Archive for November 2015

Christmas Letters

November 29, 2015

Every about this time I start working on my Christmas Letter. I started doing this annual letter back about 1998 or 1999. I felt that sending a Christmas card with just a signature was too little work and hand writing news on each and every card was way too much. My in-laws had been doing Christmas letters for as long as I have known them. Back then Mary did the writing and typing on her IBM Selectric and took it to the copy shop for duplication. Computers made my job so much easier.

I still have copies of previous editions going back to 1999. Some years, I would send my email. But I didn’t like that very much. The initial editions just had generic Christmas clip-art. Eventually, I started including pictures. I figured our friends would rather see a few pictures than some lame clip-art.

Now a days, I do a press run of 120 copies. 120 is a nice round number. There are 30 address labels per page and 24 e-stamps per page. Both numbers divide evenly into 120. I still send a few email copies for folks not in the USA. Besides, going past 120 gets into serious money for postage.

So I already have a rough draft done. And I have started printing stamps and labels. Some years when I was working, I didn’t get the letter out until after Christmas.

So without further ado, here is my 1999 Christmas letter (this was the text only version sent by email):

December 1999

Well it is December again and time to do some writing to our friends and family wherever you may be. This year Paula and I decided that she would write her Christmas cards the normal way (ie. Christmas card, pen, envelope, stamp, etc.).

I decided to do another Christmas letter, but this year I would send it via email. I have added several hyperlinks for your web-surfing enjoyment. So without further ado, here is the latest news at the Bowker family:

Mike finished his freshman year at Northeastern University. He made the Dean’s list for the Spring Quarter. He is majoring in Electrical Engineering or as Dave Barry calls it “Big Scary Equations”. This fall he is working at his Co-op assignment at Ezenia Corporation in Burlington.

He continues to be active in NUHOC (NU Hiking and Outing Club). Click here to see a picture of him last winter at a NUHOC Ice Climbing event. He is eagerly awaiting the first good snow of the season. It has been unseasonably warm in New England this December and for that Mike is quite unhappy.

Mike continues to train at Kwon’s Tai Kwon Do in Tewksbury. He tested and received his 2nd Dan (2nd Degree) Black Belt in December. He will be returning to campus in January, to start his sophomore academic work (Physics, Math, Circuits).

Neil is in his junior year at Shawsheen Vocational Technical High School where his shop specialty is Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (ACR). Neil spent the summer working at a local Air Conditioning contractor. He was spent many a weekend diving off of Cape Ann. He passed his Advanced Open Water Dive certification. 

Neil got his drivers license this spring and Billerica roads have not been the same since. In June, he decided that he really needed a car, so we found him a 1990 Jeep Wrangler. Neil is rapidly learning the hassles of owning a car.

Paula is still working at Chelmsford Pediatrics as a staff nurse. There are unfortunately no web pages for Chelmsford Pediatrics. Paula and I try to spend as many weekends as we can up at our condo in Plymouth, NH.  We never seem to have enough time to get away. Here are a couple of pictures of the place. The condo is located at Tenney Mountain in Plymouth, NH.

I have been asked by some of our west coast friends whether we would be out in LA this Christmas. Unfortunately we will not be traveling this Christmas. One of the reasons for staying home is that I will be working over the New Year’s weekend keeping the world safe from the Y2K problems. Paula’s parents will however be coming out to visit for Christmas.  We are looking forward to their visit.

I continue to work for Compaq (or as we are fond of calling it: the company formerly known as DEC). I am doing more or less the same job in Customer Services doing either solving complex customer problems or consulting in the High Availability Systems area. I am currently working on a project for AT&T where I get to spend weekends in New Jersey. This is not quite the international travel I was becoming used to. Whatever, it’s a job.

This past weekend we finally had a taste of winter. Temperature got down to 32F and winds of 25 knots gusting to 30-40 knots. BRRRRRRR!!!!. Paula and I spent Saturday Christmas shopping starting with to gift shops to Wal-Mart and so forth. Mike decided to forego the pleasure of joining us and went skiing instead.

Well, that’s enough. May all of you and happy and joyous Christmas. Keep in touch.

Joe, Paula, Mike and Neil Bowker


November 27, 2015

Well another Thanksgiving Day is in the record books. We had a delightful day. Our current tradition is to visit Theresa’s cousin Eric up in Rancho Palos Verdes. it has become a fairly large family gathering. We have children ranging in age from 14 down to 1 years old.

We do it at Eric’s house because he has the largest house available for the occasion. We end up with three tables. One for the seniors (minimum age of 60), one for the little kids, and one for the young adults.

Our contribution to the festivities was wine. I was instructed to bring 4-5 bottles of wine. So I brought two bottles of Beuajolais Nouveau, one of Chardonnay, a Reisling and a Gewurstraminer. I went home with an empty bag.

There are pluses and minuses to going to other people’s homes for Thanksgiving. On the plus side, we don’t have to cook. We just come and bring what we are told to bring. On the minus side, there are no left overs and I have less control over the menu. Like no mashed potatoes or pumpkin pie. But the food was all good. It was a mixture of American and Chinese cuisines.

Mary did pretty good. The terrain is a bit tough for her. Eric’s home has a steep, long driveway. We had to be extra careful. No falls or trips to the ER, thank you very much. We didn’t have any white zin for her so she had to make do with the riesling.

It was fun to watch the little ones play. Jonathan was keeping pretty good. Sarah is improving her toddling skills.

Sarah, keeping up with the big boys.


