December 1999


Welcome to the van Gregory holiday letter, your opportunity to learn about our year's excitement. We hope this finds you happy, healthy, and just a little bit wiser than last year.

Early this year, Brent and Julie, two mostly competent Silicon Valley professionals, died. In their place was born Scott Gregory and two parents-in-training. Scott is slowly and patiently teaching us how to be his parents. His method is simple and powerful. When you get something right, you are rewarded with a contagiously radiant smile. Grown (and otherwise apparently normal) adults melt into googling, burbling gargoyles trying to coax back that smile. It's not hard. He makes you feel like Robin Williams, Charlie Chaplin and Marcel Marceau rolled into one comic genius.

Scott also turns you into a musical genius. Any musical self-doubt evaporates when he stops fussing and gapes, transfixed by your singing. We sing to him every day. It makes him happy, and makes us feel competent and connected. Who would have expected this from a pair of engineers who a year ago would have needed serious prodding before voicing a tune outside the anonymity of the shower? He's got a knack for getting you to explore places you wouldn't normally go.

For example, he never seems to tire of physics. He repeatedly picks up objects and drops them, watching for the one time when gravity stops working. When gravity does fail with balloons, he pulls on their strings for hours trying to remind them that they are going the wrong way. He's discovered vortexes in the toilet, sound reflections in the foyer, and (the most fun of all) rotational inertia. One day, we figured that his fascination with physics might interest him in spinning objects, so we spun a Frisbee on the wood floor of the foyer. He was hypnotized. We can entertain him for half an hour (equal to 2 days in adult time) by making the Frisbee spin on the floor. He loves the crescendo just before the disk finally lies flat. He now knows how to spin the disk himself and he's taken to hovering above just above it as it spins down to study it more closely.

Scott is going to turn us into mad scientists. We've already hung a large ball from the rafters in the family room so he can play with the pendulum effect. We're building a giant version of the toy with a row of steel balls suspended from strings that demonstrates conservation of momentum. And, we're planning a trip to the Exploratorium (hands-on science museum) to get more ideas.

We could go on and on about this wonderful little guy: his athletic feats, his infectious wonder of the world, how great it feels to hold him in your arms, how we can take him to the movie theater, how he turns you into a scientist, a philosopher, an artist, a storyteller and an explorer of things you've stopped noticing. There just is not enough space here. You'll just have to come meet him for yourself.

As you might guess, the present only faintly resembles our past lives. Julie took the year off from HP to be home with Scott. She drops him off at Grandmo's for an occasional ballet or aerobics class, but spends most of her time keeping up with the little guy, taking him to Gymboree, play group and trying to contain the entropy cloud that follows him everywhere. When you have a nine-month-old who is walking around and pushing his stroller, life is rarely boring.

Brent continues to play Ultimate Frisbee for fun and to keep up his stamina. He can foresee the day when his son can outrun him, but he's not going to give up without a struggle. Work at Synopsys continues to be exciting as we try to extend the product line into the back-end of chip design where the component placement and interconnect routing is performed. A new product, Physical Compiler, promises to give the competition a run for their money in that arena.

We are happy to report that the guest room saw several visitors this year (without a single casualty). We would love to see more of you. Call us if your plans bring you into the area and we'll happily rescue you from the stuffy old local hotels. You can reach us at (408) 863-1252. Get the latest family pictures by pointing your web browser to

Have a great new millennium.


Scott, Julie and Brent