January 2015, Rancho Europa, 2083 Lazy Z. Rd., Nederland CO 80466
For our very dear and loving friends, family, and colleagues,
It has been a generally good year for us, but certainly a transitional one. The most significant transitions, of course, were the birth of granddaughter Camille in May and the death of Clark's mother several months later, who passed away peacefully at the age of 101. The coming and going of generations. In addition, Clark has been transitioning down to half-time employment, from 80% at the beginning of the year to 60% and then 50%. He may officially retire sometime in 2016, but most scientists never really retire. At home, Rocko has gradually decided that there is someone else at Rancho Europa besides Y and has developed an early morning habit of enticing Clark to give him a head-rubbing. The Aspen Meadows house concerts in our neighborhood have come to an end, a loss for the community. And a threatened loss this summer was the sudden appearance of USFS-sponsored tree-cutters in surrounding parts of the National Forest, though we've temporarily kept them at bay. The Gross Reservoir situation is again on hold after we all responded to the terribly incompetent Final Environmental Impact Statement in the spring (see link above this letter at www.ranchoeuropa.com).
The year, for us, was primarily one of considerable travel. We traveled every month except in April. In January we had a good time in Kauai, including a spectacular dinner cruise along the Na Pali coast. We visited China for the first time ever, seeing many of the famous cities and sights and cruising up the Yangtze River. Y considers the Three Gorges Dam to be so enormous that it makes the Panama Canal appear as just a toy.
Soon afterwards, we spent about ten days in Helsinki, while Clark participated in the "Asteroids Comets Meteors" conference. We took a special day trip to Estonia where we experienced a freezing bottle of vodka being tossed in the air, then caught by our waiter, who produced a meter-long waterfall that overflowed our glasses; we downed our vodka in single sips, earning ourselves a plate of pickles.
We also had a fascinating early-December week in a very fancy and immense, but problematical, resort south of Cancun in the Mexican jungle, joined by friends in a two-bedroom unit with more floor space than our house. Coincidentally, a troupe of Cirque du Soleil had just established permanent residence on the grounds of the resort, so we went to an impressive show. We took a couple of spectacular trips to Telluride for the Bluegrass Festival and the Film Festival where we mingled with prominent musicians and actors. Beyond that, we went to The Woodlands, Texas, for an annual planetary geoscience conference, to Tucson for a planetary astronomy conference (where we also visited friends), to Breckenridge for our annual Valentine's week ski vacation, and we also drove to Beaver Creek and to Santa Fe. Our most spectacular driving trip was Y's nearly two-week birthday trip (3,200 miles round-trip in Y's new "Valentino") to Flaming Gorge, Grand Teton N.P., Glacier and Waterton Lakes parks, and the Canadian Rockies as far north as the Columbia ice fields. Y had her birthday dinner at the Lake Louise Chateau and on a later day, fulfilling Y's long-time wish, we hiked up to the remote tea house, far above Lake Louise.
Clark is now, at least temporarily, kidney-stone-free. Y's back issues have been in better shape than in earlier years and we hope to take advantage of our downhill ski passes later this winter. Rocko is also healthy, though he has had two visitations with vets. We've had continuing issues as consumers in the modern world, the latest being Christmas Eve fraud on our Visa card by criminals in the UK, causing our only credit card to be reissued with new numbers, which we have to provide to innumerable merchants. Air travel continues to be an endurance test, although United Airlines waived the change fee when a September hurricane in Cabo forced us to relocate our post-Thanksgiving Mexican vacation to the jungle near Cancun.
Clark's involvement with MESSENGER has continued to be rewarding, though the inexorable laws of physics will crash the orbiting spacecraft into Mercury this coming April. He has been working on several chapters for the forthcoming "Asteroids IV" book, despite very little relevant funding. The NASA funding situation continues to be a disappointing struggle for most of Clark's colleagues, and some recent failures of commercial space ventures -- including Y's champion Richard Branson's SpaceShip Two -- add to the somber mood. In the wider world, the American public has unwittingly increased the power of the very politicians whose policies are most responsible for the disappointing economy, even as President Obama continues his lackluster efforts to fulfill promises. And wars continue on the other side of the globe. We wish for peace.
Our major hobby has been film and documentaries, inspired by our attending the Telluride Film Festivals during the last two years. The Academy Awards this spring featured many movies we first saw around Labor Day 2013 in Telluride, and we saw many fine movies this September that have been opening to the public during the past month or so, including "Imitation Game" (we think Cumberbache should win the Best Actor Oscar) and "Birdman". We listened to Jon Stewart introduce his first directorial movie, "Rosewater", and to Resse Witherspoon and Laura Dern discussing "Wild" for about an hour, along with the director and the woman who wrote the book. We didn't enjoy "Foxcatcher" much, but it educated us about the du Pont family. In addition, we watched a new digital version of "Apocalypse Now," and heard Francis Ford Coppola and his associates contribute to the tribute on the 35th anniversary of the film's release. We've also gone to some special concerts, taken some splendid hikes in the wilderness, and visited with special friends near and far.
We continue to support the Sentinel Mission (sentinelmission.org), which will find any near-Earth asteroid that would threaten country-scale catastrophe, and expect 2015 will see the project continuing toward launch. We hope that you and yours will have as fine a 2015 as possible and that the world will evolve towards peace and equity.
With kind regards and warm thoughts,
Clark, Y (LMC), and Rocko email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Na Pali coast of Kauai from our flight in a small airplane.
Steep eroded cliffs and spires, Na Pali coast of Kauai.
We are standing by the Kilauea lighthouse, Kauai.
View from the Bund, Shanghai, looking toward our hotel (flowery top).
Entrance to Yugarden, Shanghai.
Y on the deck of the Viking Emerald, cruising up the Yangtze.
View of another ship as we rise in a lock of the Three Gorges Dam.
An illuminated city on the shore of the Yangtze near Chongqing.
Excavated terra cotta soldiers near Xian.
Beginning our rickshaw ride in Beijing.
Climbing the Great Wall on a clear, windy day.
Entrance to the Forbidden City, viewed from Tiananmen Square.
Panda in the Beijing zoo.
Chimney Rock, west of Ridgway CO.
Standing on our tarp at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, bandstand behind.
The 14th century walls and towers in Tallinn, Estonia.
Looking toward the waterfalls west of Telluride.
Jon Stewart, discussing his film "Rosewater" at the Telluride Film Festival.
Flaming Gorge reservoir, northeastern Utah.
Glacial U-shaped valley in Glacier National Park.
Wild Goose Island, St. Mary Lake, Glacier N.P.
Y's birthday dinner, Fairmont Room, Chateau Lake Louise, Alberta.
Symmetry reflected in Moraine Lake, Banff National Park.
View from the end of Moraine Lake.
View of Lake Louise and chateau from the Mountain Resort, backdropped by glaciers.
Sun rises on snowy mountains behind Lake Louise.
View across Lake Agnes from the tea house.
An evening toast at Spring Creek Ranch, Jackson Hole.
A flower along a Nature Conservancy path, Santa Fe NM.
Wild javelinas near the pools of Starr Pass Resort, Tucson.
View toward Kitt Peak from the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.
Iguana near our breakfast table, Grand Mayan resort, south of Cancun, Mexico.
Enjoying sunset by the beach in front of the Pavo Real restaurant, Playa del Carmen.
A quiet, poolside rest, Grand Mayan resort.
Flamingo, Grand Mayan resort.
New theater for a resident company of Cirque du Soleil, Grand Mayan resort.
Rocko looks out our dining room window.