518 Channing Ave.
Palo Alto, CA 94301
January 4, 2009

Dear Friends and Family,

I've been quite the procrastinator this year and am finally getting around to writing my annual Christmas letter for 2008 more than a week after Christmas. So, happy New Year and a blessed Epiphany to all!

This year I've finally stopped carrying a little notebook in my back pocket to record my appointments. Instead, I've joined the 21st century and keep them on the computer at the office, synced to my cell phone. The new system works quite well for getting me places on time, but there's one drawback that didn't occur to me until it was time to write my Christmas letter: I can no longer quickly flip back through the pages and remind myself of the major events of the past year. So I'll have to do my best to remember in other ways.

Throughout 2008 the genealogy bug that bit me in mid-2007 has still had a strong hold. I've spent lots of time looking at both American and old German records to trace out ancestors as far back as I could manage, and then back downward to all the cousins I could find, however distant. At last count I had 3817 people in my family tree. This number includes not only blood relatives, but also their spouses and sometimes other in-laws. The oldest relative I've found by myself is a 3x-great-grandfather born in 1758, but I also have information from a second cousin on a line that we have in common which takes us back to a 6x-great-grandfather born in 1649. If you're a relative or just curious, you can follow links from my web site at tim-mann.org to see my tree, or to the "old family pictures" album in my photo gallery.

As a result of all this, I've made contact with a few distant cousins that I never knew about before, as well as renewing contact with some closer cousins who I hadn't seen much for a long time. Also, I visited Milwaukee twice this year, once in September when there's no snow on the ground and it's easier to travel to see relatives, walk around cemeteries looking at gravestone inscriptions, etc., and then again at Christmas time. Apologies to old friends that I didn't contact on these visits -- I was concentrating on seeing relatives, and I also spent a bunch of time at the Milwaukee library looking at microfilm that's not available out here.

Music was important in 2008 too. I got to play and sing a little with Elastic Sky, our house band at VMware. Also, for a while during the summer there were occasional acoustic jams at the Friday evening "bash" that we have at work every week, and I played at some of those with a variety of different musicians. I was able to go to a couple of music parties that a friend from the band at work often holds at his house, and I had a great time singing, playing, and listening to the other excellent musicians who were there.

Of course I also had my usual gig as song leader at Bible Camp, this time in July. Camp went well this year despite some smoke blowing in from the various California forest fires that were going on at the time. None of the fires were close enough to pose any danger to us, but we did have a few smoky mornings.

Work at VMware has been going fine, although we've been affected somewhat by the downturn in the economy like everyone else. Our products help other companies save money, so our sales have been hurt less than some computing firms, but they are still being slowed as people clamp down in the short term even on spending that would save them money in the longer term. In August I had the unusual (for me at least) responsibility to fly to Chicago on short notice and help a customer with a problem they were having. It turned out to be a good experience and definitely worthwhile, but it was rather stressful.

My cats Tessa and Kevin still are providing a lot of fun and affection. I think they've gotten a bit more used to me being away at times, but they still seem very glad to have me back when I return. They were especially affectionate when I came back after Christmas, and it hasn't worn off yet. Kevin (the black one) is bugging me right now to stop staring at the computer screen and pay attention to him instead.

My Christmas visit to my sister Mary in Milwaukee was great. Within less than 2 weeks I got to revisit a wide selection of typical Milwaukee winter weather patterns, with temperatures ranging from 1 to 50 degrees F and precipitation ranging from none, to rain, to heavy snow. Not to complain, though -- I really did enjoy it. I got to practice my snowblower and shoveling technique, and more fun, I also got a chance to go cross-country skiing with my niece Amy and her son Misha in a couple nearby parks. I could almost keep up with Amy after scraping some of the rust off my skills, but Misha (a junior in high school) ran rings around us both.

My best wishes to all for 2009! Love in Christ,

Tim Mann