Huffman Coding

… with a bunch of Family Stuff too

2011 Holiday Letter

December 2011


Each year in preparation for writing this annual letter, I take down the family calendar from the master bedroom wall and scour each of the last twelve months for all the important stuff to mention. Figuring you gentle readers have no interest in me regaling about gymnastics practices, piano lessons or hair appointments, I think I’m going to wing it from memory. Reviewing my year’s worth of twitter updates won’t get me anywhere either unless you want me to discuss cat vomit.

The big event this year was our two and half week trip in July to China with Katie and Claire. We were part of a tour group that visited the tourist stops in Beijing, Guangzhou and a handful of cities in central China. In between cities, our family separated from the group for a couple of overnights to visit each girl’s orphanage and founding location. For the trip I resurrected my blog, so you can see each day’s activities at

The trip entries started on the first of July, so you have to click on “Older Entries” to see all of them. More pictures have been posted on Facebook if you are willing to acknowledge my existence there.

Cruise on the Li River

In the tea fields

Katie and Ya Yun, a 11 month old panda

Ya Yun with Claire

On the Sleeper Train to Guangzhou

During our trip to China, Marissa was in Upper Sandusky and caught a huge catfish. Her grandfather reluctantly cleaned it and it is still in the freezer for a future meal. Yeah, right. This makes up for the trip two years ago, when Chris and I took Marissa to Vietnam to see her birth mother and left the other two at home. To make sure we have all the bases covered, Chris is going to take me to Grant Hospital next year to see where I was born.

Marissa Picking Apples

Back on the home front, all of the girls continue in gymnastics. Marissa is the only one who still competes at meets with the other two just practicing recreationally each week. Marissa has gotten contacts and Katie has swapped glasses for braces. The latter should remain for at least another year. Until she rebels more than she currently does, Claire continues to take piano lessons.

Marissa on the Balance Beam

The kids are doing great in school. One chicken wire, baking soda and food-coloring volcano completed in spring, two to go I suppose. The eighth graders went on a trip to Washington D.C. with about half of their classmates. They both tell me the highlight of their trip was not any place they visited, but just hanging out with their friends. Obviously the trip was a meaningful educational experience for them.

They appear to be typical teenage girls and have gotten into the middle school social scene by attending the high school football games with their cliques on Friday nights and frequenting the local mall on the weekends. While waiting for an older daughter to complete her loitering the mall, Claire and I would make ourselves scarce at by visiting every department store and bouncing on every bed on display. I should clarify that it was mostly Claire who did the bouncing.

While I put up valiant resistance for months, Chris and the girls eventually broke me, and the family got a second cat at the local animal shelter. Claire wanted to call the gray cat Lavender, which struck me as incongruous, so we put naming rights up for a family vote and finally settled on Misty after multiple rounds of elimination. In hindsight, I should have suggested she be named Nermal, after the comic strip cat that annoys the Garfield. Ostensibly we got the second cat so Cooper wouldn’t be lonely, but she and Cooper hiss and chase each other and do not get along. The same is true for Marissa and Katie, but we ended up keeping both of them too.

That fancy road bike that I special ordered for Katie last Christmas stayed in the garage during Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure as Katie just didn’t want to give up the comfort of the tandem’s stoker seat yet. So this year I tag teamed it again with Claire taking the first few days of the week and Katie riding with me for the remainder. The route went through Upper Sandusky, so for a Monday afternoon Claire played at grandma’s house while I rode the tandem by myself into the next town to the puzzled looks of my fellow participants. I ate for two that afternoon. Who am I kidding; I eat for two every day of GOBA.

I didn’t do the Pelotonia ride in August as I threatened to do in last year’s letter. The support I was hoping for from my employer never materialized and there was a reason for that. Kentrox had another round of layoffs in August, the eleventh since I started, with a crazy number let go from the company. The company, which at one time had 450 employees, was down to fifty. I survived again with only one other developer on my project, but I had lost faith in the company’s ability to conduct business and decided it was time to move on. As of October I have been employed at Big Lots at their corporate headquarters. It seems like it will be a fine place to work once I get used to the change in scenery, although it is quite a bit more corporate than the telecommunications industry I’ve been used to for seventeen years.

So at this time of year, I am reminding myself that change is good, especially if you have an understanding and supportive family surrounding you. My hope for this season is that you too are weathering life’s changes and have the love of family to keep you in good spirits.

With warmest thoughts,

Ken, Chris, Marissa, Katie, Claire, Cooper and Misty

Waiting for Santa