We're baaaaack, with another installment to make lots of you happy you live a long way from Tuscaloosa. It's been another wild and crazy year, full of stuff you won't believe - but we have documents. Medical bills, animal photos, the odd police report... Let the games begin!
Christopher, about to turn 8, is still definitely a wildlife kind of guy. His catches this year include snakes (worm and garden varieties), three box turtles, 2 praying mantises, 2 anoles (those are the color-changing lizards that masquerade as cheap chameleons), a Tucson banded gecko, scorpion, black widow, wolf spider, American toad (he caught the same one twice), dozens of horse lubber grasshoppers, centipedes and millipedes, assorted worms, three kinds of tiny local pond fish, and that possum under the car got away. The armadillo up the block didn't, which is why it was only ever seen post mortem on the highway (not our fault)... Christopher's learning about tolerance from the fact that his teacher this year won't put up with snakes as well as his old one. He's in Cub Scouts now - want to buy some popcorn? How about Christmas trees for his school? Well, if not, they'll be along with candy or fruit sales soon. This kind of sale has supposedly been forbidden at the office to avoid any appearance of coercion; Bill learned this just after the associate dean came through selling things for his son. Terri is the den mother, so we're seeing the whole thing from very close up. All sorts of bits that Bill seems to have forgotten - when the manual says that the Bobcat badge should be pinned on the Scouts upside down, Bill thought that meant that the badge, not the Scout, should be upside own. The pack leader had to straighten him out on that.
Continuing his adventuresome life, Christopher took a tumble off some play gear in the gym at church and broke his arm. No, the other one. While we were in the service during the Super Bowl, which tells you how long it took to get the orthopedist there. They came to tell us during the service. Terri had to get us moving, as Bill was staring blankly at the wall. We've given up expressing wishes as to how long it will be before we see this particular doctor again. A few weeks later, he lost his first baby tooth in a restaurant. He's a real fan of barbecued ribs, so eating out is a popular way to encourage those loose teeth to let go.
Nathan has learned lots of new tricks; he turns 4 this week, so we're busy these days. Right after he learned where the computer power switch is, we lost a whole window. Put in another switch on the power strip after that. About the same time, the floppy disk drive got jammed up. Upon taking the whole thing apart, we found that problem - a coin in a square cardboard mount. See, it's square with a round thing in the middle... We are ecstatic to report that Nathan is out of diapers - so those of you with stock in some of those companies might want to unload it unless your family is contributing to the business. He likes day school twice a week, and likes Thomas the Tank Engine even more. He has popped up with some memorable sayings - like the time he turned at a restaurant and announced, "Science Rules!". What a kid. No prompting at all, probably just an overdose of Bill Nye the Science Guy. Bill got his when they were talking about hair for some reason one day - "Is your hair like Daddy's? No, his is white." Nathan managed to break our kitchen doorknob off with some K-Nex building toys, which made Bill learn a bit more about building with more expensive toys.
Both Christopher and Nathan did swim and tennis lessons over the summer. Got pictures. Just ask. Just hint in the most indirect way. Probably post them on the World-Wide Web. Anyway, Christopher points out his substantial prowess with computer games; Rodent's Revenge is a favorite, in which he's gone all the way to level 50.
We finally hired some professionals to sweep the accumulated leaves out of the back yard in the spring. Apparently they were deeper than they looked even to the trained eye - on the third day they were asking, "How many years has it been?" Not that we know, just way longer than we've been here.
May saw our traditional drive to Arizona. This one was memorable since not only did the van air conditioner quit as soon as we left Tuscaloosa, but after getting it fixed in Tucson, the compressor blew out on the return trip. After 3000 miles with the windows as far open as they would go, Bill's hairline has been permanently blown a few inches back. In a sympathy move, the house central air conditioning went out during a thunderstorm at the end of the summer. We have the world's greatest home insurance agent - he decided that it was indeed storm damage and was covered. Aaaaaaahhhh.
While on the way to Tucson, we called to check in with Bill's mom. She casually mentioned that she and Dr. John had decided to take the plunge and get married (so change that listing in your books to Gloria Coles now). After some stalling to satisfy tax requirements (like having to sell the house first), they proceeded with plans for a stealth wedding in August. Helping get ready for the Big Day, we learned ways to tell who your real friends are. Real friends will come by your mom's house after working all night and help you carry a piano (which, so far, only Nathan ever tries playing), china cabinet, and assorted tables into the U-Haul truck. More real friends will help you unload these items and carry them into your house at the other end of the trip, in some cases downstairs and around the back of the house. Turns out there's a secret grip for carrying sofa beds. You discover it just before reaching the desired final location. Anyway, came the ceremony. The minister intoned the usual phrase about ``if anyone present knows any reason why these should not be joined together" and for some reason, all eyes were on Bill's younger sister (now teaching journalism at Middle Tennessee State, and joining the chorus about Kids Today). She says she has no idea why they'd look at her.
The morning after Christopher's broken arm, Terri started her spring job teaching at First Wesleyan dayschool. This turned into quite an adventure; three-year-olds in quantity are sure a challenge. Still, she's substituting for this age group at the First Baptist dayschool on into this fall.
Bill was actually promoted to professor as of this fall, mostly interesting because this carried a raise. He's got the gray hair to go with it but can't seem to carry off the required dignity. Over the summer, he has discovered a new physical principle, that money is like electric charge; he formulated his Law of Financial Repulsion based on a whole series of consistent experiments. The people in the department office started having a good series of laughs about it, as one check for photo use came in unsigned, another one arrived with the wrong name on it, and a reimbursement check was delayed for three months while another university changed its accounting software. Bill could act perfectly normal when a message came in from a magazine wanting to verify that he had received the check for an article. "The check?"
Bill never learns, agreeing to review proposals this year for the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii (which is why the review meetings are in places like St. Louis) and the Hubble Space Telescope. He did finally get an observing run on the telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, and got in big trouble by going solo. He tried to bring back appropriate goodies, but we ran out of chocolate-covered macadamias too soon. Since the observatory is at an altitude of 14,000 feet, they recommend a physical exam first. Bill got the exam, and at the end, Dr. Woods stared at the clipboard and said, ``Naah, I won't charge you for this. I've already made a fortune from your kids". Bill also returned with a regulation tourist shirt - he actually had the gall to wear it to work one day.
|The summit||The telescope||The stars||The data||The lava|
And on the professional front - Bill and several collaborators on Arizona (you know who you are) got a big paper in Nature (always mentioned in newspapers as "the prestigious British journal") from some Space Telescope results. Maybe you saw the little news item in USA Today about protogalaxies in the young Universe - the one with none of our names attached and the wrong galaxies in the picture?
Terri's mom Carol and friend Willis visited in October. They make really great houseguests - painted Nathan's room and everything. The kids watched TV coverage of the presidential campaign with some interest. Nathan thought that one candidate's name was pretty funny, and pranced around the house repeating "bobdole, bobdole" until he broke up giggling. In a mock election at school, Christopher ran on a platform of tearing down buildings to make more space available for the animals.
For those of you already addicted to the Information Age, we'll point out Bill is also known to friends as email@example.com, and Terri sometimes checks account tmk on the same computer. And if you're really with it, you can see what he's up to by pointing your friendly WWW browser here .
Best wishes for a happy and blessed holiday season, and another year not quite so eventful as this has been for us,
Terri, Bill, Christopher, and Nathan