Dear Friends and Family,
Greetings to all! Every year, I wonder how I will start this letter. This year, I stopped worrying and had a couple margaritas. But seriously, we had a good year. In a nutshell, Richard graduated from MIT in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering and now is in grad school at Georgia Tech. Robert’s now a sophomore majoring in Partying and Mechanical Engineering at GT. David has survived another year as an “only child,” and radically changed his appearance (taller and thinner) and voice (deeper). John has a new hobby and Ginny has a new slate floor and wood stairs. We’re all still together. Everyone’s healthy. Life is good. What more could you want? (Oops, can’t say that too loud in front of John.)
Ginny – From Patents and Slate to Orlando and Italy
To keep my mind active and avoid “dain bramage”, I write science fiction, …er, I mean patent applications, although sometimes, they’re close to sci-fi. I’m still with the small “nano” start-up, Carbon Nanotechnologies, Inc. (CNI), a company spun out of Rice University by Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Richard Smalley. (The company makes carbon nanotubes, which are tiny tubes of carbon with the atoms arranged in a chicken-wire arrangement and capped with round ends that look like halves of a soccer ball.) Although most all applications for nanotubes will be embedded in products and not visible to consumers, there may soon be ads touting carbon nanotubes in such products as flat panel displays. In the last couple years, I’ve mainly concentrated on writing the company’s patent applications and providing the scientific arguments for patent prosecution. A nice coincidence is that some of the patent applications include Georgia Tech inventors, so I like to plan trips there on Parent’s Weekend and see how Richard and Robert are doing.
Since I work from home and only go in to the office once a month, I see a lot more of the house and the “fix-ups” it needs. This year, I had a new slate floor installed in the entry, dining room and guest bath. Of course, as those of you redecorator/remodelers who’ve “been there, done that” know, one thing leads to another. The carpeted stairs were out of date and out of nap, so I had oak stairs installed, and while at it, new oak rails and trim. Since making color decisions would take longer than any contractor could stand, I decided to do the staining and varnishing myself. So far only the stair treads are done, but I’m looking forward to puttering on the rest after Christmas.
To get out of the house, I continue to volunteer with David’s school and Scout activities. For Clear Lake High School’s Academic Quiz Bowl, I’m mainly a chauffer and cheer leader. For Dave’s new Scout Troop, I’m membership chairman and “general advice giver,” you know, just like one of the guys.
One of the 2003 highlights for David and me was a Spring Break trip to Italy. With 19 high school students and 7 adults, we toured Rome, Pompeii, Sorrento, Isle of Capri, Assisi, Florence, Pisa and Venice. We had fabulous weather for the whole trip. Rome was nice and warm as we saw the Coliseum, the Roman Forum and Vatican City. At the Isle of Capri, we were very lucky to have calm seas (which are fairly uncommon) so that we could go by small dinghy into the Blue Grotto. In Assisi, we saw both St. Francis’s and St. Clare’s churches, and the tower is still leaning, although a little less so lately, in Pisa. St. Mark’s in Venice was absolutely magnificent and, luckily, we didn’t have to navigate through flood waters in St. Mark’s Square as some tourists did recently. Since I hadn’t really seen the Italian landmarks for over 30 years, it was interesting to see the differences, especially in the crowds and commercialization around the attractions. Nevertheless, we had a fabulous time and a lot of fun with our Clear Lake HS group.
In April, John and I helped chaperone David and the Clear Lake High School Falcon Band to the Dixie Classic Music Festival in Orlando. It was real hoot. The band numbered about 220 and chaperones numbered about 30. Of course, the reason that music festivals are held at fun places is so the kids, and chaperones, get to go to Disney World, etc. and get excused for missing school. It was a lot of fun for kids and parents alike. The kids were well behaved and could go around the parks in small groups, so the chaperones got to enjoy everything as well. For John and me, it was like a vacation with our friends, many of whom had been in band, like us, for a zillion years.
John’s Flying, Fixing, Scouting, and, yes, “Hobby-ing”
John’s section could be renamed, any of “My Hobby of the Year”, “My Latest Toys” or “Isn’t Retirement Fun?” For all of you regular readers of the Cross-Family tomes, it’s a rare year when a new hobby is not addressed. To keep you from the suspense, the latest hobby is electric-powered model airplanes (building, flying, crashing and rebuilding). This hobby is a variation on an earlier one in gas-powered model airplanes. Judging by the VISA bill, there’s not much that could be salvaged from the old planes. A whole new set of equipment was needed, such as batteries, battery chargers, controllers, optional GPSs, not to mention, the planes themselves.
In full-scale aviation, John became an official A & P (Airframe and Powerplant) Mechanic this spring after finishing his 30-months of required practical experience and passing the written and practical exams. In the summer, he helped Richard get his instrument rating. Of course, this was a labor of love, and a nice father-son bonding experience. The rating required some cross-country flights, one of which was carefully planned to the National Aerobatic Championships in Lakeland, Florida.
