Copper-rumped Hummingbird

2016 Annual Report: Many Milestones

“ Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made.”
— Robert Browning, Rabbi Ben Ezra
(See Note at Bottom)
A PDF version of The Short Annual Report (aka Executive Summary), abbreviated to fit onto two sides of a single page, can be found here.

Please Read About Changes This Year.

In Memoriam, Marion Smith Hargrove
September 16, 1922 — June 24, 2016


Jim's Mother (Marion, Granny, Mama) died suddenly and completely unexpectedly on the day of the Brexit Vote. We had plans for her: Claire and Ron were going to visit the following week, and we were including her in our Thanksgiving trip to Mexico. She had complained of pain in her jaw, which Linda and Claire recognized as signs of an incipient cardio vascular event. After eating dinner with Flo, they parted at the door of Marion's condo. Flo said in parting, "I'll talk to you tomorrow." The reply "If I'm still here," was not unprecedented, but was prescient on this occasion.

Flo found her the next morning when no one answered the phone. Everyone agreed that this was just the way she would have wanted to go. She had a good life.

We were not surprised, but were very gratified, to find that everyone spoke well of her. She was loved and admired by all.

Her obituary was a group effort that we all liked.

Jim and Linda Reach Some Important Milestones

Jim and Linda by Spirit of the Forest
Group in Miyake Jima

Jim and Linda continue trying to make up for lost time, criss-crossing the planet in their goal of seeing at least 50% of the bird species of the world. This year, when both passed really interesting birthdays, they kept up the pace, with three foreign trips and more in the USA:

All this left our intrepid birders close to the goal, with something over 5000 species.

Some photos:

Claire and Ron: Still More Adventures: Remodeling, Gardening

Nico, Ron, Scarlet, and Claire at Playa del Carmen

Claire and Ron's remodeling of Rancho Relaxo, their weekend place near Philo in Mendocino County, to have bedrooms and a bath on the second floor is finally finished worth the wait. The second floor now has room for four kids (more in a pinch), with a separate bedroom for chaperones. The second bath is a big deal.

Now, they are continuing to expand Purple Haze by enclosing and enlarging the back porch into a separate dining room, which was almost finished as we went to press.

Claire and Ron are both taking a year off from work, with plans to ski quite a bit. Nico is hoping to be ready for lessons. Scarlet says that she already knows how and just wants to do it more. They also have some trip plans.

Now that the house is big enough to hold everyone, they have moved to Philo as a permanent residence. The older condo on Clayton has been sold for a nice profit. The newer condo on Texas Street in San Francisco is rented, but not on a long term lease, keeping the option of moving back in after the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the garden responded to loving care with a bumper crop of everything this year, but especially tomatoes. Nico and Scarlet helped.

Charles and Amy

Charles and Kiera
Charles and Amy at Our 50th Anniversary Dinner

Charles amuses children as a librarian, at the Rio Vista Public library, with a schedule that no one else can figure out. It is a long commute, though not by Bay Area standards, and against the grain, but still leaves plenty of time for podcasts.

Amy continues working as a midwife for Kaiser, with a killing schedule that involves commuting to various locations.

For the nth (n > 10, but…) year in California, Charles and Amy hosted the annual Iron Chef party.

The Winning Entry in Iron Chef Party
They assign each couple an ingredient, supposedly selected randomly. This year, we got port and made a nice mulled port suited to the season. The other port entry blitzed us with individual chocolate pots-de-creme with a port and pomegranate reduction. This year, 23 people (more or less) competed for prizes in different categories, such as "most daring," "best use of ingredient," and the coveted "best in show."

We failed to place again, but at least we got votes this time, after Jim started voting for himself. The winning entry was an incredible Lemon Ginger Cake decorated with many items.


Nico School Pic
Scarlet School Pic

Scarlet and Nico

The young pair has changed markedly this year, as you can well imagine. Scarlet has overcome her initial language issues and now talks a blue streak. She is learning to read, write and do some arithmetic, with some help from the older generation. She has her mother’s knack for knowing when a camera is pointed in her direction.

