Charles' Year End Letter


2012 Holiday Letter

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Hi All!

Travel this year

WoW! What a year for travel!

  • January: Las Vegas
  • February: Costa Rica
  • March: Hong Kong
  • June: Washington DC
  • September: Seattle
  • December: Las Vegas
  • In addition, I included a visit to Gainesville, Florida to visit my parents in January, June and September. Everybody laughs when I tell them I went from San Francisco to Seattle by way of Gainesville, Florida!

    Each of the trips was memorable. During my January trip to Gainesville, I met Helen. Her parents were in the same senior apartment complex as my parents. She was there taking care of her parents and one day, in the dining room, we met. For various reasons, we were not able to see each other, other than a couple of times in the dining room. After I left Gainesville, we EMAIL'd back and forth and made plans for our first date in June, when I was again in Gainesville. We hit it off wonderfully! She then visited me in Fremont in July and I visited her again in September. In December, we'll spend a week in Las Vegas and then she'll return to Fremont with me till January. This is going to be a FUN holiday season!


    Las Vegas

    In January, the JEDEC office asked me to moderate their session at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. This is the largest convention in Las Vegas. The city is really crowded and hotel rates really jump skyward during the show. I have been moderating the JEDEC forum at the show since 2009. This year, I took my camera and have a few pictures:

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    This picture was taken from a pedestrian bridge over Las Vegas BL (The Strip). It is looking toward the North. The brightly lite building on the right is the Flamingo. On the left is Cesar's Palace, however you cannot see much of it. The tall building on the left at about the middle of the picture is the Mirage.

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    I was standing on a pedestrian bridge over Las Vegas BL looking South. On the left, you can see the minature Eiffle tower replica and the large ballon shaped sign. Both are part of the Paris hotel and casino. The dark area on the right is the Bellagio hotel and casino.


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    One of my favorite buffets is Le Buffet inside the Paris hotel. My other favorite buffet is in the Bellagio.


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    The inside of Le Buffet looks as though you are outside on a Paris street.

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    This is another picture inside Le Buffet. The big area in the center of the picture is the dessert bar, which, of course, is my favorite part of a meal! :-)


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    This the Bellagio Hotel and Casino. The December JEDEC meeting will be held here, so I'll get to stay in this upscale hotel.


    In front of the Bellagio is a water ballet show which occurs every 15 minutes. Each of the water jets are computer controlled and synchronized to the music. My favorite song to watch the water jets in action is "Dancing in the Rain".

    If you place your cursor on the above picture and then click on the "play" button you will see a snippet from the musical "Chicago" of "All that Jazz" by Bob Fosse.

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    The Mirage Hotel. They have a wonderful show of a volcano, which repeats several times an hour in front of the hotel.


    The volcano in front of the Mirage is rather interesting. Please drag the slider bar to about the time of 2:15 to see the beginning of the exciting portion of the show.

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    Inside the "Shoppes at the Forum" at Cesar's Palace.

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    Another view inside Cesar's Palace


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    Inside Cesar's Palace


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    The end of the "canal" inside the Venetian Hotel and Casino with gondolers.

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    The other end of the canal inside the Venetian.



    Costa Rica

    In February, my very good friends, Dee Dee and Jeff invited me to join them on a trip to Costa Rica. WoW! Was that an exciting vacation! We stayed in a fabulous resort home, spent several hours on a ZIP line gliding through the jungles, had a marvelous time on a tropical river boat cruise and enjoyed the many beaches in Costa Rica.

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    Herb's resort home in Costa Rica. Herb is the owner of the company where Jeff & Dee Dee's daughter works. We had asked him if he would recommend a place for us to stay, one night, until our time share cost was ready. He offered his resort villa for our use.

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    The resort villa was absolutely fantastic. It was huge and came with a concierge, a cook, a maid and a driver. We spent a wonderful time at the villa.


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    The dining area was very pleasant and was outside. The temperature was perfect with a nice breeze blowing. We ate our meals out here.

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    The Vila had an infinity pool, which appears to drop off at the edge. However, this is an opitical illusion created by the water flowing over the top edge of the pool. What a pleasant relaxing time we had.


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    The jungle river boat cruise was fun as we were able to see many interesting animals.

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    Here, a troop of monkeys came on board looking for handouts. The boat operators always have a supply of bananas to give to the monkeys. They usually cut them up into small pieces, but occassionally, a monkey sneaks back to where the bananas are kept and makes off with a whole banana!


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    The monkeys are used to the tourists on the boats. They will crawl all over you in search of the bananas.

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    Here is Dee Dee with one of the howler monkeys sitting on her head! Jeff is in the foreground looking on in amazement.


