This year has been a year full of changes for us. Our first change came in January when Mike began working for Media Architects, a small software company, doing technical support, product testing, database work, and innumerable other things. Media Architects discovered that Mike was quite a jack of all trades, the kind of person that small startup companies need desperately but can rarely find. So, Mike began working some pretty long hours and enjoyed his work for the first time in several years.
Next, in March, the owners of the lovely home on Miles Court that we had been renting decided that they wanted to live in it again, much to our surprise. To the credit of the landlords, they gave us plenty of time to find a new place, so we began looking. Mike looked at lots of places in our price range, but none of them were as nice as the house on Miles Court. After talking it over, we decided that we would try something we had been talking about doing for some time: living with housemates. After talking with John Cavanaugh and Alan DeWitt (all of us lived in the same dorm at Willamette), we all agreed on the kind of place we wanted, what the ground rules would be, etc. Shortly thereafter, we found our new home in Tigard, Oregon. We moved in April 1. We all have plenty of space to ourselves, lots of common area including the library and the "dweeb den" (the computer room where Mike, John, and Alan have networked all their computers together), and we are able to save money by pooling resources. All in all, it's working out very nicely.
Shortly after we moved in, we took a big step along the road toward domesticity. We went to Sears and bought a washer and dryer. We suddenly started to feel like adults. Thankfully, we recovered.
The next change came when Kim finished her first year of pediatric residency at Oregon Health Sciences University in June. This was a milestone for her not only because she was finished with the most difficult year of her residency, but also because she received her license to practice medicine in Oregon. Mike was very proud of his wife. She is halfway through her second year now, so she has only a year and a half left before we have to start thinking about the real world. Kim is still happy she chose to specialize in pediatrics, but we both will be happy when she no longer has to stay at the hospital every fourth night.
In June we took a much-needed vacation and drove up through eastern Washington, Idaho and Montana and then on to Calgary. While in Idaho, we stopped at Silverwood, a delightful family theme park just north of Coeur d'Alene with a Western theme. While there we rode on a magnificent restored oil-burning steam engine, watched a delightful air show, and watched Mike drool over the museum of vintage aircraft (all of which fly regularly). Also offered were bi-plane and glider rides, of which we did not partake, it being a budget vacation. Everything was shiny and clean, and the staff and the guests were friendly. Silverwood is only a few years old, so it is still growing. With a 500-acre site, they stil have lots of space to expand. We plan to visit there every couple of years to watch them grow. Calgary was a delightful surprise, despite most businesses being closed for Canadian Independence Day. The downtown area was beautiful and full of vitality. We came back through Glacier National Park, which we had been through two years earlier. While there we had lunch with a magnificent four-point buck (a male deer for you non-outdoorsy folks <grin>) and hiked side-by-side with Rocky mountain goats and marmots in the snow. And just like our previous visit, we were awestruck by the park's scale and majesty. We also came through the very northeastern corner of Oregon along a little state highway that runs from Clarkston, Washington to Enterprise, Oregon. This stretch of highway was very scenic and also contains what must be the twistiest section of road outside of San Francisco's Lombard Street. If you drive this route, be sure to stop at Boggan's Junction at the bottom of the Hill. Their milkshakes are outta sight good!
This summer we also acquired a second cat. While on a visit to Northwest Alpca Ranch (alpacas are South American creatures similar to llamas) just a few miles away from here, we noticed a scrawny white kitten wandering around. Basically she was a three-month old kitten had been dumped. We took her home with us and started trying to fatten her up. After a few days, we discovered that she was totally deaf as well as amazingly stupid, but very loving. One of the benefits of her deafness was that she loved to ride in the car and showed no fear of the vacuum cleaner (or anything else -- except water). In trying to come up with a name, Alan suggested, kiddingly, Chowderhead (from a quote of unknown source: "You blithering hayseed, you chowderhead yokel."). The name stuck. The checkup at the vet showed she was basically healthy but had been injured by being stepped on or hit when quite small. This did not slow her down, although it did keep her from putting on much weight, despite our best efforts. Our first cat, Selina (we didn't pick the name) decided to tolerate her after a couple of weeks and they began a virtually non-stop wrestling game that took breaks only for sleeping and eating. In compensation for her deafness, she was very visual and delighted in jumping at reflections of light on the walls. After three heat cycles, we decided that it was time for Chowderhead to become an "it." Before this could happen, her old injury needed to be repaired surgically. Unfortunately, she didn't survive. Life has been much calmer around the house since then, but we all miss her. We know that although we only had her for three months, she had a very happy time. Sometimes out of the corner of our eyes, we still see a little ghostly white cat peeking around a corner, waiting to pounce.