Besides fixing and flying planes, John has been tutoring high school students in math, chemistry and physics. He also continues in Scouting as an assistant scoutmaster for David’s troop, a unit commissioner for another pack and troop, and a teacher for Pius XII, a Catholic religious program for Scouts in grades 10 to 12.
Richard, 22, MIT Grad, Instrument Rated Rocket Scientist, and Georgia Tech Grad Student
We were very proud as we watched Richard graduate from MIT this June. The whole family went to Boston to see Richard pick up “our receipt”, I mean, “his diploma.” With a degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, now he really is a “Rocket Scientist.” He visited and debated, for a little while, his choice of grad schools (MIT, Cal Tech, U of Michigan, Georgia Tech) and decided on GT. He was really looking forward to warmer weather after the brutally cold Boston winters. So far, he’s been at GT a semester in the M.S./Ph. D. program and is preparing to present several papers at aeronautical conferences in 2004. He’s enjoying and is refreshed by the change of scenery and has found a variety of new things to do around campus. He plays guitar, and his girlfriend plays piano, at one of the Catholic center Sunday masses. He also runs the GT radio station (www.wrek.com) for an hour a week and helps with Habitat for Humanity building projects. All in all, he seems to be having a great time in both his academics and extracurriculars.
Since graduate school will probably keep him busy year round from now on, this past summer may have been his last one at home. Last summer, he earned his private pilot’s wings, and this summer, he was anxious to get an Instrument Rating. With a willing instructor (John), and planes to fly (ours), he had no problem getting flying and instructor time. He passed with “flying colors.” He’s definitely anxious to get home for Christmas and get airborne again.
Robert, 20, Sophomore at Georgia Tech, Drum Line Tenor, Fraternity Brother, Now with New Car
Robert had a great freshman year at Georgia Tech, majoring in Partying and Mechanical Engineering. Robert has been having a ball and having so much fun that we wondered when he had time to go to classes. Comments like “All this schoolwork gets in the way of having fun” and “All the beer is free”, made us wonder. However, Robert did well academically and he gets to stay. In his sophomore year, he decided to participate in the co-op program, and will work at a GT-approved company doing mechanical engineering every other semester. Since his co-op job is in Atlanta, he’ll be able to stay at his fraternity, Theta Chi, year round and attend all the GT games, which he loves.
Robert again played “quads” or “tenors” in the drumline for the GT band. Through this venue, although indirectly, he ended up visiting several Atlanta emergency rooms. It’s a bit scary to get a random call from one’s son almost 1000 miles away saying that he’s in ER. The diagnosis: a dislocated shoulder. The cause: taking on a bet for a 6-pack to tackle someone, winning the 6-pack and getting tackled by an even bigger random guy. Fortunately, the prognosis is good, i.e. do therapy and no surgery, for now. After mending sufficiently, Robert and some of the other GT percussion and brass band members were able to play as pre-game entertainment for the Atlanta Falcons’ games. Besides being a lot of fun, Rob and his friends got to see a few pro games.
Rob’s very involved in his fraternity, Theta Chi, and just became the chapter secretary. Besides nice fraternity brothers, Theta Chi just built a beautiful new 3-story house, with all the “guy” creature comforts--big screen TV, outdoor swimming pool, and satellite TV. College housing was never like this for us parents! Now, going to college means, at a minimum, having a car, cell phone, and in-room TV with a stocked fridge. Such a life!
Dave, 17, Junior at Clear Lake High School, in Scouts and Quiz Bowl
David's now 17 - taller, thinner and a bit wiser. He’s a junior at Clear Lake HS and continues to enjoy being an “only child.” He decided to drop band, in which he played trumpet, after we all went on the fun, spring Orlando band trip. However, he’s filling his time nicely with more science and computer classes, Academic Quiz Bowl and piano lessons. He’s still entering Science Fair and won several special awards at the Greater Houston Science Fair. Selecting a Science Fair project is always a challenge, but, between John and Dave, they’ve been able to come up with some topic that involves aviation that they can do at the airport. The project also provides for good father-son bonding.
In Scouts, David continues to be active in the Troop and Order of the Arrow. Before Thanksgiving, he attended Camp Karankawa to earn a few more merit badges to go toward palms on his Eagle badge. In the summer, he and Rob helped staff at Camp Strake north of Houston. David loved it and will help again at Winter Camp after Christmas.
Because Georgia Tech has its big (“To Hell with Georgia”) rivalry game against the “The (sic) University of Georgia” on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Rob stayed in Atlanta over Thanksgiving to play in the band. This year, he asked David to join him and have a Thanksgiving “college visit.” With Robert, David enjoyed a Thrasher’s game and the GT-UGA game, visited a variety of eateries, and got a short course in “college partying.” (I’m afraid to ask for details.)
Well, that's it from us! Hope to hear from you, too!! And all the best for a very Merry Christmas and a Great New Year!
From all of the Crosses