Greetings, and welcome to the '03 van Gregory holiday missive.

Scott and Allison aged a year each since our last writing. This puts them at almost five and one and a half years old respectively. Brent and Julie aged a bit more than that, it seems, chasing after them. Here's a typical evening in the playroom: Scott builds a railroad empire on one computer. Allison, calculating that a program running on the other computer couldn't possibly be as entertaining, pulls up a chair and watches Scott work the trains. After a few minutes, she realizes that several keys on the keyboard need pressing, and lends a hand. Scott, of course, does not interpret this in the generous light it was intended, and retaliates with pushing and vituperation. Allison, does not suffer such mistreatment lightly, and offers a few retaliations of her own. A confused melee ensues. Round about this time is when their parents catch wind of the affair. The drama closes with Scott upset, Allison patting him comfortingly on the back, and a few new gray hairs sprouting in someone's head.

For all the strife, they care a lot for, and take care of each other. Anytime we are doing something dangerous (such as stepping onto an elevator), Scott insists that someone holds Allison's hand, and doesn't relax until danger has passed (she makes it through the doors unsquashed). Allison also looks out for Scott. She has a knack for figuring out how to make him happy.

Scott started his second year at Bing Preschool (Brent's alma mater) going five half days a week. He's very curious about any new thing he hears about. He overheard a discussion of particle physics on one of Brent's books-on-tape, and asked questions for days about how particles work, and why they stopped building the super conducting super collider. He now enjoys informing Allison that she's just a bunch of particles stuck together. His misimpressions about the world are numerous, but they are starting to make sense. Why is saying "Allison hitted me" bad grammar anyway? Allison is still tall for her age and is a master of social dynamics. She's often the first to notice something going on in a group of people, and often first to do something constructive.

Julie has a new role as general of an army of contractors that are replacing each part of the house one fixture at a time. It's now an adventure finding which commode happens to be open for business. To the untrained eye, it might appear chaotic, but soon, we'll be living in a brand new house. We hope the assessor doesn't find out.

When we were first married, Julie managed expectations by joking about burning water. Recently, however, she's been whipping up soups, stews and entrees that would make Julia Child proud. She's been taking private lessons from a professional chef, and Brent's been purchasing belts with a few more notches.

Brent is happily back managing the relatively small physical technology group at Synopsys. But, not without a second stint managing the much larger logic synthesis engineering team. Like the proverbial frog that jumps out of boiling water, but stays to be cooked in a cold pot brought slowly to a boil, Brent has noticed the size of the physical technology group growing slowly over the years and does not seem to mind it. There are many challenging projects to keep him entertained while he cooks.

The enclosed photo shows our family at a delightful dude ranch in Wyoming called Paradise Ranch. You too can be a dude or dudette for a week; riding horses, driving cattle, and eating at the chuck wagon; just give them a call. Think of cattle as particles that attract each other, and are repelled by horses, and you too can work out the physics of cattle driving, and win the team cattle penning championship.

It has become our custom to throw a New Year's Eve party at our house (21957 Oakleaf Court in Cupertino), and this year is no exception. Please stop by if you're in the neighborhood. We start around 7pm (12/31/2003), serve dinner, and provide plenty of exploding confetti at midnight. We also run a New York New Year at 9pm for those who want to get home early. Kids are invited, and we had a delightfully raucous hoard of 20 of them at last year's fete. We use the party as an excuse to don our fancy clothes, but the casual range is so wide that you'd have to work hard to look out of place. Let us know if you think you might come. You can reach us at (408) 863-1252, or BrentAndJulie@vangregory.com. Actually, any address that ends in @vangregory.com works, so be creative with the first half. While you're tooling around your computer, remember to check out our latest photos at http://www.vangregory.com.

Wishing you a happy holiday season, and an even happier new year.