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December 12, 2000

Please accept -- with no obligation, implied or implicit -- our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday...

The plum tree in the backyard has shed all its leaves, a bouquet of sticks silhouetted against the still green trees around it, the lemon tree with its bright spots of fruit hanging over the neighbor's fence and the climbing rose blooming in December. The lemons, the roses, the birds that come to the seed generously provided by the upstairs neighbors, they all starkly contrast last winter, where the sky and the river were the same murky gray and there wasn't a green thing to see for silent kilometers. This past year has seen us travel in more then time.

We rang in 2000 in a valley full of fireworks, standing in the subfreezing wind atop a tower with a Roman foundation. After the celebration, we settled down to "life as usual," or what passes for usual when you are living in a German castle.

February found us celebrating carnival in Cologne, in costume with the rest of the city's population. The travel bug bit in March, and we visited Amsterdam on the pretense of checking out tulips. Failing that (it's hard to find the motivation to admire flowers when it's constantly raining), we wandered into Belgium to buy chocolates and the local version of French fries. Returning to our castle home, it felt too small and quiet for our tastes, and with Spring starting to wake up the landscape, staying to watch the barges on the Rhine just seemed silly.

Thus began our wandering. We celebrated my April birthday in Italy, visiting Pompeii then weaving our way across the country: Rome during a jubilee year, Renaissance review in Florence, counting lions in Venice, hiking in the Cinque Terre. We cruised to Barcelona, fell in love with the city and Anton Gaudi's architecture, and discovered the exact differences between American and Italian ice creams. There were paintings in Madrid, spring time water fights in London, curious lambs watched by jaded ewes in the Lake District, and a reunion of Bryce users in Paris. We discovered a new favorite cocktail, learned that Mexican food is never interpreted the same way in different restaurants, and walked holes in our socks.

June found us re-acclimatizing to American culture: the roads and the markets are both huge. Ian's August birthday party was also our housewarming, finding us settling this time in San Francisco. The autumn days of 2000 have seen us playing at home improvement and gainful employment. Ian is the Director of User Experience at Live365.com, a web site fanning the flames of a radio revolution. It's a new kind of position for him, and he's enjoying the learning and stretching involved. I stand in as a temporary receptionist at various places around the city, while attempting to concentrate on my writing while researching the next invention of myself.

And so here we are at the close of another year. Looking at the naked plum tree outside, I think of how far we've traveled and already I'm out of breath. Who can say, with this track record, where this new year will take us?