December, 1998






Dear Everyone,

It was all very sensible: Get Married. If still married after one year, start a family. Grow old together. We jumped the schedule by a month or so (still bullish on the whole marriage thing). But weíre starting to get a better sense why all the parents we know seem to inwardly chuckle when they hear about our sensible plans. They smile when they see the tall electrostatic speakers in the family room. New dining room table, eh? Would you like that with red or purple crayon marks? When we tell about sleep (and other things) lost to "morning sickness" (aka progesterone poisoning) they seem to be thinking: "theyíre starting to get it".

By now, Julieís fighting off the hoard of strangers wanting to touch her bulging tummy. We can understand the attraction. As you can see from the profile shot at the left, "Junior" (a boy) is quite the handsome devil. For those less versed in sonograms, youíll just have to take our word for it (or stop by after mid-February and see the real thing).

We have not picked a name, but we want to thank everyone for their helpful suggestions such as Thor, Ezekiel and Ebeneezer. Except for the name, we seem to have most of our baby bases covered. Stroller? Check. Car Seat? Check. Crib? Check. Diapers? Cloth or Disposable? Danger! Approaching region of potential matrimonial conflict. We navigated the utensil handles up or down in the dishwasher issue last year (handles up), but this one brings the issues of environmental degradation and leaking toxic waste under our very noses. Weíll have to work on it. If past is an indication, there will be much discussion and analysis of each otherís point of view only to discover that neither of us felt strongly enough to justify so much effort. Oh well, itís not as exciting as throwing plates at each other, but it works for us.

With the impending birth of our first child on our minds, we decided to eat, drink and be merry as much as possible this year. One of the high points was a helicopter ride on the big island of Hawaii that ranged from spectacular waterfalls and lush rainforests to barren volcanic landscape and staring into the mouth of an active cinder cone. No amount of National Geographic television documentaries could prepare us for the sight (and smell) of thousands of gallons of red-hot lava churning up from the center of the earth. If you ever doubt that the earth is a fragile paradise balanced between fire and ice, a trip to an active volcano might cure you.

After a brief respite (and sorting through a few hundred unread emails) we were off again, this time to Europe. Haute cuisine at the Jules Vern (half way up the Eiffel Tower). Breakfast each morning from a boulangerie down the street. A little champagne (for one of us) in the caves under the streets of Epernay. Letís just say we had a good time, and put on a few pounds (some of which kept Julie going later when she couldnít keep food down). We also visited Brentís neighbors (1966-1969) in Heidelberg and were treated to a splendid lunch and warm hospitality with exuberant tales told with a little German, a little English, and lots of sign language.

Considering this is the first season in twenty years that Julie has not performed in a Nutcracker Ballet, sheís doing remarkably well. Tango and Ballroom dancing have filled in some of the gaps, but her center of gravity has been shifting recently, and thatís putting a damper on even those activities. Julieís planning to take a year Leave of Absence from HP starting early next year in order to spend more time with Junior. We noticed that the recent drop in HPís stock price coincided with the news of this, but Julieís been working feverishly over that past months to make a smooth transition (although the pregnancy-induced "Brontosaurus Brain" effect has made this challenging at times). She worked from bed for over a month during the most challenging periods of the "first trimester" morning sickness period. But, things are going much more smoothly now. The pregnancy clothes that seemed huge a few months ago now barely fit, and everyone canít wait to meet the little guy who keeps kicking her in the stomach.

One of Brentís significant accomplishments this year was communicating the importance of the lunch-time Ultimate Frisbee game to people who like to schedule meetings over lunch (because everyone is free then). This has been especially important recently due to growing interest in his main project (upgrading the software that synthesizes integrated circuits (chips) to better account for the distance between components of the circuit). All the meetings meant less time spent writing software at work, which led to more coding at home. One of the (dubious) fruits of this labor has been an (over) sophisticated system for predicting when the battery in his electric motor-powered (8-foot wingspan) RC glider will run out. This may seem silly to you, but youíve probably never been at the controls of a plane that suddenly ran out of juice too far away to glide back to the runway only to have it crash behind a hill. We can report that the movies that conveniently only show the fireball when the plan crashes out of sight do not lie. We didnít see a fireball from behind the hill, but were treated to a view of a section of the wing floating back into view after the debacle. (Amazingly, only minor repairs brought the plane back to flight-worthiness and the reattached wing section stayed attached for the entire first half of the next flight.)

We hope our letter finds you well and looking forward to a New Year even better than the last. Merry Christmas!

Julie & Brent