon instead; an honest cop to a fault, and I couldn't be more proud. Too bad he can't grow a cool Gary Oldman style mustache. We are going to miss him when he goes, but are really excited to see him get out into the world and fix it. That, and Eightball wants his own room...

Hannah has become someone whom I not only love as a daughter, but enjoy spending time with as a person. She's articulate and funny, but sometimes goes off with the type of mouth Fosters are famous for. I should tell her to watch her mouth, but at times her profanity is sculpted like Michaelangelo working in four-letter words. It's an artform she is mastering, and she has the brains to back up her points. Also, we watch a lot of Doctor Who together. She's looking forward to some of the changes 2012 brings, which I will get into in a moment.

Zack isn't the only superhero in the Foster family; Jennifer—along with her academic success—has been volunteering with the Red Cross helping several families who lost their homes in fires, to include the Monument Fire which made national news this year. She's building up the resume to get to our next duty station and find some work saving the world herself. Very exciting to think about what she's going to be up to in the coming year, be it work or her own Master's program (or both). Again, we are getting ready for the next phase.
That next phase is about here. In the Spring we make what should be our last move for My Firm and return to the Great Green Northwest. About that time I should be pinning CW4, and the 36 (or possibly 24) month countdown to retirement starts then. I have truly loved My Firm, but phase two is about here, and it is time for something new. Not sure what that will be, and My Firm still wants me to give them one more trip to the badlands, but that's a small price to pay for joining the Check of the Month Club.
See? Everything is changing: new city, new jobs, new school, new ranks. Everything is staying the same: save the world, get educated, be busy. The world isn't going to end in 2012; we won't let it.
So, we ask this year you indulge us just a bit longer as we may be sporadic in reaching out. Please believe me when I tell you we love you all and we hope Christmas and the holiday season finds you all looking forward to 2012, and the New Year being kind to you. Keep calm and carry on, and we will all get through this together.   Merry Christmas!  Happy Chanukah! Happy New Year!  Occupy 2012!

The Fosters

Saturday, August 06, 2011

The Official Black Owl Review of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”

So, recently I have seen some pretty good movies (Thor, True Grit) and some pretty poor ones (Green Lantern), but right now I want to discuss a movie I loved, loved, loved. Lots of spoilers will follow, but I will start with a little background, and give a spoiler free review.

I was probably eight or nine the first time I saw the original Planet of the Apes. Saw it on TV with commercials, they way we watched movies pre-VHS, and must freely admit I shrieked a little in horror and despair when the (spoiler for the original here... but I don't feel too bad about spoiling a 43 year old movie) Statue of Liberty makes her appearance, and the director masterfully fades to credits with no sound but the ocean waves. Then, our local CBS affiliate started showing the TV series Saturday nights after the 10 o'clock news, and I would beg my Dad to stay up with me, and usually fall asleep before Galen, Burke, and Virdon escaped Spock's dad in a Gorilla suit. Bless my dad though; he put up with that most of the summer that year.

When we started getting TBS, various Ape movies would show up, and I was there. To this day, regardless of the fact I own them all on DVD (and the aforementioned TV series, AND the animated series, AND the Tim Burton remake), if I am flipping through the channels and an Ape movie comes on, everything else goes on standby. Even if it's Battle.

About the Marky Mark/Tim Burton version; I don't hate it. I think the Apes are extremely well presented, and the effects are good. The story's a little slowly paced, and the twist ending is nailed on so poorly and inorganically the DVD actually has an interactive feature to try to explain how that crazy crap happened... and it still really doesn't work. Trick endings are like jokes. If you have to explain them, they weren't told right the first time.

Regardless, I love the Apes movies, and with the Lincoln Memorial Ape still burned in my mind I heard they were making a new one. I was skeptical, but willing to give it a shot. Certainly concerned that all the Apes would be CGI, and that this new one would basically rehash what we saw in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. To be objective though, the Ape origin there pushes more than a little credibility: a space virus kills all our dogs and cats, so we enslave apes who in 20 years are now wearing clothes and human sized, ready for the secret child of two future apes to lead them to an Ape-Power victory over their homo sapient masters. There's a few non-sequiturs there, and even a few inconsistencies with the other movies. Saw the first teaser, and I was mighty intrigued. Then I saw the four minute promo clip and my interested was piqued. It looked pretty damn good. And now that I have seen it?