Jonathan’s Yellow Wheels

So the family room had football playing on the big screen. Guests were shooed out of the kitchen. Everyone got some piano playing time. I know enough to bring my iPad so that I have my music. Eric has a beautiful Steinway baby grand. Everyone in the family takes piano lessons.
We were home by 8pm.

1125alice01No dishes to do. Mary was all worn out. She headed off to her bedroom and went to bed. Paula and I sat down to watch Arlo Guthrie perform “Alice’s Restaurant” on PBS. I had recorded it on the DVR so I could skip through the pledge breaks.  Here’s a link to a live recording of Alice’s Restauarant done in 2005. That ditty sure has staying power. The pledge-persons on the LA PBS station seemed to be more annoying than usual, but I could skip over the breaks. Young man in suit and tie, woman of similar age. You couldn’t pick two people more unlike Arlo Guthrie than these two. It was a good concert if you ignore the pledge breaks.

JPL Tour

November 19, 2015


On Tuesday, We attended a tour of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs in Pasadena. This was a private tour that was arranged by our son Mike who works there. We had a group of about 20 people, most of whom were members of Mike’s 9SOPS unit at Vandenberg AFB.

The tour started at a small theater to view a video about JPL. The lab was started by a couple of grad students at Caltech who were doing research on rocket motors. Here’s the wiki article. Around the edge of the room were several models of JPL space craft including a 1/2 size model of the two spacecrafts Voyager which were  launched in 1977. Voyager 1 and 2 continue to operate today returning data from interstellar space.


From the auditorium, we headed to a small museum with more examples of JPL’s projects including Mars Exploration Rover Mission and other space craft for exploring the surface of Mars. We were given ample time to look at all of the models and take pictures. But we couldn’t stay all afternoon because there was another group scheduled right behind us.

 After we were done with the museum we hiked up to the building where the control center lives. They have a glassed in balcony where visitors can watch the business of managing spacecraft millions of miles from planet Earth. The center is manned 24/7/365. Here are a couple of pictures. By this point in the tour my knees were talking back to me.

The final stop in the tour was another glassed in balcony for visitors of one of the large clean room assembly areas where robotic space craft are built and readied for their journey to the outer reaches of outer space. On the far wall in the picture below are the mission symbols for all of the space craft that have come through this building.

It was a great tour. It was a lot easier than trying to go to the public open house held last month.

The Chair

November 13, 2015

2015-11-06 15.14.21So we’ve been living with Paula’s mother now for a bit over three years. Sometimes the woman just drives me absolutely crazy. One can’t have an argument with her. Logic just doesn’t work. She can’t remember anything that happened a week or a month ago.

So I asked her the other day, do you know how long we have been living with you? I get a dazed, deer in the headlights stare back. Not a clue.

So a few weeks ago I told her that I wanted to replace the reclining chair in our living room that I usually sit in when we are watching TV. I told her that I have trouble getting up from it. The chair is a combination rocker/recliner. So when one wants to get up, you lean forward and the chair dips low making it difficult to get up. A problem aggravated by my bad knees.

I told Mary that she has trouble getting up, too. No, I don’t she says. Not going to win this argument.

So I told Paula, that we’re getting a new chair with or without her approval. Her only choice is what we’re going to do with the old chair. The old chair can go out with the trash or it can go into her room. To put it in her room we need to make a space. There is much clutter in her room with stuff that she can’t live without. She has a massage table that she wants to keep. It doesn’t matter that she hasn’t used it in years. How do I know that? You might say? Well to use it one would have to take the boxes of stuff off of it. So we managed to move some stuff around and made space for the chair. So last Friday, Paula and I go out to the local LaZ-Boy show room to buy a chair. I am happy. Not sure how we will break the news to Mary.

Then, on Monday, she says “I guess it would be okay for you to get a new chair”. I didn’t want to tell her that we’d already bought the chair and it would be delivered on Thursday. At any rate, the chair was delivered and Mary has forgotten all about the argument. I’m happy. She’s happy (I guess)

By the way, she is doing pretty good. No illness, no falls. She is going pretty slow though. We try to have extra time built into our appointments for her. Two speeds, slow and slower.

We had lunch with Theresa and the grand-kids last Sunday after church. She loves to see the grand-kids. Here’s a picture.

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Mary helping Jonathan with his crayons and coloring.

Grammy Museum

November 2, 2015

2015-11-01 15.52.32 HDR-2It’s been a busy weekend here in LA. Paula, Andrea and I went to church then lunch at the Gaffey Street Diner. We then went home so that Paula could check on her mother. Then we headed to the Grammy Museum in downtown LA. We wanted to see the Frank Sinatra exhibit. The Grammy museum is located downtown near the Staples Center and the LA Convention Center. There was some sort of event at the convention center. It was some sort of comic-con event. Lots of people dressed in strange costumes. We thought, oh oh parking may be a challenge.

Not so, we got into a parking lot nearby for $10 for three hours. So we got in for $10.95 for senior tickets. Nobody ever cards us to prove we are older than dirt. This is the second time we’ve been to the Grammy museum. Three floors of recording star memorabilia. Always interesting. The displays change from time to time.

We had been here a few months ago to see the exhibit on Whitney Houston. A very sad event indeed. Usually they start you on the fourth floor and work your way down. The Sinatra exhibit was on the second floor. That’s where we started.

There was lots of Sinatra memorabilia from the early days to the later period. They were showing a short video in the Clive Davis theater of a Sinatra concert. Here are some pictures.

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Here’s a youtube link to Frank Sinatra singing “New York, New York”

After we were done with the Sinatra exhibit we went up stairs to look at the exhibits on “The Supremes”. Here are some pictures. I loved the gowns.

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And finally a youtube clip from the Supremes.