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    Other animals we saw were iguanas, resting in the sun.

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    I don't know what type of insect this is, but I thought it was interesting they were all in a line on the tree. They appeared to be sleeping as they were not moving.


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    I had never been on a zip line before and thought it would be fun to try. There are many zip lines through the forests in the resort areas of Costa Rica. A zip line is a cable they string between trees. The trees are usually a couple of hundred feet apart and at a lower elevation than the starting tree. They put a harness on you with a pulley. The pulley is attached to the cable and you go "zipping" along the line to the end point. It is a lot of fun.

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    Each of the zip line areas have many zip lines you get to go on. Here we are in between two of the lines. The entire tour took about 2 hours and there were 9 zip lines.


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    Here I am coming in for a landing.

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    Jeff is arriving at the end of the zip line.


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    Here is Dee Dee coming in for her approach.

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    Left to right; Jeff, Dee Dee and I taking a break at one of the rest areas on the tour.


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    There are many good restaurants in Costa Rica. Here we are having a wonderful Paia.



    Hong Kong

    Hong Kong in March was fun! It had been almost 2 decades since I had visited. Even though it was drizzly and cloudy the whole time I was there, it was great fun. I even bought a new suit!

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    Hong Kong has not only double decker busses, but double decker trolleys too.

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    This is an outdoor restaurant. At night, this street becomes a night market, complete with a restaurant.


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    Here is one of the "restaurant" tables set up in the street.

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    Yum! Yum! Doesn't this fish look enticing. Actually, it was really good!


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    Howard with a couple of bottles of "special" Hong Kong wine.

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    Oh my! Are those snakes in that bottle of wine?


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    Flower street in Hong Kong.


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    More flowers.

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    This is the famous Hong Kong bird market. If there is any type of bird you are looking for, this is the place to come.



    Washington DC

    The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington Dulles International Airport is the companion facility to the National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall. I have been wanting to visit the display center ever since it opened in 2003, however, this was my first trip back to Washington DC since 2001. They have many interesting planes to look at, such as the Columbia space shuttle, the Concorde supersonic passenger jet, the Enola Gay (a famous WWII bomber), a SR-71 spy plane and many other historic aircraft. I can highly recommend visiting the center if you have an interest in aviation history.

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    The capital building...

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    This is a view down one of the three halls of the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum at Dulles Airport.



    Seattle

    Seattle was fun as I was able to visit the headquarters for Geocaching. This is a game using the GPS satellite system to find hidden “treasure”. There are over 1 million “caches” hidden around the world. When traveling, I always find time to go geocaching, as many are located in unique and interesting places a tourist usually doesn't know about. For more information, check out the geocaching website.

    One of my favorite definitions of geocaching is: "Using multi-billion dollar military satellites to track down tupperware® hidden in the woods, filled with 50 cent plastic toys."

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    Headquarters for geocaching.

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    The huge cache they have in the lobby.



    Geocaching in Florida

    During my September trip to Florida, my brother, Wayne, came down to visit. I had told him about geocaching in May and he had gone out with his GPS, but didn't find anything. He was anxious to go out with me to see how it is done.

    One afternoon, my girlfriend Helen, Wayne, his girlfriend Rosie and I all went out on a geocaching adventure. I had planned on tracking down 4 geocaches in Payne's Pararie. After finding our first geocache, we decided there were too many mosquitoes to continue. Instead, we went to two other areas that were not in the woods and were able to find a couple of others not on my original list.

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    My girlfriend Helen and I getting ready to go geocaching.

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    How exciting! The first geocache of the day! Helen, my brother Wayne and his girlfriend Rosie with the geocache.


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    Inside the geocache was a Zip lock bag with lots of goodies in it. Since this was a rather large cache, there were numerous toys and other inexpensive items inside.

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    This is the second geocache hunt of the day. Is it inside this rotted out fence post? Nope, nothing inside. Let's see, where else should we look?


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    Hmmmm, what's this rock doing here? There are no other rocks near here...

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    Oh... What's this under the rock?


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    I think it's a geocache!

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    What's inside?


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    Hey Wayne, look at the camera!

    This is a small geocache. Inside was a small log book so we could record the "find".

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    On the third hunt of the day, after finding the geocache, Helen and I were walking back to the car.



    Mom and Dad

    My parents had another reasonably good year. There were a few medical problems, but so far all is going well. They really like the assisted living facility. They have a 2-bedroom apartment and the rent includes weekly maid service and three meals a day in the dining hall. The have made many good friends. Many go to the dining room early just so they can eat at the same table as my parents!

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    Mom and Dad heading down to dinner.

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    At a Japanese restaurant celebrating the sale of my parents house.