As stated above, I loved, loved, loved Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The action is good, but this is a film with a heart and mind as well, and that what sets it above other summer movies. It is smart, providing very reasonable scientific advancements as the catalyst for Caesar's rise. Caesar as a character though provides a heart to the film, and the motion capture emotions on Andy Serkis' Caesar needs to be honored somehow, be it a Best Actor Oscar for Serkis, or one for everyone who brought Caesar to life. Yeah, I said best actor; this is Caesar's movie, and really even top billed James Franco is there only to allow us to get to Caesar. This is a choice that must have looked like a big risk to the production, but pays off in spades. The set of Ape characters with their personalities and quirks... I could watch them for hours. Caesar though, with his brilliant mind still driven by chimpanzee emotion is compelling, and compassionate. The only other performance that comes close is John Lithgow as James Franco's father suffering Alzheimer's; if I have any complaint it's that I didn't get to see these two performances interact more, but when they do it is heartbreaking gold.

I also want to point out the incredible love the makers of this film have for the original property. The film is littered with deep and arcane references to the other films, yet only once does it seem to be wedged in (and I am sure it is no spoiler to you to know that a certain line about “damn dirty apes” would be repeated), but the moment following it makes it oh so worth it. I would love to meet the writer and director, because I have no doubt we could sit down with beer and pizza watching all the Apes movies and have a great time... because they have obviously done that themselves. Little moments and images all part of the texture of the film that a new viewer can see and not be distracted by, while Ape-Heads like me can smile. Those moments serve to tie this movie to the others, and make it a very coherent prequel. I would love to go into some of the subtler ones here, but I don't want to spoil anything. Keep an eye on the news the characters watch though.

I have heard complaints that the human characters are a bit two-dimensional in this film, and in some cases this is true. Didn't bother me though; this is the Apes' movie, and they rise well. It is so nice to see a good, hard Sci-Fi movie that tells its story well. I hope it succeeds, because it is a movie which deserves to be seen. My fear is someone will then decide there MUST be a sequel, and I don't know we need that. Then again, I wasn't sure we needed this one, and I left the theater giddy. Ape fan or not, if you are looking for a good blend of action, intellect, and emotion, this is worth checking out. Hail Caesar.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dear Superman...

Dear Superman,
You probably aren't used to getting letters from adults. Usually, by the time someone has reached my age you are no longer as mystifying as you were when we were children, and you are instead something as dependable as the sunrise; an accepted part of the American landscape which can never change as you are so firmly integrated into it.

American. More on that in a minute.

Anyway, I am not someone who sees trouble and immediately looks up to see if there is a streak of red coming faster than the eye can follow to save the day. I have a job where I am responsible to taking care of trouble, and for making the world a better place. It's something I am proud to do because it is inherent in my role as a protector, and a privilege conducted in service to the nation of my birth. Ostensibly, I work as a protector of that country, but in said role I often protect others in different nations. My role as protector is often misunderstood or misinterpreted. That is all right, because I do not protect people for recognition, but rather because it is the right thing to do. I do it in the name of my country, because I love this country and feel ideals like truth and justice are inherent to what we are supposed to be. As a super power, America will have to act in situations where no one else can, and I think we have a moral obligation as a nation to do so. Any superpower has an obligation to improve the condition of the world.

I am not an "America: right or wrong" kind of guy. I am an "America: let's do it right" sort. I know my nation both as a collective of individuals and as a state makes mistakes, and sometimes as a result of those mistakes, innocents die. I don't believe you stop trying to help though, I believe you just have to do a better job when you do offer help.

America, and the protection thereof, means a lot of different things to people, evoking both blind patriotism unwilling to see the nation's mistakes, and blind fury unwilling to see the nation's good. Both such extremes are wrong. America is made up of all of us, our victories, our foibles; our loves and our hates. Above all, this nation founded on principle-not on ethnicity or faith-is about opportunity for all. Again, we have made mistakes in the past, and will do so in the future, but for the most part we are a nation of immigrants; founded by immigrants, built by immigrants, fought for by immigrants, and all one needs to be part of it really is a profound belief in Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Some differ on the definition of "American Way," but most will agree it is that anyone in America can become the best of America. With ability, drive, and passion, America should give us the opportunity to become anything. That may apply to the poor, the lost, the downtrodden. It may apply to a child cast into the night who by the grace of God or fate ends up not in death or ocean or tyranny, but in America.

