We are tardy this year. The annual letter, supposed to be done around the end of November and distributed in December, wasn't done until the end of December. Oops. An interesting thing came from that, though. We checked our statistics page for the website and found that the 2nd most popular page was the "current letter" – meaning many of our friends looked at the site hoping / expecting to see our 2009 letter. That's a good news / bad news thing. The good news is that a lot of you come looking for our annual news and we thank you. The bad news is a lot of you figure that we forget to tell you we have news. Sorry about that; we try to get to all of you every year …
We mentioned last year that Rex was dying to go to the theme parks on the Gold Coast. We went at the beginning of the year and had a good time. These theme parks are good for Australia but not a patch on the ones in Anaheim or Orlando, but we managed to enjoy ourselves.
Usa continued as the manager of the school canteen, to rave reviews. Sales are up around 20% over the previous year and the school reported that the canteen made a profit for the first time, so they are very happy. In the school's annual survey the canteen scored high marks with over 90% approval rating from parents – again the best ever result for the canteen. During the school holidays Usa discovered the share market and was actively trading to make money. She reckoned that in the few weeks where she could look at the market she made as much money as she would have by working. It's good to be trading when the market is going up …
The other exciting event in 2009 for Usa was her 50th birthday. Neil planned and held a BBQ party at home and when she came in the door she was genuinely surprised. Many of her friends from the school were able to come, plus Neil's Dad and friends from the building we live in. Neil asked friends to bring a small salad dish and he organised and cooked the meat on the barbie. Even better (for him) no-one died or reported being sick the next day – a miracle considering Neil's BBQ skills.
Roger had another successful year at school and it was an important one as NSW has the School Certificate exams – something like the English "O" levels. He did well with results for most subjects in the 2nd highest decile, except for science where he placed in the top decile. Last year we mentioned that Roger likes heavy metal; he wants us to correct that by clarifying that he likes death metal – we apologize for the unfortunate miscommunication. To that end he went to several shows during the year, all of which had expensive tickets and Roger insisted on exacerbating the situation by spending more money buying band t-shirts and CDs. The good thing is that he works a few days a fortnight at the local Subway, so at least he is (mostly) spending his own money.
Last year Roger's highlight was the Jindabyne trip. This year he went on a school trip to Japan. It was a short trip of about 8 days. He had a great time visiting Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. Mosman High has a sister school in Osaka where the visitors attended classes for a few days and were also lucky enough to have home stays with families from the school.
Last year Rex's time revolved around singing, school and rugby. This year it revolved around singing, school, rugby and he added basketball to his repertoire. First, Neil learned hat Rex is not a singer – he is a vocalist. Apologies to anyone offended by the wrong choice of words. As a vocalist Rex had a rocky ride through the year. Mid way through the year he was convinced that he didn't want to continue in the special music class at school. He was graded as last in the class (15th place out of 15) and he wasn't enjoying it. His teacher, though, gave quite positive feedback encouraging some minor changes. Rex persevered, made the changes and the end of year results Rex was placed at 5th out of 15. In rugby he returned to his role as hooker and had a great year. He received the award for Most Improved Player on the team and the team came third in the competition. They beat their arch rivals in the semi finals (by one point) which made everyone's day. In that game Rex scored his first ever try, a wonderful solo effort from the back of the ruck when he ran 20 meters and palmed off an opposition player to cross the try line. It was a thing of beauty.
Rex progressed to high school this year and enjoyed it. He complained that too many primary school were immature and was happy to get to high school. As the year progressed he found that a lot of the kids at high school were the same ones that he spent time with in primary school – and guess what? Many of them were still immature …
He was talked into playing basketball with some friends after school and the team he played with went on to win their division. So Rex now has a championship ring for his effort. (Well, OK, it's winners trophy, not a ring, but the ring sounds so impressive.)
Last year Neil mentioned that HP acquired EDS. The formal transition took place in November (in Australia) so he is now an HP employee. Such joy. Talking to some long time HP people they say they haven't had a pay rise since 2001, so it doesn't seem to matter whether the company has a good or bad year the compensation stays the same. They also say that delivery people don't get bonuses, only business development folk. That sounds about right. Sadly, HP doesn't have a great financial services practice in Australia or Asia. So at the moment Neil is working on an assignment in a telecoms company.
At the end of the year Usa, Roger and Rex went to Thailand for 5 weeks. They are due back near the end of January, just in time to start the 2010 school year. Neil is enjoying 2 weeks of HP "Mandatory Leave" – meaning HP chooses his vacation time not him. It happens again at Easter. With Australian vacation policy (4 weeks) it means he gets to choose when he takes the remaining 2 weeks vacation.
We'll end the letter in the same way as last year. We wish you well and hope 2010 is a great year for you and for us.
Best wishes from the Gamble Family in Sydney and Thailand.
Neil, Usa, Roger and Rex