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Christmas Letter 2005

Dear Friends and Family...

If last year was a big year of change, then this year was two big years of change crammed into one. Every single member of the family has moved on to a new level in their lives and all for the better.

However, in doing so, we've all been just a tad busy and so should collectively apologise to absolutely everyone for not being as in touch as we could have hoped to be. We have almost reached the end of the huge and wide ranging Chaos Central upgrade whose sole purpose was to get us to the point where we can actually start doing things again. Once this is finished, we should be able to get on with not just doing things here but also touching base with friends and family across the globe.

Please note that we now have two addresses, but any mail sent to either house will get to its intended victim.

Hal

Hal C F Astell began the year cycling to work in short sleeves at 6.00am and revelling in the knowledge that everyone else in Phoenix has to bundle up in blankets whenever the temperature drops below eighty. After working many short term contracts throughout the year, he is now working on a long term basis with Wells Fargo in Chandler, AZ, as part of their Identity Management team, involved with Active Directory migrations. This is of course wonderful news but the inevitable down side is that the Wells Fargo Trend (WFT) of abbreviating Absolutely Everything Possible (AEP) into Three Letter Abbreviations (TLAs) has led him to suffer from an acute outbreak of PAS (Pointless Acronym Syndrome). Please BWM*.

In his spare time Hal jumped through more hoops for the immigration authorities than can comfortably be imagined and almost got thrown out of the country for his pains, something entirely unrelated to his poor attempts not to giggle when asked to stand and swear an oath that he didn't enter the USA for the express purpose of bringing down George W Bush (POS).

In hindsight, he has become an expert on the workings (or lack of such) of the immigration system. It seems that every individual working for what is now the CIS (formerly the INS, part of the BHS) knows their job inside out, but due to incessant reorganisation in the shadow of 9/11 these people no longer have the faintest idea how their job connects to any other. Therefore doing exactly what he was told over a period of three years turned out to be a Really Bad Move (RBM). It led to a loss of permission to work and almost to a green card being declined. Luckily the forced lack of ability to earn any money meant that Dee got a job and that turned out to be all that immigration needed all along. Go figure.

On a happier note, Hal's travelogue through the history of cinema is now over 100,000 words and going strong. His cinematic knowledge has increased scarily, though with much still to learn, and he has become a fan of stars and genres that he had previously not even heard of, such as Larry Semon, Warren William and the films of the pre-code era.

He has also spent a huge amount of time revamping his website, updating it and adding a massive amount of new content that includes family history, in depth articles, old projects, new projects and always more writing. It will all be online by the time you read this, at http://www.dawtrina.com, with more in the pipeline.

With broadband internet access imminent, the only remaining downside to life is that by extension lack of income has also meant lack of table tennis, lack of badminton and lack of usable holes left on his belt. 99c Whoppers at Burger King don't help either.

* Bear With Me

Dee

Denise Astell (formerly Flanders) is once again a working woman. She is a Teaching Assistant for the Alhambra Middle School district, working at Westwood Elementary School both with kindergarten children and additionally one on one with a handicapped girl called Sara. If that doesn't make her sound like a candidate for Miss World I don't know what does. She also seems to bring home new artwork every day, most of which is her own.

Beyond remaining a chauffeur, a babysitter and a mediator, circumstances have also led to Dee becoming something of a mechanic, a plumber and a financial wizard, leading to Hal making a desperate attempt to appear at least slightly useful by doing the dishes. Out of undying gratitude he still reads her to sleep at night, currently from Robert A Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

She remains active as a goodwill fairy at The Site Fights, working under the nom de plume of D'FlutterFairy, and is attracting more and more notice for her online cartoon doll shops. You can find them, amongst many other things, at her website, which lives at http://www.wickedwinks.com/. As an avid collector of lighthouses in all shapes and sizes, she plans during 2006 to seriously extend the section of her site that deals with lighthouse history. However her obsessions have now extended to adopting not just lighthouses but any stray toy penguin she may find, making a penguin section of her site all the more likely.

