Out with the old decade, in with 2020!

And just like that, it’s time for the annual placeholder/checkin/happy new year post!

I still keep thinking I’ll use this space from time to time to share thoughts on various life items — good products I’ve run across, funny stories, travel hacks and stories, neighborhood nonsense, and social/political stuff — but those intentions tend to keep bumping up against the enemy of time. Life is busy. Other things tend to get priority. So we’ll see.

We visited three new places last year (Maui, Cape Town/South Africa, and Sydney/New South Wales/Australia) and those fairly long trips chewed up a lot of vacation time and let us grab cheap Gold premier status on United.

One last time, anyway. It’s been a good run on the Continental, then United, loyalty program — we’ve seen a lot of places, gotten outsized value (until recent years anyway) on mileage redemptions, and managed to achieve Star Alliance Gold status (which improves the travel experience) on the cheap . However, United decided for 2020 that it doesn’t value cheap elites like us (we piled up lots of miles to places that were on sale while using a credit card waiver to make elite status possible without crazy spending). Instead, they have redesigned their loyalty program to reward high spenders and not actual mileage traveled, effectively firing us. Ah well!

We have a couple of options going forward. Right now, it’s still fairly easy to achieve Star Alliance gold status on the cheap through several other carriers. Aegean, the Greek carrier, is the one that’s most likely for us, as we try to get to Greece every couple of years and can satisfy the Aegean component of the requirements and use other carriers to pile up the needed mileage. So for now, that’s the tentative plan (albeit with NO travel booked yet for 2020). Given the trend of most loyalty programs to squeeze benefits (and value travelers like us), that may not be an option for a lot longer, in which case Option Two will be to fly as loyalty-free travelers much more often, and just use what tricks/hacks/buyups we can to improve the travel experience.

For either option, it’s really going to be a relief not to have to maintain my old PQM spreadsheet and obsess over whether we’ll have enough butt-in-seat United miles to achieve the status we want by year end. It’s the end of an era that treated us well, but hardly the end of the world!

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The grilling and barbeque skills continued to develop this year. In addition to my favorite Lodge Sportsman’s grill the old-school Weber kettle was upgraded with these Craycort cast iron grates that I can’t recommend enough. The performance is comparable to the Lodge grill, but you can cook a lot more quantity at once. The Weber Smokey Mountain also remains a great investment a few years in now — I love the brisket, pork butts, and occasional other goodies I smoke in that bad boy. And I’ve developed my own distinct take on Texas BBQ.

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We organized the annual July 4 parade in our neighborhood last year and it went well enough that the former organizers of the parade (before some people tried to break it) decided we were the new permanent organizers. Challenge accepted! LoL

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Work life is work life… it pays the bills, and they seem to listen to me a little more these days. I have discovered that these bad boys make life a little better in our semi-open office environment and shop that’s embraced MS Teams and Teams calls. Do they look a little goofy in the office? Yes. Do they drown out noise/distractions and allow for high quality listening? Yes. Thankfully, I am generally only in the office a few days per week and otherwise have the flexibility to work remotely.

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We did get blogHOUSTON going more regularly in 2019, so do check over there. And also check out the READING links I put in the right sidebar here. I never get around to blogging about most of the links, but I do tend to find them interesting reads for one reason or another.

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Markets were up nearly 30% last year (and I narrowly beat the market with my investments, so… yay). So much for Orange Man destroying market value. But there’s always 2020, one supposes! And one of the few goods things about the years continuing to pass is that I am eligible for extra (catch-up) 401k contributions next year. Life in the fast lane. LoL

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So with that excitement, time to wrap this up. Thanks for dropping in. Please keep up with stuff on bH, facebook, and twitter (if you care to).