I don't know where you were raised, Superman. You seem to make your home in one of our greatest cities, yet when I see you in interviews your manner is almost like people I know who grew up on a farm. I don't know if you had powers as a baby or not. There's rumors you exhibited strange feats early on, and others that say the radiation of our sun almost killed you before it empowered you. Your greatest asset though did not come from the yellow sun or the ground or the sky. Your greatest asset, came from America; your ethics.

You've been around since 1938. Imagine if you had landed in Hitler's Germany or, like a story I once read in Stalin's USSR. Would you have become arrogant as one worshiped if you had landed with an aboriginal tribe with no understanding of science, labeling you a god? Had your ship landed anywhere else in the world, would you have become Superman, or instead The Superman ruling us as might makes right? It doesn't matter, because you DID land here, and you DID learn American core values, and you DO have a moral code which makes you a protector and not a dictator. You are the epitome of the cold, hungry immigrant washed ashore in America who rises to exceed their origin. As I say, you are a constant to me; a part of America as much as the flag, or a fair deal, or Teddy Roosevelt riding a Bull Moose across a river.

Now, as I understand you are afraid you will be confused with America. God, I hope you are right. I hope children the world over see you stop a volcano, or rescue innocents from the path of war, or change the course of mighty rivers and say, "look at America at its best." In that way you provide not only a sign to them that our nation can be great, but a sign to us that it should be great. We make mistakes, but to get better we need hope, we need inspiration. We need to know that as horrible as the things we have done are, we can still be good, and still make the world a better place. More powerful than anything is the need to believe what we can be, to have a symbol, we can look to and aspire to be.

I spend a lot of my life looking at the flag for that, and wear it on my own uniform while I am out trying to make the world a better place. I know at times that flag is all someone across from me sees, and that is why it is so important I wear it well. When I am out to make the world a better place, I recognize I am a citizen of the world as well as a citizen of the most just nation in history; being a citizen of the world and a citizen of the United States are not mutually exclusive. Don't give up one for the other; be both. The world does need you, and so do we. When I think of the tragedy that could have been had you landed somewhere else, I think there is still a level upon which you need us too.

Don't walk away from America out of fear, because you think the world will confuse you with us. Instead, wear that flag in the best possible way, and show them, and America, all it can mean; all it should mean.

You were quoted as saying, "I'm an alien...born on another world. I can't help but see the bigger picture." See it then, and tell your fellow Americans what you see. Help us see it too. We will help you see what Truth, Justice, and the American Way can do on the small scale; the Red Cross worker in Haiti, the American soldier keeping peace in Bosnia. I don't defend the misguided imperialism some would want to see this country practice, but I vehemently stand up for us as a light to the millions of immigrants before you have done by making this nation great. Let those who would fight against freedom and opportunity for all confuse you with America; then, help America be a country which can be easily confused with you.

Thank you for your time, Superman. I hope to see you out there as a comrade,

An American Soldier

My hooch, Baghdad 2004.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Surprise in New Mexico

Before we discuss this, please go back and read this entry from Memorial Day a while back. Also, please go read this article on my running blog. Now, we can talk.

While at the Bataan Memorial Death March, I was waiting to watch Jennifer begin when I saw a group of people wearing blue shirts with a soldier's picture on them. The picture was of Christopher. Turns out his mother and family were walking the Bataan as well to commemorate his loss. I did not want to intrude, but spoke briefly with his brother-in-law. He said the family missed Christopher, but remembered him, and as with all things, life goes on.

I got to cheer the family at the end when they also finished, and through the brother-in-law passed on both my condolences and respect for this soldier I met in the worst of ways. It was so good to see them surviving, celebrating, and commemorating their lost loved one.

After all, that's what a memorial is for. Rest easy Chris.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Unified Field Theory: Adama squared.

It's been a while since I simply dropped into full geek mode here on Black Owl, but I've had one festering for a while in the back of my head, and I think it's time. This is my unifying theory to unite the classic Glen Larson Battlestar Galactica (henceforth “GL”version), with the modern Ron D. Moore, “greatest-TV-show-ever-made-according-to-Dan” version (RDM version). There will be spoilers for both shows, so if you haven't seen or finished either, but plan to, it may be time to turn away now. You've been warned.

