A Newsletter to Our Friends

January, 2001

Our house in the snow.This Holiday Letter is a little late, and I think the last one was 2 years ago. This has been a fine winter, with just enough snow to keep the trees looking lovely. I started writing this New Years weekend, when Robert and I stayed home and cooked duck a l'orange by Julia Childs' original recipe.

(Click on a picture to see it bigger.)

Last year I started Continuing Ed courses at U-Mass Lowell, and this year switched to Bentley in Waltham. Two were "cybercourses" conducted entirely online. By now I have under my belt Photoshop, a couple of web design courses, Javascript, Visual Basic, Access database, Active Server Pages, a bit of Java, and Web E-Commerce. As a result, I've gradually relinquished my leisurely life of unemployment.

Almost a year ago, I got a part-time job contracting to maintain the web site for a small computer hardware companyIntraServer. I could pretty much choose how many or few days a week to work. I really hoped to stay there through the summer, but alas, in June my recruiter found me a full-time contracting job at a more mainstream web company, Trellix and I went off to bigger and better things. Briefly. Late in August, I got a taste of the downside of contracting when they dropped me without warning. By that time, the courses had improved my resume and I got the job I really wanted, or at least the location: Compaq in Stow, a four-mile drive from home through apple orchards and golf courses. Still contracting; I kind of like not feeling like a captive to the company. Compaq bought this Digital plant and it is strange being back with old DECcies.

Robert with the laptop on picnic table at camp.Robert is happy with his software engineering job at Stratus Computer. He had been working on their proprietary operating system and enjoyed the stability of that established environment. Recently he joined a project to enhance NT to take advantage of Stratus' s special fault-tolerant hardware. It turns out he's quite enthusiastic about Microsoft tools and enjoying that faster-moving, less defined environment. Last year we attended Robert's 25th MIT reunion: all the dinners, the Charles River and Harbor cruises, and graduation with speakers Tom and Ray.

Besides computers, Robert enjoys ham radio and belongs to two ham radio clubs. Saturday mornings he goes on a "fox hunt". Someone hides anywhere west of Boston and transmits from his ham radio. The contest is who will find this "fox" first using the radio signals. Robert explores a lot of conservation land and parks and trails in search of good places for the "fox" to hide.

My sister EllenNow that my mother is gone, when we go north for winter holidays, the destination is my sister Ellen's house at the foot of Mt Sunapee NH. (The picture is Ellen.) We had very small gatherings for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Robert and I stayed at a motel on Lake Sunapee since Ellen's son Jeff was using her spare bed. Ellen's interior design business is skyrocketing since she moved to the more ritzy town of New London. Daughter Amy works with her (they make great partners) and Jeff is doing software engineering in PA. We enjoyed a visit in Barre VT with my Aunt Barbara, and cousins Mary and Peggy. Mary is happy in a new job managing the office at a smaller law firm in Houston, and Peggy has a new, better job at IBM in Burlington.

Robert's parents are doing well. His 88 year old father recovered well from quadruple bypass surgery. They are busy all the time with activities in their retirement community near Fort Lauderdale. We spend a week there each spring enjoying the pool and side trips like a cruise of Ft. Lauderdale harbor, Butterfly World, Flamingo Gardens and of course the beach.

Little GuyOur cat's health problems are keeping me busy. Little Guy is the most interesting and neurotic of our three cats. This year he went blind, with high blood pressure and an overactive thyroid. I spend a lot of time coaxing him to eat the morsels of tuna, shrimp, liver, turkey, and scallops where I hide his medicine (including cat prozac). He has a lot of spunk and has recently figured out he can still chase his catnip mouse, locating it by smell.

PicnicIn a great show of optimism and persistence through this cool summer of rain, we traipsed up to our cottage on Perkins Pond most weekends. Rain or shine we barbequed a feast, but the one pictured here was special for Amy's birthday. Testing the skychairOne project was to hang my mail-order "sky chair" over the water. We're still looking for the perfect tree and configuration and unstretchy rope. We also spent days cutting and gathering up brush and carting it to the dump.

Our "Big" sailboat that we sail on Perkins Pond and the CapeI was secretary of the "Perkins Pond Protective Association" this year. Our neighbor, Gary, who's also been at the pond since we were kids, took over as president. We spent some of those rainy days hunched over my laptop writing newsletters, and folding, licking and sealing. Gary organized a Water Ski Day for the whole lake with a huge potluck picnic and water-skiing all day. The sun even came out.

   (Click on a picture to see it bigger.)    To left, our "big" sailboat that travels with us between Perkins Pond and the Cape.

Pleasant Bay sunriseOn the Cape in warm rainclothes.We spent our usual 2 weeks on the Cape, in a cottage on Little Pleasant Bay in Orleans. Here's a sunrise from the beach there. We became quite adept at sailing in the rain. I got to wear my head-to-toe raincoat and rainpants set, and kept layers of warm clothes on over the shorts and t-shirt. We walked some little-known trails in conservation land, along the bay and across private property with ancient right-of-ways. The summer before, more hot and sunny, we did more of our usual bicycling the rail trail, sailing a rented little Hobie catamaran, and guided walks and boat trips.

As usual, we tried to eat at all our several dozen favorite restaurants on the Cape. The rain was quite helpful for that project. ("Anne's Cape Cod Favorites" has my guide to favorite Cape food and activities.)

I row this boat across lakes.At the end of the summer, the rain stopped and Trellix dropped my contract just in time to give me a few days vacation. I rowed my inflatable boat up the local Assabet River, and went the length of Fort Meadow lake in Marlboro and Lake Boon here in Stow. Also got in some bicycling, and beginner roller-blading at Minuteman rail trail.

The old Snark on Perkins PondIn NH we have an 11-foot chunk of old styrofoam which actually is a sailboat, known as a Snark. I've spent many days lazily sailing it around Perkins Pond, and many days repairing it. This fall I got a new Snark and sailed it on nearby Lake Boon through the warm weekends of Sep, Oct and early Nov, launching from the town beach a short walk from our house.

Best wishes and happy sailing to you in 2001.