To make up for the lost vacation, we substituted a ski trip to Keystone. The skiing was great and we even got in a day trip to Breckenridge, and a horse drawn sleigh ride to a mountain top cabin for some dinner, Schnapps-spiked hot chocolate, and a folksy-ish guitar playing singing cowboy. The ride down was freezing (like Arctic) but we had huge wool horse blankets to bundle up in and it was actually very romantic.
Our house turned twelve this year and we decided it was time for some remodelling. In particular, the kitchen and master bathrooms needed some work, so we replaced the counter tops, appliances, and lighting in the kitchen (about 2 days worth of work) and gutted the master bathroom (about 3 months worth of work). The original bathroom literally had six doors, not counting the shower stall door. It was a mirror-image his & hers, with tiny separate closets and long sinks on either side. We closed up one side, made one large closet, merged the sinks and swapped the low metal tub for a jacuzzi shaped tub (minus the jets). But the biggest difference is open-ness. The old bathroom had furr downs - projections from the ceiling that held light fixtures and supposedly made the room cozier, but in our case it made it cramped. We removed them and added two corner windows with views to the deck and pool. The cats love this room now since they can easily find puddles of light to loll around in.
In the midst of the remodelling, Stewart turned 40 in March. Still the swashbuckling guy I married. Yeah, you know, Stewart L. French.
Teresa came in May just as the remodelling was wrapped up. We even got Trina to come up for a day to join us goofing off around the pool. Then, Trese and Anne headed up to Missouri to visit with Esther on her 74th birthday.
In June, Morgan and Maxine visited in time for Maxine's birthday. We had a great time taking them out to the Ballpark (in Arlington) for a Texas Rangers game. We had a row of 14 Little Leaguers in front of us and they were hysterical. Several were had miniature fans on chains around their necks so they blew up in to their faces, and one of the more adventuresome had gotten the face plate off of his fan and was experimenting with trajectories by attaching one end of his gum to one of the blades, pulling the other end taut and then turning the fan back one. It made a fine ellipsoidal shape until it tore apart and splattered several unsuspecting teammates.
The week before the 4th of July, Trina and the kids made a plane trip up from Houston via Southwest Airlines Friends Fly Free program, a really good deal when you have as many "friends" as the Webbs! It was inspired by a campaign letter from Brandi who really wanted to play in the pool... I can see politics in her future. We had a ball, swimming, holding diving contests, playing computer games (boys), and generally goofing off. If we'd had a little more dramamine handy, it would have been perfect.
In late July, Anne joined her sister Kath on the Des Moines Register's (a newspaper) Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). We and 10,000 other people made a weeklong expedition across the Hawkeye State on two wheels (each). It was 435 miles of pork-fueled, Macarena-inspired, butt-challenging funny and friendly peddling. There is a several page log with photos of this ride on our home page if you'd like to see more details. It was a real blast and I enjoyed Kath's company a lot, plus we got to see mom on both ends of the trip.
In September, we had the opportunity to babysit Emily and Amelia while Tom and Joyce went to a friend's wedding. Amelia had never been away from the folks before and we kept her entertained enough that it was a good thirty minutes before she looked around nervously, dropped her chin to her chest and started leaking some huge tears. Emily tried to cheer her up by taking her hand, pulling her aside and telling her "You have to be strong like daddy." Luckily, she dropped off to sleep and Tom and Joyce came home not too long after she woke up.
We again did lots of organized bike rides this year: Burnett Bluebonnet Festival (strong south winds), Muenster (30 mph south winds), Fort Worth's Cow Town Classic (cancelled last year due to hail storms but this year just 30 mph south winds). See a pattern forming here? If you saw the "Dallas" reunion show, you can tell they filmed it around here this spring. Plano's Collin Classic was a surprise - the wind turned around that one day and we had a wonderful cool day with moderate north west winds so we went for the 65 miler and made it without damage. We again did Tour D'Italy, Weatherford Peach Pedal (minus the peaches due to the extremely dry spring this year), Rockwall's Hot Rocks, and of course the Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred. We did the 62 miler this year (hundred K) and it wasn't even very hot (low 90's). Besides doing these rides to get ready for RAGBRAI, Anne even took up riding her bike into work regularly, a 3 mile crow flying trip but stretched to 7 miles to find a route without the thrilling death factor. TI's athletic center made it easy with locker rentals and showers, but we each moved to other TI sites in June where bicycling was not an option. More on that later.