First, I must establish some ground rules here. I am reluctant to include Galactica 1980 in the canon as any more than an interesting thought which met the poorest execution imaginable. Indeed, setting the arrival of the Galactica to Earth in 1980 not only puts a kink in my theory, it also contradicts the Classic Galactica episode “The Hand of God” in which the ship intercepts a transmission from the Earth Apollo 11 mission to the Moon. I freely admit science was very shaky on the original show; it was never really established whether or not the Galactica even had a faster than light drive, though lightspeed travel is mentioned on a few rare occasions. Terms like “solar system” and “galaxy” are used interchangeably. I think we have to accept that there is some form of super-luminal drive however, and further that the Galactica is still pretty far from Earth at the end of season one. G1980 claims thirty years have passed since the Cylons destroyed the colonies, putting that destruction around the Earth year 1950. Unless the first season of classic Galactica is actually twenty years long (and it obviously isn't), they could not have intercepted the Moon landing. Perhaps they are moving at relativistic speeds, thereby suffering time dilation effects, but then Baltar, during his time spent with the Cylons, would have aged at a different rate than the Colonists. Besides, the Apollo transmission itself is only moving at the speed of light, so depending on how many light-years the Galactica is from Earth at intercept, it has to be that many years after the famous Moon landing on Earth. Therefore, if the Galactica is twenty light-years from the signal's origin, it is already 1989 on Earth.

I will however give 1980 credit for introducing the first human looking Cylon, which actually ties into my theory very well. After all, this has all happened before and will all happen again.

I submit that despite the fact the RDM show follows the exploits of a particular group of survivors, there would have been more. We know the Pegasus was finding other civilian ships, and doubt they found all of them. Anders' little band of merry Pyramid players can't be the only people in the mountains on Caprica when the Cylon bombs fell. Eleven other planets had to have some survivors. Yes, many would have been herded up and out when the Cylons claimed Caprica, but humans are remarkably resilient, and it does not seem that far fetched some were waving good-bye when the Cylons left Caprica to go meet up with the escaping Colonial fleet at New Caprica (as seen in “The Plan”).

So, while Kara Thrace and William Adama are off with Gaius Baltar realizing that the Cylon god-entity is in fact...God, there are a number of poor schleps mucking about on the twelve colonies who have no idea that the machines which tried to kill them are all part of an ongoing cycle of evolution throughout the universe. All they know is what our cast knew in season one: Humanity came from Kobol to found the twelve tribes, there's a thirteenth tribe out there somewhere called Earth, and by they way, we are all a bunch of poly-theists. Now of course, they are living in the ashes of holocaust, and there are problems with radiation and the like, but there is also an essential distrust of technology, and a new dark age. While Adama is burying Roslin and choosing to swear off technology, the Capricans are kind of forced into it, but still not too happy with robots.*

We know from RDM that two things happen when the Colonists settle on Earth and scuttle the fleet: one, a surviving group of “toaster” Cylons take a Basestar and go off to find their destiny; two, Humans and Cylons mix ingraining certain things into our racial memory. Their decedents will accept their zodiac, worship their gods, and eventually, with an eerie accuracy, re-discover their technology. There's 150,000 years in which to do so.

So during that 150K, what's happening in the 12 Colonies, and what's happening with our Toaster friends?

On Caprica, and the other colonies, the human race is growing again. It's going to take time; the aforementioned radiation is going to be an issue, as is the diminished population. Humans will survive though, and eventually rebuild a civilization as the Colonies of Kobol, as they were before, but with more flowy chiffon clothing. Eventually there will even be technology, and a new fleet of Battlestars. Indeed, perhaps the cycle plays out a couple of times in this period. GL Galactica may not be the first time the Capricans rise from the ashes. For this theory to work though, we do have to accept that the Colonists have lost track of how long ago humanity left Kobol; in accordance with Genesis and the Book of Mormon (on which many original BSG concepts are based) humanity came to be on Kobol only 6000 years before GL BSG takes place, brought into existence by the Beings of Light. It doesn't seem to difficult to believe those histories will be renewed by any successive generation of Capricans, confusing events in their past, but keeping the basics the same (see our own histories and Noah, Atlantis, Gilgamesh, and the Navajo story of Turtle).

