The Coyne'r'Butch Christmas Letter 2013

  Hi, Everyone! It's another Christmas letter from Coyne'r'Butch.

May the hope that was born that silent, holy night remain in your heart throughout the year.

Merry Christmas

Wyoming is C-c-c-c-cold!!

So this year I went to Sheridan, Wyoming for Thanksgiving, to visit family. I was there from November 22nd to December 6th.

On the 3rd it snowed. First it was melty, so it would build up a nice layer of wet slush that would freeze into a layer of rough ice. Then it was wet snow (about an inch) that would freeze into a crust. Then more snow on top of that, almost seven inches total.

And it turned cold. I mean really, really cold. The night of the 3rd it was −11°! The 4th it went down to −21°, and the 5th it dropped to −25°! The 6th I drove to Billings, Montana and stayed overnight for my flight the next day because it was so cold; not because I couldn't stand it but because I was afraid my rental car would freeze solid (that night, it dropped to −28° in Sheridan and was −21° in Billings).

(Rental company advice: "Well it should start, but maybe you might want to get up and start it randomly a couple of times at night..." Well, I just turned it in the evening of the 6ththey can go start it randomly!)

As I said at the time, I knew it was possible I would get to see a little winter going to Wyoming this time of year. But that is a lot of winter! (Especially given the time of year.)

The Trip to Billings

"I drove to Billings." Such a simple statement.

Of course, there was another reason I drove to Billings on the 6th: Because the roads were bad (closed the 4th) and I was concerned about travel time. Yes, my flight left at 1:00 (on the 7th) but I needed to be there at least by 12; and if it takes four hours to drive (which it could have), well that's kind of an early departure with no margin for ... error.

From Sheridan, Wyoming to Crow Agency, Montana (about 60 miles) conditions on Interstate 90 were poor to fair. Filled with idiots (such as your's truly) going sometimes 50...55...60, with (mostly) two wheels on dry pavement (on one side of the lane) and the other wheels running on an inch of ice; driving in the passing lane because the other lane was solid ice.

At Crow Agency, the road got better. Maybe it was too cold when it started snowing for melting or something. Anyway, the roadway was clear and dry, good conditions, and we could drive normal speeds.

About 15 miles out from Billings, the roads got ugly: Packed shiny ice and slick as watermelon seeds. There were two accidents within a mile in the Pryor Creek area.

Driving 45 maximum (and that was probably insane) and watching people pass me at 65 or 70 (which was something akin to a death wish) I observed something odd: We passed the first accident, and these idiots are still going 65 and 70. When we came upon the second accident, suddenly everone slowed down to 40. So what does that mean? That it takes two accidents to convince the average idiot that conditions are hazardous?

In the end, an intense and tiring 3-hour trip. Normal speed limit: 75. Distance: 126 miles. Average speed: Less than 45 MPH overall. I was glad when it was over.

Family in Sheridan

About a fifth of the pigeons my Mom is feeding...
About a fifth of the pigeons my mom is feeding...

...and about half the ducks.
...and about half the ducks.
So I saw a quite a few family members while in Sheridan.

I stayed with my mother, Maggie. She still gets around quite a bit, though she now has to use a walker when outside. She still feeds her two inside cats (Callie and Snooky), an outside cat or two, a legion of birds (right), ducks, squirrels, and even two or three deer come to mooch.

My sister Diane and her husband Glenn are getting by. She still works at Walmart.

My sister Susan and her husband Mars are well. Their son Gabriel is a teenage handful, but seems a good kid. Susan is also in the process of trying to assume responsibility for some of my brother Mike's brood. We'll see how that goes.

My brother Mike is busy as ever, still running around in the deep night on his way to the drilling rig.

My nephew Bryce and his wife, Nadia, visited with their youngster, Hamish. My grand nephew; and here's a concept to make you feel old: I am a great uncle (sigh: old).

My nephew Curtis dropped by for a while. He seems well and happy.

I didn't get to see my niece Heather and her husband Lane O'Connell, but hear they are well.

I saw my niece, Jennica, and my nephew, Michael Coyne (MC) for a while. She seems happy and MC is likely to be a bigger computer brain than I am. But I didn't see my nephew Christopher. I'm told he is improving steadily, despite all his challenges.

