2011 Annual Report: Exploring the World

Ah Love! could thou and I with Fate conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would not we shatter it to bits?and then
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart's Desire!
?The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam,
No. 73, trans. Edward FitzGerald
A PDF version of The Classical Annual Report, abbreviated to fit onto two sides of a single page, can be found here.

Jim and Linda Move to the Left Coast

 View of 5820 Balmoral Drive

You heard that right. After more than 30 years in Austin, we picked up and moved west. We hated to leave our great house overlooking Barton Creek, within walking distance of the Lost Creek Country Club. The lure of children and grandchildren proved too much to resist.

Our children had some ideas of what we should look at. Claire suggested a nice condo in San Francisco right down the street from Ron and her. Jim objected that “San Francisco is all uphill.” Moreover, there is a substantial premium for living in one of the most beautiful cities on earth, according to Forbes.

Charles suggested El Cerrito would be a good choice. We actually found a nice house in El Cerrito. Jim loved the kitchen, which was outfitted with gourmet class appliances. Linda liked the downstairs play area, perfect for grandchildren, or for a live-in should one prove advisable in the future. We met at the realtor's office to put together a deal. Oops! We saw a map of the Hayward fault for the first time. Our prospect was located in the black zone ¼ mile from the fault itself. That wasn't the worst case. We liked another house where the fault itself ran through the back yard. Back to square one.

We prepared. Jim set up Google Earth to show the fault zone with houses we were interested in superimposed. That helped.

The kids suggested we look for a place with a high walkability score. Problem with that: most of those houses were in Berkeley and built in the early 20th century. Can you say, “Interesting floor plan?” We found a newly built house in Berkeley within walking distance of everything. Both kids and our realtor said, “You don't want to live there.”

We returned for a third try. This time, we had identified several prospects, including one that satisfied all the kids' requirements. High walk score, near Oakland Children's Hospital, etc. Alas, the owners took it off the market the day we arrived. We spent days checking out Oakland, which Claire assured us had some nice areas, despite what you read in the papers. She was right, of course.

On Sunday before we planned to return to Austin in a few days, an agent at an open house suggested we check out a place on Balmoral Drive. Bingo! We had our house. Of course, it satisfied exactly none of the criteria the kids suggested. Too far away. Low walk score. Too big. Located near the fault zone. (But farther away than any other house we found, and built on bedrock.)

We bought the house. The kids are finding out that it isn't as far away as they thought.

The Story of Scarlet and Violet

 Violet and Scarlet shortly after birth

We learned in late spring that Claire and Ron were expecting twins. Somewhat later, we received the cryptic text message, “xx xx,” which we decoded as the chromosomal pattern of the two babies. Although they weren't named Scarlet and Violet until much later — we suggested Peachy as one name — we'll use them in this write up.

 Jim and Scarlet at Rancho Relaxo
 Scarlet Sleeps with Linda

It was late summer, when Claire called with the news. During a routine ultrasound at week 20, the radiologist noticed a problem. Violet had an anomaly in the development of her kidneys. Instead of the normal development expected at that stage, she had cysts. It was a diagnosis that would ultimately prove to be incompatible with life.

In a mad scramble to get all the dates to work out, we moved to Oakland on December 20. Both babies were delivered by C-section on December 30. As expected, Violet had difficulty breathing, helped somewhat by oxygen. We had a chance to hold her, as well as her sister of course, before her short life ended during the night.

Scarlet has proved to be a wonderful girl. Born small, less than 6 pounds, she has doubled in size by the time we right this. She is assertive, much like her mother was, demanding food when she wants it, eschewing schedules. With a full head of hair and beautiful dark blue eyes that will probably imitate her mothers, she is going to be a lot of fun. As we write this, we can report that she has learned to recognize Nana and Granddad and seems content to sleep on their shoulders.

Kai and Kiera

 Kai and Kiera Performing
 Kiera's latest trick

Our other two grandchildren are growing up. Kai started kindergarten this year, conveniently located within walking distance from home, and quickly became a chick magnet. His parents attribute this to the plethora of female cousins. His grandparents think it is due to his good looks and personality.

Kiera manages to hold onto her share of the limelight, but it isn't easy. Sometimes she has to resort to new tricks, such as using rattles with her feet.

Jim and Linda Go A-Roaming (Some More)

Red Jungle-fowl
 Tawny Mime Butterfly (Chilasa agestor)

This year, we focussed attention on Asia, spending a total of six weeks by combining two tours. First, with Victor Emanuel Nature Tours, we spent three weeks in Thailand. Our guide was Dion Hobcroft, one of the leaders on our Bhutan trip in 2003. That trip seems like is was recent, and it was surprising to reflect that it had been eight years since we were there. Thailand provided some terrific mammals as well as birds, including a 5-star sighting of a Pileated Gibbon desperately calling for a female. We also saw the Red Jungle Fowl, Gallus gallus, the source of our domestic chicken, and several stunning bugs. This butterfly caused us to miss a bird lifer! Read more?

 Tiger Eating

We then took a short flight to Delhi India, where we joined Zeghram's Wild India Tour and our frequent traveling companions Jenny and Terry Cloudman. The trip leader, Mark Brazil, lives in Japan, and when news of the earthquake and tsunami broke, we wondered whether the tour would continue. Mark had left only hours before the event. Hokkaido, where he lives, escaped most of the destruction, so he soldiered on. The trip produced the tigers we wanted to see, including a stunning shot of one eating a deer. Jim also got to watch the finals of the Cricket World Cup being held in India. The host country managed to win, to everyone's relief. Read more…

Later in the year, we took a short trip to Idabel, OK, and a longer swing around the West.


Our comensals somewhat the same as last year. We don't have racoons as we did in Austin, at least not yet. We do have lots of different birds coming to the feeders we set up in the yard.

On to 2012

Our apologies for the lateness of this report, but we have been busy. Hope you have a wonderful 2012. We look forward to welcoming any visitors to our new home in Oakland. We have two guest bedrooms ready for you.