Trending: Elon Musk tweets a sneak peek at his vision for SpaceX’s Starship mega-rocket

A quick rundown of stories and offbeat tidbits catching our attention this morning …

Pet and animal lovers can now get all of their comedy offerings in one spot as Cheezburger Network today unveiled Meme Animals. The new site from the Seattle comedy network (best known for I Can Has Cheezburger) is described as a “meme-nagerie of famous Internet critters.” Mashable notes that the new site will compete with Reddit’s Advice Animals, which also showcases various animal memes.

Erado, a 17-year-old Renton company that specializes in archiving social media conversations, emails and instant messages on behalf of corporations, said this week that it plans to hire as many as 30 new employees in 2012. Earlier this week, the 14-person company announced a partnership with  Quest CE, a provider of compliance training to the financial services industry.

It certainly is a tight labor market right now for talented software engineers. So, Seattle’s EnergySavvy is taking to the slopes, literally. The company said it will pay for a two-night stay to Whistler, B.C. at the Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside resort for anyone who refers a developer or designer to the company who ends up getting hired. It also plans to toss in $500 in spending money.

And speaking of the slopes, former Expedia CEO Erik Blachford has joined the board of Liftopia, a San Francisco startup that describes itself as the “largest online marketplace for discounted ski lift tickets and mountain activities.” The company today launched a new iPhone app that allows skiers to get deals on lift tickets, and browse snow conditions at more than 150 popular ski resorts. Liftopia says that it offers up to 80 percent discounts on lift tickets.

Big Fish Games has released its latest title for the iPhone and iPad, a physics-based puzzle game dubbed Amazing Napoleon’s Great Escape from Tiny Places. Developed by Iceland-based Gogogic, game players guide the main character, an acrobatic chameleon named Napoleon, from peg to peg while avoiding obstacles and falling objects. Take a look in this trailer:

Speaking of mobile games, PopCap Games today released a holiday update for the iPhone for Plants vs. Zombies. The update, which features characters in festive hats, adds “I, Zombie” mode in which game players can play on the zombie side of the garden. It also includes leaderboards, so game players can compare their scores to fans and other players. The Seattle gaming company earlier this week announced that Plants vs Zombies and Peggle would be available in the Android Market.

Remember that Fortune report that Bill Gates might consider a return to Microsoft? Yeah, it ain’t happening. “I’m part-time involved with Microsoft, including even being in touch this week to give some of my advice but that’s not going to change – the foundation requires all of my energy and we feel we’re having a great impact,” Gates tells the Sydney Morning Herald. (By the way, GeekWire’s Todd Bishop concluded earlier this month that a comeback by Gates was unlikely).

President Obama. (White House photo)

Ah, it kind of sucks to live in the White House under the supervision of the president. According to People magazine, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama do not allow their daughters, Sasha or Malia, to use Facebook. It also sounds like the White House is in need of a major tech upgrade, with President Obama saying that a DVR was just installed in the second floor family quarters. “We’re a little bit behind,” he said.

Amazon Web Services has launched a new hub in Brazil, the eighth region where the Seattle company has launched its cloud computing platform. It marks the first AWS facility in South America for Amazon.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs missed out at being named Time magazine’s Person of the Year. But the iPhone and iPad creator is getting some props from Barbara Walters who named Jobs the most fascinating person of 2011. “It’s hard to imagine there ever being anyone quite like him again,” Walters said.

Wetpaint said today that its Wetpaint Entertainment unit, an online media outlet for fans of TV shows, is now attracting more than six million unique visitors per month. That’s a 220 percent increase over the same period last year. The company is led by former Blue Nile executive Ben Elowitz.

As Zynga positions for an IPO on Friday, Reuters takes a detailed look at how the social gaming company’s fortunes are directly tied to Facebook. Reuters notes: “From an investment perspective, ignoring the fact that all but 5% of Zynga’s $828 million in revenue in the first nine months of this year came from Facebook could be detrimental.”

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