The new house is in a new development which used to be farmland. Unfortunately, during construction the builders completely ruined the topsoil so it now is useful only for pottery. This cancelled our plans for a garden this year, particularly with Mike working so much. There simply wasn't time to work the soil the way it needed to be worked.
In October, another big change occurred when Mike decided that he needed to change his relationship with Media Architects in order to maintain his sanity. Mike is now in business for himself (as Twisted Systems) doing contract work on a new product for Media Architects. He is much happier as he works at home. He works fewer hours and earns less money, but it's worth it.
This year has also seen the beginning of a new Advanced Dungeons and Dragons campaign for Mike as Dungeon Master. With two other D&D players in the house, one a few minutes away (Mike Ulwelling -- another Willamette dorm-mate), and a fourth in Salem (Shawn Orpinela -- also a Willamette person), Mike manages to play about twice a month -- just enough. This campaign has been quite different, as the characters are all 10th to 15th level. Everyone is on their toes.
Several of you have visited with us this year. We list those that we can remember since many of you know each other but, we suspect, are out of touch with each other. To those of who have not visited us, please come see us. We now have plenty of room for guests, including those who need to stay overnight.
The Heggen Library continues to grow, particularly as it has been combined with the DeWitt library, which was quite respectable. Amongst the titles this year: I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots by Susan Straight (a novel about a large black who grew up in the Low Country of South Carolina and ends up in places quite different), A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley (a novel about an extended family on a large farm in the Midwest), Islands in the Net by Bruce Sterling (a cyberpunk novel that was a lot fo fun), A Gift Upon the Shore by M.K. Wren (a novel by an Oregonian set in a not-too-distant-future post-holocaust Oregon that revolves around a woman's attempt to preserve her personal library for future generations), Forbidden Knowledge by Stephen Donaldson (the third in a series of science fiction novels that contain amazingly intricate plots and conspiracies and no good guys), Maps in a Mirror by Orson Scott Card (a wonderful anthology of his short stories of all genres, including a couple that he later fleshed out into novels), and The Book of the Cat edited by Michael Wright and Sally Walters (Kim claims that this is the best all-around book about cats she has found -- and she has looked through a lot). Kim also added the latest Frugal Gourmet cookbook, The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian, much to the delight of the other residents of the house. Kim is currently digging through Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (a novel about time travel to the 12th century). Mike is currently working on Michael Moorcock's Elric Saga (a series of fantasy novels in which the main character is the emperor of his race, but believes that in order for the world to survive, his people need to be brought down and their city destroyed -- a very fatalistic guy).
Mike and Alan have begun wading through the films of Akira Kurosawa, something they have both been wanting to do for some time. So far they have watched The Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, and Sanjuro. They have most enjoyed the characters played by the star of Sanjuro and Yojimbo (the same actor played the farm boy in The Seven Samurai). These films are best seen on a big screen, but since that is pretty difficult, they had to settle for videotape versions. As with any foreign film, get the subtitled version, not the dubbed version. If you happen to find them letterboxed, that would be a big help. Unfortunately, ours weren't letterboxed, but they were still worthwhile.
Mike, John, and Alan have been busy with several computer games. Comanche Maximum Overkill from Nova Logic (PC) is a magnificent helicopter simulation with fantastic terrain. Coaster (PC) is a roller coaster design program that lets you design and ride roller coasters. Spectre Supreme (Mac) and Spectre (PC) are cyberspace versions of capture the flag with bad guys thrown in. The games can also be played over a network, which is where they really shine. If you have had any experience playing with any network games, please drop us a line. Games that work over a network seem to be few and far between, but they are a lot fun if they are well written.
This past year has been a good one for us, with our share of joys and sorrows. Kim lost both of her grandparents; we lost a cat; Mike almost went stir crazy with his job. We gained housemates; Mike started his own business; Kim made some lasting friends in her residency; we learned a lot of things about a lot of things; our marriage grew stronger. We hope that your year, as ours, had more joys than sorrows, and that if it didn't, you had family and friends to ease your sorrows and share your joys.
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