Happy Holidays

Dear Family and Friends,

2018 is right around the corner and we wanted to take this opportunity to send holiday greetings: we hope all is well in your corner of the globe.

A common refrain is that change is the only constant. We are feeling that this year. It’s been a year of changes, some difficult and some sad. We decided to relocate near family/in the path of family, so now we are in Olympia, WA. We have what we think of as a farmhouse in the woods: there’s no farm but we do have lots of lots of wildlife (we even saw a bald eagle soaring above our street this summer). Rural living is totally new to us and we are learning to garden in an environment that is a study in contrasts–long dry summer days and short, cool, wet winter days. And gardening in the company of hungry deer and rabbits! We are also learning about septic systems, wells and propane. Our street is not a dirt road but it’s not your typical suburban paved road either. It’s so dark here at night, so the view of the stars is above average. It’s also very quiet and peaceful and that’s a nice change for all of us.

This year we jumped into massively open online courses (MOOCs). It all started with an article in the New York Times that inspired Jake to sign up for the most popular MOOC of all time, Learning How to Learn with engineering professor Barbara Oakley. Jake checked out the companion book, A Mind for Numbers and a whole new world opened up. Then Robert signed up for the following session of the class and we were both hooked on online learning. We now we are on our way to being “super MOOCers,” people who complete many online classes. We’ve been “in class” since August and between us, we’ve completed six classes and are working on classes seven and eight. It’s hard work but it’s great and it’s been an amazing, eye-opening, life-changing experience. We think everyone who has ever said, “I wish I was better at …” or “I am no good at …” or “I have always wanted to learn …” should take Learning How to Learn. If you have a young person in your life, Prof. Oakley has a new version of A Mind for Numbers in the works for teenagers.

Since we moved to the land of salmon, we decided to check out the local salmon run. There’s an established viewing area on private land a few minutes from our house that opens up every November when the salmon return to Kennedy Creek. Wow–we knew the basics of the salmon life cycle but it’s another thing altogether to see these giant fish battling upstream to reproduce before they die. The fish get beat up battling other fish and getting pounded against the rocks and trees in the creek. It was hard to watch the fish in this life and death struggle until you realize that these fish were successful in completing their mission. They made it to the final act of their lives. Nature’s design is complex and amazing and awe-inspiring.

We enjoyed watching The Crown series on Netflix at the beginning of the year and look forward to watching season two this holiday season. Robert recommends the book Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero to those of you who grew up watching Scooby-Doo and appreciate H. P. Lovecraft. If you are into science fiction or books with strong women protagonists, we both highly recommend Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon, in which 70-something Ofelia decides to stay behind when the planetary colony she lives in is abandoned, leaving her alone to eventually negotiate first contact with the previously undiscovered local inhabitants.

We’d love to hear from you. Happy holidays and all the best in the New Year!


Jake and Robert