Christmas 2013

While they were there,
the time came for the baby to be born,
and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.
Dear Friends,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us. This page is a photographic annotation of the email (or regular post) that you may have received.

How to view the web page: If you're on a cell phone, just turn your phone sideways and go for it. It should work for you because the simple technology I use here is often handled well by the mobile browsers. If you have a large desktop monitor, I recommend that you use Firefox or Chrome. Shrink your browser down to about half the screen width. Click on one of the pictures, and that will probably create a new tab in your browser. If it does, drag that tab out to your desktop and you will have a window next to the main window that will show the bigger versions of the pictures. Anytime you want to see a bigger version of the pictures (or sometimes a whole different picture!), just click on them.

At Yan Hock's church Pool at the Apartment Complex It was quite a year for traveling and meeting up with friends and relatives. In February we went to Cambodia and seized the opportunity to spend a few days in Singapore and a couple of days in Paris; we'll say more about Cambodia below. Our host in Singapore was our good friend Yan Hock who has visited us numerous times. We hadn't seen his wife Fui Keat for 20 years, so it was great to catch up with her and meet the kids! In the picture at left, we are at Yan Hock's church (Americans not the only ones who eat something at church!) If you click on it you see the same group at a different part of the church. It was a good service, and Laura and I were amazed at how similar it was to our services in Carlisle. We sang many of the same hymns, and the praise band part was also similar, if a bit more percussive. Yan Hock put us up in his apartment that was temporarily vacant, truly luxurious accommodations on the top floor of the apartment building. At right is a look at the pool, which I did take a dip in during our stay.

At Yan Hock's school Chinese New Year We got to see some nice parks, some of the stores and restaurants, and Yan Hock's school where he is principal. At left is the outside of the school, and if you click on the picture you can see us in the library where some of the students are reading. It was Chinese New Year when we were there, so we went downtown to see the festivities. It's kind of the same there as it is in Boston; we rarely go to some of Boston's main events by ourselves but when we have visitors, we go! It wasn't something Yan Hock and the family usually go to, but we all checked it out. In the picture at right Laura and I are in front of some of the lights of Singapore. If you click on the picture, you'll get a little closer to the action depicted in the background.

Laura at Eiffel Mona Lisa On the way home we stopped in Paris for a couple of days, as you can see from the picture at left. We walked around a little, had a nice lunch with Ann's daughter Margie, and then headed over to the Louvre. (Margie explained to us that the admission fee is very reasonable, so it's cost-effective to go for just a few hours.) In the picture at right is a very large crowd in front of a very small painting which you may recognize if you have great eyesight. If not, click on it and check out the bigger version. They also had some large pictures, as shown below at left. We did experience the legendary French work ethic here, as they had a major plumbing issue when we arrived. When we left, several hours later, not only had they not resolved the issue, they hadn't even started to work on it. Possibly the plumbers union had bargained down to 35 hours a week!

Larger Picture Lunch at d'Orsay The next day we decided to do the d'Orsay for the full day. They were very anal about not bringing cameras into the museum. Once we got inside, though, we realized that everyone had ignored that rule. We didn't take any pictures of the artwork, but we did get one of lunch in the museum restaurant! Laura liked the art, but the high point for me was a chance to finally "meet James Ensor, Belgium's famous painter" and "appreciate the man". If that doesn't mean anything to you, go ahead and google it!

Touring Johnstown The Internment In May Laura, Kate and I went to Johnstown, NY for the internment of the cremains of her father and mother and her father's two siblings. It was a somewhat solemn event, but since the three recently-deceased siblings had lived quite long lives it was really a chance to remember them more than mourn. Laura's mother had died at a much younger age, but since that was over 10 years previously it had been pretty well processed by the bereaved. We got a great tour of Johnstown from John Williamson, Laura's cousin and the eldest son of Nancy, Blaine's sister. He lived there with his mother in several houses and in the picture at left is the whole crowd in front of one of them. Who could better give a tour of Johnstown than John? A few more came in the next day for the service at the grave site, shown at right. It was nice to connect with some of the relatives that we don't see often.

Parthenon Nashville Eric and Janelle We went to Cape Cod as usual in July, but I'm not seeing any must-show pictures on my computer. Refer to previous Christmas letters if you must have a Cape picture! We went to the ASA conference in Nashville which was a good time, and we got to see a few of the sights of Nashville. One that we thought was pretty remarkable was the full-scale replica of the Parthenon shown at left. If you click on the picture, you'll see the giant gilded statue of Athena which is inside. Nephew Eric visited the same month with new wife Janelle whom we had not met, so John, Betty, Kate, Laura and I went down to Kevin and Beth's place to meet her as shown at right.

Laura was involved in pretty much the same activities this past year, teaching Sunday school, singing in the choir, and being involved in various arts activities and a book group. She did decide to set up a web page to market some of her art. I have been doing many of the same things as well: helping Laura with the Sunday school kids, singing in the choir, and serving on the missions committee.

I did take on a role as an official reviewer of the Cambridge Roundtable on Science and Religion, a very interesting group of believing and skeptical academics who discuss issues of importance to science, religion, and society. Imagine watching the Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and then deciding to exhibit the exact opposite behavior in handling issues from the religious (Christian, here) and non-religious viewpoints. That's the Roundtable, moderated by MIT Chaplain Dave Thom, meeting at the Harvard and MIT faculty clubs, and soon to expand to four other schools. If you look closely on the Readings page you can find my reviews from 2013.

One last thing: Cambodia. The biggest single trip we took last year featured 8 days in Cambodia, visiting Beth and Kevin and having them as our personal tour guides. We traveled halfway across the globe, experienced the end of mourning for King Sihanouk, relived the Khmer Rouge regime and the killing fields, did some ecotourism to the floating villages, helped install some water filters with NGO Water for Cambodia, and visited the Angkor Temples. If you guessed that this web page was too short to contain my observations on that, you guessed right, and in fact I have put together six web pages describing each part of the previous sentence! These are similar to this one, except that they include videos, and you can navigate from any one to any other from the menu at the bottom of the page. If you heard my 45-minute talk on this trip at the church Nov 1, there will be some familiar pictures, and most of the same videos, but some of the discussion will be new. If you missed the talk but would like to hear it, let me know.

Have a great New Year!

Tim (and for Laura)