Meanwhile, the surviving Toasters who leave New Earth, return to their old stomping grounds, perhaps in an effort to trace their own origins. They return to space near Kobol and the Colonies. They evolve. They start the cycle again. Perhaps those Toasters decide they still want to become organic, but not human. In GL Galactica we find out their Cylons began as a reptilian race eventually overthrown by machines... what if the origins of those reptiles were in fact the surviving Cylons from RDM Galactica, attempting a different kind of biological evolution, but instead repeating the cycle?

The result is the same. A thousand year (yahren) war between humans on the twelve colonies, and the Cylon Empire. While you and I, human/cylon decedents ourselves, are heading toward the cycle again with little ditties like the industrial revolution, the creation of pocket calculators, and eventually computers, and Bob Dylan's “All Along the Watchtower,” it seems GL Galactica is happening, and repeating the great cycle. Perhaps as racial memory, some of us even suspect such a thing is going on:

There are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the universe, with tribes of humans who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians, or the Toltecs, or the Mayans. Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man who even now fight to survive somewhere beyond the heavens.

There are still a few mysteries here: who exactly ARE the Beings of Light and Count Iblis? Perhaps survivors of the original Kobol or original 13th Tribe (Cylon Earth), or “Angels” not unlike Head Six and Head Baltar from RDM? (I'm a little partial to the idea that perhaps somewhere there are other copies of the Final Five, and Count Iblis is a last remaining Cavil who survived the battle at The Colony.) Are the other human worlds the GL Galactica finds (Terra) also descendants from Kobol, or left over survivors from the RDM Cylon apocalypse? Is Dirk Benedict Starbuck the messianic figure Kara Thrace was? Should we count Galactica 1980? It does feature Dr. Zee, a human/Being of Light hybrid, who may be that series' Kara; and as mentioned before, GL Cylons making human versions, starting the great cycle themselves. Then I see flying motorcycles and say 'no.'

So that's the basic idea. The two Galacticas are in the same universe, but the earlier version actually happens after the newer version. Imagine Lorne Greene's rag tag fleet arriving to our world, just as our own Cylons begin to exhibit behavior not quite so subservient... say! I smell a fanfic coming on!

*As an aside, I have heard a number of people tell me they cannot believe the surviving Colonists who make it to New Earth at the end of RDM Galactica would give up technology so easily. I submit you may be off a different opinion when your iPods commit genocide and start a four year chase across the galaxy to do nothing more than kill you. Suddenly, my favorite playlists seem a little less necessary.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Not my review of Tron: Legacy

So, I am not reviewing Tron: Legacy here except to say that I really enjoyed it quite a bit. Sure, there are some flaws in there, but overall it was a very worthy successor to the classic original, and a phenomenal viewing experience. There's something else in this movie I want to talk about though, and I think it's a huge and profound idea; one which will not be evident to many for years.

See, the original Tron, for all its neon and primitive graphics was pretty well rejected at the time. It was something of a financial flop, and a lot of people really did not get what they were saying. The movie however inspired some fresh young minds, and in their way they have fulfilled the prophecies of that film. Wired Magazine in this article makes the case far better than I can, but in short, Tron predicted the concept of life inside a digital environment. Anyone who has wasted too much time on Facebook, or spent hours interacting with others in a Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) have run their programs on the grid, little avatars making life decisions of a user in the real world. That's why this flopped cult film, some 28 years later, resonates. The generation who grew up on the internet get it. The film was prescient.

I am here to tell you, Tron: Legacy does the same thing, but with a different subject. I have not seen any reviews talking about this particular subject, which is why I think it may be a sublime prediction which will only be widely recognized when it starts to happen in the real world...if it isn't already. Minor spoilers ahead if you have not seen the film, but nothing integral to the fate of the characters.

In the film, the artificial "digital frontier" Kevin Flynn creates, the Grid, is intended to be a perfect environment. Soon after its creation however, the "ISOs" begin to appear: Isometric Algorithms. Digital lifeforms, self-aware equations. I think this is where the latest Tron chapter becomes predictive.