She is still a very happy grandma and has decided that if she could do it all over again she would become a grandmother before a mother. After all grandmas can enjoy and spoil their grandchildren and then send them home just when they start getting cranky - with a token noisy toy or two, naturally. Grin.

Ivy

Ivy Chapman, better known as the Oobs (for ´┐ŻberBaby), is about to enjoy her second Christmas as our only grandchild. She was a large baby to start with yet continues to grow at a rate of knots, suggesting that Godzilla features somewhere in her family tree. She is consistently advanced in everything she does, and has a penchant of posing for photos at any random moment. As long as she can survive picking up kittens who don't know how to retract their claws, she may just go on to rule the world.

Heather

Heather Flanders will turn twenty one next month and she, Greg and Ivy are now living with his parents. She is currently working at Radio Shack and mastering the fine art of being a working mom.

Michael

It's a scary realisation but Michael Flanders is now eighteen years old and thus a legal adult. Be afraid, be very afraid. He graduated from West Phoenix High School a year early but promptly went back anyway to work in the office. His reward for early graduation turned out to be a phone call from Alice Cooper (yes, that Alice Cooper). Unfortunately he wasn't home to receive the call but fortunately he can now listen to Alice singing 'School's Out for Michael' on voice mail any time he likes. The rumour that we hired a hitman to assassinate Alice before he could make a further call to sing 'You're eighteen and you can do what you want' on his birthday is entirely groundless.

Michael has now fulfilled all requirements to become a Teaching Assistant and has recently moved across to work in the same school district (though not the same school) as his mother. We're practicing sibling rivalry a generation removed. My class is bigger than your class. So there.

Michael and his girlfriend Karen are happily taking care of our 6129 West Pierce Street address, but he hasn't seen the bill yet.

Shawn

Shawn Flanders graduated from middle school this year and is now a freshman at West Phoenix High School, becoming in the process the sixth West Phoenix student to not speak English as a second language and the third West Phoenix Flanders. Any more and we'd probably win a prize. He has a lot to do to outdo his sister and brother but he's certainly started off on the right foot.

He now has his own room and his own DVR and is thoroughly enjoying having his own space for the first time in his life. Amazingly enough we can still see floor, but this is such a miraculous spectacle that we expect pilgrimages Real Soon Now.

The wrestling fixation continues and we should soon be able to start attending shows put on by the local IZW federation. How long it will take before Shawn gets hired as their token hyperactive commentator is a matter for sweepstakes.

Ladies and Germs

The biggest change to the household has been a steady influx of animals, so many that we think the Pied Piper of Phoenix has got lost in the front yard. Joining Pern and Catzilla inside Chaos Central are Nubian Princess (aka Noobs, who walked in as if she owned the place), I-10 (so named because we rescued him from the slip road to the interstate of that name where he had been dumped as a kitten) and Fuzzball (aka TC for Too Cute, who followed Hal home from work at four o'clock one morning).

There are also daily visitors to our front yard, including Warwick the Kingmaker (surely Fuzzball's father, who is a battered but very friendly old warhorse), Siameasy (aka Pyewacket) and, lately, the Calico Twins, an unknown black bundle of fur and a couple of frenetic kittens with obvious squirrel blood. And that's just the felines: Anakin the turtle is outnumbered.

Back at 6129, Nicky the family dog still rules the roost but now has to contend with a canine interloper known as Spud (or Stumpy) and another cat called Eeyore (or Butterscotch). Then there's Dwight Frye (Michael's second snake) just to vary the mix.

How many animals will have taken over the houses during 2006? Answers on the back of an extravagantly large cheque please.

Contact

As always, we look forward to hearing from you in the future and hope that you'll look forward to hearing from us too. Our old contact details will continue to work but here are the current best bets:

e-mail:
Hal - hal@dawtrina.com
Dee - dee@wickedwinks.com
Michael - fuzznubb@aol.com

web:
Hal - http://www.dawtrina.com/
Dee - http://www.wickedwinks.com/

From all of us at Chaos Central, we hope you're enjoying a particularly Merry Christmas already and that it will soon be followed by an astoundingly Happy New Year. 2006 looks like being Our Year. We hope it'll be your year too.


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