Executive Summary

We are well. Things are better. The best is yet to come.

The long version

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Dear Friends, Those of you who are following our yearly adventures will remember that for the last two years we have been pretty unhappy, mainly because of our betrayal at the hands of Nancy Chaffin. Well we have basically left all that behind this year, and are getting back on track with enjoying our lives, our animals, and each other.
Nadine, Mary, and Henry at
    Tangos Restaurant

We had a lot of visitors this year, beginning with Nadine's mom, Mary. In fact she likes it here so much, she came twice this year, once in February, and again in October. When she's not out buying chachkas with Nadine, she will often just sit on our patio alternating between reading a book and looking up at the view. Speaking of the view, I've mounted a nice high resolution (1280x960) camera on my roof, which will snap a photo every ten minutes and send it here. So if you want to see what the weather is like, just have a click.

Mary is always gracious enough to take us to a deluxe restaurant during her trip, and this time we went to Tango's a wonderful place that has delicious Argentine cuisine. Gracias suegra.

A bat feasting on my hummingbird feeder I'm not sure why, but I've always like birds. I dream about how great it would to be able to fly around like they do. In particular, I love hummingbirds, so I put up a hummingbird feeder outside the window to my office. First thing in the morning, there is alway a gladiator battle between the hummingbird that has claimed the feeder (whom we named Spartacus) and all other usurpers. Every morning I also noticed that Spartacus must be eating very well, for the feeder was empty. Doing a quick mass calculation, since the feeder held 750ml of syrup, assuming Spartacus consumed 3/4 of it, or 500ml, that would mean he would be consuming about a pound of syrup a day. I know hummingbird metabolism is high, but to burn that amount of fuel would be amazing. I decided there must be a feeder raider involved, so I sat out at night for about 20 minutes with my camera. This was the best picture I could get, because those bats sure are fast. Unlike the hummingbirds with perch on the feeder and repeatedly dip their beaks, bats feed on the fly. A magnificent spider, part of the area wildlife Bats aren't the only interesting wildlife we have here at home. I've never seen such varied insect (and arachnid), life forms. Pictured here is one that passed away, which made it easy for me to pose her for a photo. I inquired on the local bulletin board about it, and was told it is a golden-orb web spider. That reminds me, one habit I have learned since living here is alway to step on top of my house shoes before putting my feet inside. I wouldn't want to surprise any scorpions that might be taking a snooze in a warm, dark place.
Taking in a ball game at the new Reno Baseball Stadium with our friends Mike and Barbara In May, we decided to take a trip to the USA. There were several things going on that required our attention. For one, we hadn't seen our friends and neighbors, Mike and Barbara Heffner for almost a year, and we missed them. Normally we would stay right next door to them, since they are our next door neighbors, but we rented out our house early this year, and so we got to stay even closer to them, in their downstairs guest bedroom. While there, we consumed prodigious amounts of champagne and margaritas, solved all of the worlds problems, and played cutthroat games like "catch phrase." We also joined them for a visit to the new Reno baseball stadium, where I was able to endure a couple of innings. I remember asking my mom what baseball was when I was little. She said It's a game where a bunch of men hit a ball with a stick and jump around on pillows. Family reunion at Mary's house in Simi Valley, with Ross and Nadine As part of this trip, Nadine made a detour to visit her mom and sister in Simi Valley. Mary was hosting a family reunion at her house, so Nadine had a great time visiting with her mom, sister, brother, and cousins, nieces, and nephews. Meanwhile, my friend, Juan Antonio and I, were acting as judges for the 2010 IETF Science Fair. Once again it was nice and humbling to talk to high school kids who knew more math than I did even right after graduating as a math major in 1975. I'm still trying to keep the little grey cells alive, by continuing to work my way through the Euler Project problems. So far I've solved 201 out of 316. They are getting harder though.
Nadine with our babys at our home away from home, the vets office

Where we live may change, who we like (and trust) may change, but our love for our babies will never change. Here's Nadine at our home away from home, the vet's office. This isn't the maximum number of dogs she has had on her lap. That record was attained with the addition of yet another Italian Greyhound named Lacy a few years ago.

Nadine on the sofa with her tranquilizer dogs

Usually though she isn't that popular. Venus is Nadine's shadow, and wherever Venus goes, her boyfriend Adonis isn't far away. Here they are worrying about world peace, the Great Recession, what to do about Afghanistan, and whether or not to take a nap.

A couple of other things might be worth mentioning here. Since I'm a tennis animal, I finally got myself into at match every weekday, sometimes twice a day. It was great fun while it lasted, but somewhere along the line I managed to bruise (or otherwise damage) my Achilles tendon. Man, that was painful, and it took forever to heal. I'm back playing again now, but trying to limit myself to 3 days per week. It also looks like I'm going to participate in a seniors tournament to be held next February. Seniors? How the hell did that happen. It was just a couple of years ago that my friend Bob and I were thrown off some private courts we used to play on during high school.

Another noteworthy happening took place in September, during my tennis layoff. A friend of mine teaches math at one of the local (private) high schools. He was going off on vacation, and was looking for a substitute to take his place. I eagerly volunteered. It was always my intention, ever since college, to be a math teacher, and this was my chance. So with great enthusiasm I entered the classroom, eager to empower my students with the grace, beauty and power of mathematics. In addition to their regular curriculum, I had prepared extra material about the Koenigsberg bridge problem, the Jordan Curve theorem, and various other mathematical tidbits and treasures. Boy was I going to get a rude awakening.