Family in California

My sister Elizabeth (Beth) Welsh and her husband Harold live in San Bernadino. Their son, Paul, just did a wonderful (I'm told) talent show presentation and is a budding zoologist; he also does orgami. Their other son, Dante, sent me a picture which was made entirely of letters of the alphabet; I suspect I'm supposed to see more in it (but too dumb...and he's only three).


I'm still at Florida Hospital, working in the business computing area. I spent a while this year working on a Java application, which was fun, but right now I'm back to work in COBOL, interfacing our accounts payable with a service company.

Roses in the Snow?

Roses in the Snow?
Roses in the Snow?
So is this really roses in the snow? Sure looks like it, doesn't it? But no: It's actually some mini-roses growing in my Mom's window sill, with a snowy background outside. There was plenty of snow by the time this was taken, remember?

Perception can be decieving...and so many people take advantage of that. In fact, more and more, it looks like our entire society is built on deception. Like this picture...

Roses in the Snow (original)?
The Original Picture
Let's compare the original as taken by my camera phone (only resized smaller). Things you might notice:
  • The image above is cropped out of the middle of the original (can't see that window frame anymore).
  • The roses are a much brighter red (higher contrast).
  • Where do you suppose that—"past-prime"—rose went?

It wasn't even that hard: Just 10-15 minutes in an image processor program (GIMP) and, presto, a much prettier picture overall. (It might occur to you to wonder about the duck and pigeon pictures above, but I only cropped those...promise.)

Well, we seem to live in a world where everyone is enamoured of PhotoShop and its equivalent:

  • Where politicians pay specialists to clean derogatory information out of Wikipedia.
  • Where businessmen sue or fine people who speak out about their abuses.
  • Where companies that make their living ruining the environment run commercials talking about how "green" they are.
  • Where bureaucrats lie to congress and the press to conceal bad news.
  • Where the press itself defends its right to lie to the readers.
Of course, we haven't even discussed the web yet, which has been called, the "Web of Lies".

Probably the biggest story of the year is the one involving the NSA and Edward Snowden. Personally, I think Snowden is just a whistleblower who has done his best to expose abuses of the NSA while exposing nothing absolutely critical. But what he has mostly exposed is lies: Lie upon lie upon lie: The NSA and its bureaucrats tell lies like some people eat popcorn. They lie to congress, they lie to the press, they lie to the people; I wouldn't be surprised if they lie to themselves (and both believe and disbelieve the lies).

When confronted with the truth, they retreat to another lie: First they didn't record anything on citizens; then they admitted that, yes, they recorded some stuff on citizens, but only if the citizen was related to a foreign national somehow; then they admitted they recorded some stuff on many citizens who weren't tied to foreign nationals, but only with a specific warrant; and then they were forced to admit they recorded stuff on citizens with blanket warrents, but don't worry...not all citizens! Now, in some of the latest revelations, we find out they recorded phone call data on—yes—all citizens in several programs...which they've admitted, "But don't worry, we only record metadata, not the calls themselves."

...and if you belive that, believe me, I have a bridge to sell you! The NSA fills, by their own admission, the equivalent of 28 thousand desktop computer hard drives with data every day. You're welcome to think that's only "metadata"; but I think it's more than that.

But then we come full circle: Whatever you or I might think, the NSA figures we'll be happy so long as we don't know. Spin is everything to them; so long as they can tell a lie you might believe, they think you'll be happy. I said I thought Snowden was just a whistleblower, but NSA has no choice but to call him a traitor, because he's helping us know the truth.

I don't know if you're a Christian or not, but I am. I believe in the promises made by the Lord, as the only rock of truth. It's hard to see who we can trust in the world; and we see plenty of evidence of untrustworthiness every day.

But way back in Genesis, I'm told, is the first promise of a saviour, made to Adam and to Satan:

So the LORD God said to the serpent: "Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." (Genesis 3:14-15)
According to Answers in Genesis, the phrase, "...her Seed; He shall bruise your head...," is the promise of a saviour; the promise that one of Eve's descendents would crush the serpent (Satan's) head. That we would be saved.

Adam and Eve had just betrayed the Lord, after being deceived by Satan. The Lord's immediate response was the promise of a savior. It was a long time, but the promise was delivered...that's why we have Christmas.

Who can we depend on?

Merry Christmas
and a
Happy New Year.