October saw the first ever post-season play by the Texas Rangers, and our status as season ticket holders (okay, only 13-game pack season ticket holders) gave us options to buy 2 seats to the first game in each postseason game played at the Ballpark. We were pretty excited, well, Anne more than Stewart since the 1995 memories of the 120 degree, bullpen-screened All Star game "options" were too fresh in his mind. But our seats weren't so bad this time (upper deck but within view of the big screen mostly, and high enough not to have folks walking in front of us the whole time). We hooted and hollered, and saw a great game we were winning going into the 9th, only to have a faltering bullpen lose the game, and the series in like fashion the next afternoon. But it was a great year for the Rangers with Johnnie Oates tying for Manager of the Year and Juan Gonzalez getting Most Valuable Player even before he hit five home runs in the one playoff series. Wait till next year!
With our evenings and weekends free during the remainder of the playoffs, we headed up to Kentucky to visit Morgan and Maxine. What perfect fall weather! The trees were at their color peak, and the sky was deep blue, so we visited Burnheim Forest to get a full shot of actual foilage. And we were lucky to see Roxie and Joyce when they stopped over too. Our card photo came from this trip, standing in Morgan and Maxine's back yard.
Now for the business news. The F-16 Modular Mission Computer program was winding down for Texas Instruments in 1996, so we each took positions on other projects. For the first time in four years, we're working on different projects, and for the first time since since 1982, we are at different TI sites.
Actually both buildings are at the intersection of highway 635 and 75 in Dallas, Stewart's is on the north side of 635 and Anne's is on the south side. Due to congestion and construction, it takes 15 minutes to get from one to the other. TI is building several large computer chip fabrication plants in the area to keep up with demand and the construction is unbelievable. As for the projects, Stewart's is deeper into defense and is "black" so that's all we can say about that (especially Anne since she doesn't know anything about it!). Anne's is in the relatively new telecommunications segment of TI, a spin-off of the defense business applying commercial conversion to defense technology. A few years ago, TI changed the name of the group we were in, the Defense Systems and Electronics Group, to the Systems Group, and divided it into two parts: Defense Systems and Electronics (DS&E), and Communications and Electronic Systems (C&ES). Stewart is in DS&E and Anne is in C&ES. In the case of Anne's project, the defense antenna work is being used in a Local Multipoint Communications System, a fixed wireless application aimed at bringing faster communications rates into the home. Those of you with internet connections might appreciate that. We recently won a contract as part of a consortium to supply LMCS to 33 major markets in Canada, so that's pretty exciting (and the first free t-shirt Anne ever got from TI). Now for the more uncertain news. Texas Instruments is selling its defense system business. They are actively taking bids from McDonnell Douglas, Hughes, and Lockheed-Martin, to name a few. We don't know if the bids apply to the Systems Group or just DS&E. And if just DS&E, does C&ES stay or get cut since TI is now actively trying to focus its future purely on semiconductors? Time will tell, but TI has been a great company to work for and very ethical to its employees so it's going to be a tough act to follow.
Our cats Murky and Louie are doing well and keeping up their tradition of trying to annoy each other. Murky has become the neighborhood rooster since she evidently has had some success luring nearby cats over the fence by yowling unrelentingly, and she sometimes takes up this activity on her first jaunt out at 5:30am. We'd keep her in but it's worse inside the house. And yes, she was fixed years ago. Louie meanwhile has learned how to scale the fence clawless with help from an ornamental tree, so he became house-bound after a two hour search of the neighborhood. He doesn't care much since he has allergy problems.
We are both in fine health and we hope you are well. Have a wonderful holiday!