You all know I believe in God, and though sometimes I waiver on what I think that means, I do believe the universe exists out of intent. Further, I think part of that intent is that life exist. I think life is far more resilient than we believe it to be. Now, one doesn't have to tap into theology or philosophy to find this idea. Recently, we the human race had to completely redefine our idea of what life even is, though many are arguing in this case it is more a possibility than a new type of life. Yet from the tops of mountains to the bottom of the sea, we have found life on Earth is more prevalent than not, and little clues indicate Earth may not be the only stage for life. Regardless of how harsh the environment, it would seem, as Jeff Goldblum says in Jurassic Park, "life, uh... finds a way."

We have created a new type of environment in the form of our various computer driven networks. As information flows to and fro, programs and viruses take on independent traits in simulations of intelligence or sentience. They reproduce themselves to ensure survival and distribution. How long until simulation becomes de facto sentience? How complex must a simulation be until it is no longer a simulation? There is an environment in our networks, and as harsh as it may be, what if life, uh... finds a way?

This is going to happen. One day we are going to gaze into the looking glass of the world wide web, and something will look back and say, "Mama?" The universe wants life to exist, and like bacteria which thrive on poisons, or how some simple proteins started working together and began to eventually ask itself "why," some program, some equation, some isomorphic algorithm will one day wake up in the soup that is the internet. I don't say this with a sense of doom in a Skynet sense; I say it with a sense of wonder at God's great Universe. And when it does, we will look back and say, "wow, that Tron movie was right!"

Now hopefully they will all look like Olivia Wilde.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

End of Year, 2010.

So, for those who might have missed it, here's this year's holiday letter! Happy New Year...

Dear Friends and Family,
Here it is, that time again: the Holidays are upon us and it is time for your update on how we the Fosters are doing!

It has been in many ways a tough year. Jennifer and I are of the belief that every person has allotted in their lifetime a certain amount of leisure time, and a certain amount of work time; we are diligently using up our work time, and though fulfilling, there are days when we really feel like pulling some time out of the leisure bank. Moving forward though, and even occasionally seeing some of the fruits of our labors. 2010 saw Jennifer receive her Associate's Degree, and since she's been simultaneously working on two degrees, we will shortly see her walk across the stage for her Bachelor's. She's also been doing volunteer work for the Red Cross, all in preparation for fulfilling her dream of helping her fellow humans; it's a desire in sad shortage these days.

Zachary is also now a member of the work force. What started as a work study for him became a real job when the Cochise College sold their security contract to the same organization which I saw providing security for Constitution Hall last year. He's also learned about frantic midnight calls to come fill shifts for people who didn't show, and what the phrase “double shift” means. He has some promising prospects with the Sierra Vista Police Department as well, so keep your eyes open for officer Foster in the future. Yes, he WILL give you a ticket.

Then there's my scary little daughter. This young lady is bored to death with school and teenage drama, and for her sweet sixteen wanted one thing: to go to a Seahawks game (they beat the Cardinals, by the way...). She is both marvelously sly and terrifically funny, and is an incredible person of whom Jennifer and I are both very proud. She's not a kid when you sit and have a conversation with her; she is a young, witty, talented woman with whom you do not want to trifle. Amazing brain; like her father, a few motivation issues.

As for her father, I am doing all right. Busy (though not as busy as Jennifer) with school and work, and looking to see whether or not my firm will make me a Chief Warrant Officer Four this coming year. If not, 20 is plenty, and I can put this Master's I am working on to good use as funny old professor Foster in some little college somewhere. Looking forward to a corduroy jacket with tweed elbow pads to replace my current firm's ideas of fashion. Looking forward to more time for running as well. Completed my first marathon in 2010, looking forward to another in 2011. We'll see what I can do when retirement hits and I'm not playing military games at 5AM instead of running!

Let us not forget the four-legged Fosters either. You may remember our Christmas puppy from last year; Eightball has settled in, though is not less wacky, he certainly keeps poor old Patches on her toes. She is more than happy to slap him upside the head though, and it's always funny to see the dejected look he gives when she does. He's a little more tech savvy though as a young dog; find him on Facebook as “Eightball Tiberius Foster.”

So as Christmas trees sprout around us, and lights twinkle in the night, the Fosters are tired but well, and ready to get another year closer to fine...We send out love, and hope all is well with you. Hopefully we will talk to you before this time next year!

Daniel, Jennifer, Zack, Hannah, Patches, and Eightball