Let's put it this way, the good students in the class were the ones that fell asleep and didn't bother anyone else. I learned after the first day that if they had their head on their desk, or were listening to music on their ipods, to just leave them alone. On a not so good day, I sent over 80% of the class to the principals office. I decided to see just how much math they really knew, so I prepared an exam for them. It was then that I discovered that while most of class could multiply numbers, few could divide. Algebra - weak, geometry - weaker, Trig - non existent. I guess I'm really lucky I listened to my mother and went into business rather than pursue a teaching career. Thanks Mom.

Nadine and Samantha ten short years ago in 2000 Nadine, Bruno, Henry, and Samantha, in 2010

In July we had another visitor, namely Samantha, Cindy's daughter and our niece. I first met Samantha just a few weeks after she was born. Cindy brought her along for a visit when we lived in Kentfield, CA, and Samantha was not a happy camper. She cried, and cried, and cried. It was so bad, we took her to the emergency room at Marin General Hospital. The only thing that would soothe her was when I held her in my arms and walked around the waiting room, doing the shake and jiggle. The photo on the left is Samantha about ten years ago, while the one on the right is her today.

Bruno with a small libation Samantha with a small libation

While they were here, Bruno showed Samantha the sights. One of which is a boat trip to a small island that we can see from our patio called Scorpion Island. It isn't really inhabited, except during the day when it is some kind of tourist attraction. One of the attractions is a small drink served in little bamboo cup, which both Bruno and Samantha decided to sample.

Bruno proudly showing off his banner for his dog school

Speaking of Bruno, he as also made multiple visits to the Mecca of Chapala, and we always enjoy seeing him. He is continuing to pursue his dream of opening a dog training school in Mazatlan, and is making great progress, as you can see.

Juan Anotonio is always happy to arrive at his home away from home Juan Antonio, with his friends Luis Javier and Carlos, for his birthday

Our friend, Juan Antonio, also makes frequent pilgrimages to Lake Chapala. Perhaps for view, for the company, or for the lemon drops, but this time for his birthday. His college buddies, Luis Javier and Carlos always join him to celebrate the passing of another year. This time we went to another great Argentine restaurant, where we did our best to eat an entire cow.

Graph of Henry's weight as a function of time Needless to say, all of this celebrating has taken it's toll on the waistline. It was before our trip to Mazatlan that I read about an internet connected scale. A little research brought me to withings.com, the creators of a scale that keeps track of your weight, lean mass, fat mass, and body mass index, and automatically uploads the data to their web site. So my goal is to fit back into the clothes that I brought with me from Mazatlan, which seem to have gotten drastically smaller since their arrival in this drier climate. As you can see from the graph above, I am making progress, but I still have a ways to go. I'm happy to report that Nadine is joining me on this quest, and has her own graph which she prefers to keep private. However she has joined the local swimming pool, and is taking killer water aerobics three times a week. I'm keeping the tux I bought in 1985 (with a 29" waist) just in case.
At Sr. Pepper's restaurant in Mazatlan, courtesy of Bruno and Jezabel
In November, we decided to take a trip to Mazatlan, partly for business, to get our house ready for sale, and to visit our friends, most of whom we haven't seen for about a year now. We took the overnight bus from Guadalajara to Mazatlan. Nadine and I both took a sleeping pill when we boarded the bus, and woke up 5 minutes later in Mazatlan, an 8 hour drive. We stayed at the Marina El Cid hotel, and while we were there we made sure to invite our Mazatlan friends over for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

The trip was great. Bruno had been living at our house and did an incredible job overseeing the repairs and upgrades. We had a meeting with a bunch of real estate agents at the house, and all felt that the house was a good value and should sell quickly. It is in perfect working order, and after Bruno's hard work looks brand new. Better, in fact, than when we lived there. Gracias hijo. We also met Bruno's new novia while we were there, a delightful young woman named Jezebel. She is the beauty sitting between Bruno and me in the first photo. The other beauty is of course my sweet baboo, Nadine.

Christmas time is Nadine's favorite time of the year. Last year our Christmas was pretty miserable. We were brand new here, still reeling from Nancy's betrayal, and all around unhappy campers. This year we decided it would be different. We bought a live tree, decorated it with lights and ornaments while decorating ourselves with hot mulled wine, and played Christmas carols to get into the holiday spirit. We also made reservations for Christmas dinner at Ajijic's best restaurant, Number 4. It was a great excuse to get all dressed up and have a wonderful meal.

What would a Christmas letter from the Laxen's be without a little philosophizing at the end. I came across this photo while surfing the net, and had to copy it for my archives. The original did not have the red circle, but I added it just to make it easier to find our planet. I like to look at it every time I start to think how wonderful and important I am. I wish every pope, rabbi, ayatollah, and other self-important SOB would take a few minutes to stare at that photo and ponder, just how important is the whole human race, let alone their ridiculous vision of what it should be. I used to go scuba diving in the ocean, and watched sea lions play with a turtle, using it as a Frisbee and tearing its legs off in the process. It was then that I realized that the ocean really didn't care if I lived or died. I was just a tiny speck in the vast Pacific ocean, and my existence was totally irrelevant. That is the same feeling I get when I see this photo, except that it applies to the entire human race. Would the universe care if life on this tiny speck was extinguished? Would anyone even notice? I rather doubt it. Yet here we are, thinking ourselves the center of all things. Some of us killing our neighbors because they don't believe in the same faith we believe in. Some religious leaders are willing to go to war because their particular God commanded them to do so. It would be silly if it weren't so sad. It is time we take the religion out of our politics and stop listening to God's commandments, especially when they tell us to commit atrocities of unimaginable scale. The great thing about being an atheist is that you can't blame God for your crazy actions, nor can you commit crimes on his behalf. You have to take responsibility for yourself and your own actions. Let's All Hope For Peace On Earth!

Quote of the day:
Do Not Disturb signs should be written in the language of the hotel maids.
Tim Bedore

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