    Daytona Beach

    While I was visiting my parents in September, Helen and I decided to spend 3-days in Daytona Beach. Since it is only a two hour drive from Gainesville, it was an easy trip. We were able to find a very nice condo, on the beach, for only $60 per night, including all taxes. We had a great time sightseeing and eating out.

    One of the highlights was a visit to the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse. There were several buildings around the light house which had been converted into a museum telling the history the light house and the living conditions when the light house was built. We spent a couple of hours going through the buildings and climbing the spiral staircase to the top.

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    Helen at at the Ponce Inlet light house

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    Inside the lighthouse looking down. We had to climb the spiral staircase to get to the top. In old days, the light house tenders had to carry 10 gallons of fuel up those steps, each shift, to keep the light burning. Of course, today, the light uses electricity.

    At the top of the light house, the views were fantastic. There was a docent that was pointing out all the interesting features in the area. It was quite informative.



    Cozy Mark IV Airplane Construction Project Update

    WoW! Three chapters (of 26) were completed this year! Chapter 14, the main spar which will hold the wings on the plane; Chapter 16, the control system for the elevators and ailerons; Chapter 17, the pitch trim, roll trim and the center console with the throttle quadrant. I even put a cup holder in the center console!

    Jeff and I work on the plane every Tuesday evening, when we are in town. During the rest of the week, I spend time completing the projects we start on Tuesday and then preparing for the next Tuesday's adventure. For those interested in seeing pictures of the plane and my progress, visit my Cozy web page.

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    Chapter 14: Building the main spar. The first step was to build the jig used to make the spar.

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    The finished spar which will be used to attach the wings to the fuselage. Note that it is upside down from the jig.


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    Chapter 16: The installation of the control system was mainly a task for Jeff. Here we have the attachment point for the control stick. I have seen the stick I would like to have, but have not been able to locate a place to purchase it.

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    The flexible brake lines from the master brake cylinders are attached to the hard aluminum brake lines at this connection point.


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    Chapter 17: The installation of the pitch and trim controls plus the making of the center console.

    This is the pitch trim motor. It will be used to take the up/down control pressure off of the control stick. The pitch trim is used a lot, so an electrically actuated pitch trim is the way to go.

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    The roll trim is used to relieve the left/right pressure on the control stick. In this picture, the control lines have not yet been attached.


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    The center console. This took several months to design and build. This picture is of the third version of the card board mockups that we made. The penciled in circle forward of the throttle quadrant is where the cup holder is.



    Piper Cherokee

    I just LOVE this airplane! I have been an owner for two years. Last night, during the annual meeting, I was elected President of the association. The plane is owned by Fireside Aviators Association, a California non-profit corporation. There are 12 of us that are members of the association. Check out the Fireside Aviators web site.

    Other than “drilling holes” in the sky in the Bay Area, I flew to Columbia, California 4 times this year. Columbia is an old gold mining town which is part of the California State park system. They have kept it as it looked in the mid-1800s. Since the town is only a 10 minute walk from the Columbia airport, it is a popular destination and a fun place to visit.


    Day Trip to Columbia, California

    Columbia, California is a gold town from the mid 1800s. It is now a state park and has retained the look and feel of a gold rush town.

    Flying to Columbia is really easy. It is about an hour flight from the San Francisco Bay Area. The town is a 10 minute walk from the airport, so it is really convenient to get to.

    Last July, Maggie, Mike and myself took a wonderful trip to the gold mining town of Columbia, California. this trip was typical of all four of my trips there this year. I thought you might enjoy seeing a few of the pictures I took of this trip.

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    Flying to Columbia, CA.

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    Maggie is my co-pilot.


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    Maggie is posing by the local jail.

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    Columbia even has it's own stage coach line!


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    Mike and I enjoying a beautiful day hanging out at the livery stable...


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    There are many beautiful views over the Bay Area. Here are the sights from a typical flight.

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    When not flying, we go hiking around the Bay. Here Maggie and Mike are hiking on one of the levies used for flood control.



    Community Theater

    This year, I was involved with three shows. I mixed it up a bit this year. Usually, I run the back stage area during the show. This year I helped in the box office for the Spring show, Pirates of Penzance. It was fun working with our patrons selling tickets and working the will-call desk. For the Summer show, Gondoliers, I returned to being the run crew chief, working the back stage area. Then for the Fall show, Merry Widow, I was the house manager. In this position, I had 6 ushers working for me and it was our responsibility to keep a smooth flow of patrons into the theater and helping them to find their seats. It was great fun and I'll probably do it again.


    I hope your year was as eventful and as exciting as mine and...

    I wish you a merry holiday season and a happy New Year!

    Love,

    Charles