Greetings, friends and family,
Well, the pandemic is puttering along; acute covid is down but long covid is up, which we're not enthusiastic about risking. Laura and I are still "novids" but our kids got it this year, our son due to them refusing him a booster before we traveled to a family reunion (we were old enough to get ours!), and our daughter due to having to go in to work. It's not fun, but their vaccinations protected them from severe disease.
We got another year of experience with two electric cars and a solar energy system. The Pacifica hybrid can be made to work electrically pretty well in cold weather, just for shorter trips. Part of the problem last year was poor performance while waiting for a part from Chrysler. The 35+ miles I can go in the summer on a charge is reduced some when you turn on the 7 kW electric heater! Laura's Kia Niro EV has a very efficient heat pump, and of course a much larger battery. All kinds of cars need more tire inflation when it gets cold. We also got our home battery enrolled in Eversource Connected Solutions and helped with the summer A/C load on the grid while getting paid about $37 each day we charged and discharged our battery. The battery can withstand a lot more cycles in a year than the 28 we did this summer, so it won't affect the lifetime.
In January we went to Florida with our daughter, and enjoyed about a week down there, although it wasn't as warm as it is sometimes! It was not cold enough to deter me from my morning swim, since the water was still warm. I flew the drone, and finally put together a video of this area with footage shot during our three visits, including documenting the pier damage done by a recent hurricane. The video, like most of the rest, is 4K, so try to watch it full screen on a high-res monitor if you can.
Laura visited her friend Anita in South Carolina in March. They visited a number of the tourist sites in Charleston. Matt and I held down the fort in Bedford. Clicking on the picture will give you a larger version.
I got a Pixel 7 Pro phone in April, and only a few days had passed when a red fox appeared in our back yard, climbing around on a white pine that I had cut down recently. Rather than open a door to get closer to it and possibly spook it, I tried out the 5x optical zoom on the phone and held it right against the patio door, about 90 feet from the action. I wasn't even sure what resolution the phone was set to, but sure enough it captured a 4K video of the fox! I zoomed in another 2x by cutting out an HD portion of the UHD video and following the fox's path. The fox caught its prey, but it was just a little too far away to identify!
That 5x zoom on the phone proved to be pretty useful in capturing wildlife from a greater distance. While walking around Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge in early June we saw a great blue heron; take a look at the video and see if you agree that the feeding behavior would probably not have happened if I was as close to the bird as it appears. When you move the phone around, things do jump a little in zoom mode.
The other new photographic device I got was a trail camera which was a Christmas present from my son Matt last year. We set it up to figure out where the action was, and we did find the action! Check out the video to see the mystery solved.
We went to Cape Cod in July as usual, meeting up with many family members. When you see a Cape sunset like that, a good idea is flying the drone to catch some footage! The kids certainly wanted to fly the drone, and as you can see they are working hard at it, with me crouching behind to give advice, but only if needed. Thea wanted to fly the drone closer to the sun to get a better look at it, and I had to tell her that my drone just isn't up to it. Probably I'd need a bigger battery! I don't have the drone footage right now, but Laura made a batik from it so that will give you an idea and also a sample of her 2023 batik work.
I still participate in the Cambridge Roundtable on Science and Religion The Roundtable has expanded to numerous other cities, but the funding for local Roundtables has been less, so we only had one event in 2023. The other Science/Christianity group that I am involved with is the American Scientific Affiliation. The 2023 ASA annual meeting was in Toronto, and Laura and I went with our brother-in-law Kevin, ending up with a few days in downtown Toronto to see a few sights. I gave a talk on the Internet of Things, which is the method by which all of your household gadgets connect to the internet. What could go wrong you ask? Take a look at my talk, which ASA has put up on youtube, along with all the other talks of course.
In September the big event was a family reunion for Laura's side of the family in Utah. The picture shows most of us in our reunion T-shirts! Laura and I and the kids flew out to Las Vegas, spent a few days there, then drove to the reunion, stopping off at Bryce Canyon on the way. After the reunion at the Solitude Mountain ski resort, we visited Salt Lake City for a couple of days before flying back to Boston. Of course the natural wonders of Utah called out for a little drone photography, so that's in the video above. Also, it features another great sound track by Karen Green, so it's worth playing even if you close your eyes to the video (some of which has dizzying displays looking down mountain peaks).
In October Laura and three of her art friends from Bedford put on an art show at a venue in the nearby town of Westford. It took place on four consecutive Sunday afternoons. It was fun, and a number of her friends stopped by to see it. The picture shows the artists being interviewed by the local community TV channel. In late October we went back to the Cape for a few days, both to celebrate our anniversary and to check out another accommodation in N. Truro. Things are much calmer then, but numerous places are on the verge of closing for the winter. Driving the electric car we didn't use any gas, and most of the electricity we used came right off our roof, since we only topped off the charge in Provincetown. We flew the drone around and caught the sunrise above.
In November Laura and her sister Beth flew down to Macon, GA to meet up with their sister Sally who had just moved there. Laura celebrated her birthday there, and they had a good time. Our last excursion of the year together was a trip to Mystic, Connecticut, which we had never visited. Mystic has a lot of bridges, although most are not drawbridges like the one shown.
Have a great 2024. There certainly are a lot of things for Christians to think about, and pray about, with the wars in Ukraine and Gaza and the election at the top of my list.
Tim (and for Laura)