We're back! Unstoppable, undeterred by tied elections, poisonous reptiles, thieving raccoons, airport confiscations, publishers' deadlines, school boards, small orcs menacing the iguana cage, and menacing carnivorous fish, the Keels have returned to your consciousness. And you thought getting your name off the telemarketer's list was hard...
Our biggest daily adventures this year came with a trip to Arizona, for all the usual fun in the Sun. Bill preferred the other side of the clock, though - his idea of a Tucson vacation involved a borrowed 10-inch telescope and rented SUV, a long way from town. Some of the other amateur astronomers out on the abandoned airstrip started edging away when they heard things like "NGC 3314 - gotcha!" out of the darkness. He also got a backside full of cholla spines while taking eclipse pictures, noticing that a horned lizard was watching right alongside. Christopher had his favorite night-time Tucson experience, reptile viewing. We have a picture of him holding a Gila monster in the wild. Why was he holding the venomous lizard? Because Grandma Carol already had a diamondback rattlesnake bagged, keeping her hands full, while Dad took the picture. Gloria decided after that that Carol can keep the "Grandmother of the Year" title. We continued our annual series of pictures of Nathan in front of the Skycrane helicopter at the Pima Air museum; he used to barely make it over tire level. We all got in for the tour of Kartchner Caverns, an absolute gem of a cave. The guide warned us that the humidity inside was about 98%; we all replied "And?".
Christopher continues to be very busy in Boy Scouting. He earned his Life Scout rank this year, last stop before Eagle. The troop spent a week at the Seabase island camp in the Florida Keys this summer, where Christopher became the first member of the Keel clan since 1956 to catch a dolphin fish (known farther west as mahimahi). He brought back pictures of barracuda in their natural habitat, three-foot iguanas patrolling the beach, and riotous coral reefs. He was inducted into the Order of the Arrow (a Scout honor organization), which involved a silent weekend of camp work as the starting "ordeal". We drove three of these guys back from Mount Cheaha after that, and it was amazing how much they could eat along the way.
Christopher has been exploring the trading-card games from Lord of the Rings, which have created a very social environment. He helped finance his habit by doing some outdoor advertising for the local collectibles store; he was the one in the Batman suit, which he said was better than Superman because it made him harder to recognize. He and a friend went off to play a round after the neighborhood holiday dinner, which he regretted after learning that the centerpiece in front of his plate had caught fire. You can't be there for everything.
In career exploration, Christopher did a video summer camp, producing a stop-action video done in Legos. He also disapproved of the candidates for school president, and entered the race on a whim. Serves him right - he won, and has to be there a half hour early for meetings once a week. This does leave him in office when they move into their new building next month, so with any luck he'll sneak his name on a plaque. His political involvement has been more successful than Bill's, who is now known personally to more members of the school board than is wise, and seems to have killed some city-wide organizing committees by his response letters to the superintendent. Either that or they quit telling him about the meetings. This may be plausible, since his latest communications started out "I just changed the batteries in my stupidity detector and it went off again".
Nathan has been having a very good school year, always a relief. He continues with Cub Scouts, while his favorite reading encompasses aircraft, armaments, and espionage. Should we worry? Bill has gotten him into modelling, with his biggest contribution this year being much of the work on a little Messerschmidt 109 and cheerleading on an F-14. Nathan even dabbled in music, playing handbells in the church Christmas production this year.
Terri continues to shepherd her Cub Scout pack, sending them to the battleship Alabama in Mobile and for a sleepover in De Soto Caverns this year. She came along for the cave night, enlivened by one scout managing to fall on his head and have to be rushed to a doctor on a Saturday night, close to the middle of nowhere. She also stepped up working at Nathan's school, as PTA committee co-chair and general organizer for their book fair and Santa Shoppe. On the lighter side, she and a friend (who prefers to remain anonymous) trekked to Birmingham for a special shopping session emceed by Davey Jones. At 1:00 a.m. the morning after Thanksgiving.
Bill continued to prefer publishing to perishing, this time with the highly academic volume The Road to Galaxy Formation, published this fall by Springer/Praxis. As of December 16, it's risen to number 2,386,191 in sales on amazon.com. This is amazing because it means that someone somewhere has bought a copy. Between finishing the book, getting off the faculty senate, and getting off a telescope allocation committee, this fall should have felt like a vacation. It sure didn't feel that way, though, when his lab class got clouded out for two solid months. Bill carried out a few unauthorized experiments this year, some of them unintentional. Don't ask how the whole spring-loaded keychain full of keys managed to vanish down the toilet at work one day. The experiments in viewing heat flow, set up in the basement at the behest of an engineer neighbor, were better - Terri had to come downstairs and tell them they were clearly having too much fun. For more updates on his latest escapades, watch for the Hubble press release on January 8 and next month's issue of Astronomy magazine (speaking of which, they were supposed to pay him for that one of these days).
And for 2002, that's the end of our tale. Our email addresses are still email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. And whether in paper, sound waves, or electrons, we're wishing you wonderful 2003!
Terri, Bill, Christopher, and Nathan