Nico has turned into a real boy, with all that implies. He has a stubborn streak that is a family genetic trait. He tries to run as fast as Scarlet, but cannot quite do it yet. Soon, though. He loves gardening, especially when it gives him as chance to move dirt with his toy dump truck.

Kai and Kiera

Kai School Photo
Kiera School Pic

Our two oldest grandchildren are still both are in school at nearby Harding Elementary, a short walk from home. The school has a lot of activities for parents as well as children. El Cerrito has its own set of activities, including baseball, where Kai showed some promise. Note that something has been added since last year. We expect the improved vision to translate into more success at the plate to complement his great catch and throw prowess.

Both kids are taking music lessons, Kai on the piano and Kiera, violin. We had a chance to hear them play a duet together at the annual concert.

About This Year's Report

These ”Christmas Letters“ have changed quite a lot since we sent our first, a single typewritten page now lost, in 1977. Along the way, we dropped the reference to Christmas as inappropriate as the report was virtually never finished on time.

Photos appeared in 1994 in glorious monochrome. Now, the report has lots of photos carefully doctored with various pieces of software. In this regard, it serves as a visual history of the development of technology during the last 40 years or so.

This year we've changed the way photos are displayed in this report: we started letting Google do all the heavy lifting. All of the photos in the Annual Report and the accompanying trip reports are on where you can see a large image. Simply click on the photo on our web site to open the photo in a separate tab.

Unsolicited review: Google does a fabulous job handling the photos, much better than any other service we have used. They even offer some cute extras, such as this automatically generated collage of photos from Playa del Carmen. Using shared albums, we can combine photos from several different people, such as we have done on the Mexico album.

In addition to the photo itself, Google can display lots of information about the photo itself, a lot of technical poop about the camera, etc., and sometimes the location where we took the photo. Sometimes this info is missing. There's an explanation. On the Caribbean trip, we discovered that the flash on our Lumix camera didn't work any longer. We had dropped it one too many times. The web told me what to do: replace the flash, complete with instructions. Wrong! We decided to just buy a new camera.

Female Julia Butterfly

You may notice the difference in the photos from the Caribbean and the Japan trips, or in this photo of a Julia Butterfly we took in Austin. Our new Nikon P900, which Terry Cloudman recommended, is a fabulous camera. Besides allowing a zoom equivalent to a 2000mm lens, it marks the location using GPS. Cool! Google converts this into a small map. If you are really interested, you can click on the map to get a bigger view. Hope you enjoy this feature.

Photo Albums such as our choice of the year's best, Spiders, etc., are on the Google web site. We like this feature a lot.

BTW, the little “i” in a white circle turns the information panel on and off. If it is off, the Title is displayed on the bottom of the image. Feel free to add your comments about the photos.

We have retained the random photo at the top left of each screen. The photo is chosen from a subset of the photos in Google Photos. This feature is on the short list of changes for next year. Let us know if you like it, or it you even noticed it.

Go Back to the Top ↩


Two new additions to our roster of comensals this year. We still have Chipper and Cash to help us keep warm in bed. Chipper is universally acknowledged as “cute.” He is somewhere between 12 and 14 years old, and is in great shape – better than us – thanks to a daily routine of frisbee fetch.

Cash is one of the most affectionate cats that have ever taken up residence with us. She has a habit of demanding a little nosh about 4:00 in the morning, which can be a little annoying, but she is still a keeper.

The new additions are two adorable kittens that have adopted Kai and Kiera. Both are solid black. Named Lorelei and Sookie. No photos yet.

On to 2017

Hope you have a wonderful 2017. We look forward to welcoming any visitors to our home in Oakland whenever we are there. Drop us a line and let us know if you like this report.

About the Quote

I think the best quote for the year, given the election results, is probably Yeats's Poem The Second Coming. Particularly the bit,

now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?,

However, we have used snips from that poem twice already. 2009 and 2004, though not directly, and we thought something else had to be better than a three-peat, no matter how appropriate.

Let's hope that we do better with DT than we did with W.

The quote at the top, which Linda selected, reflects our approach to a time when "the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity."