Ground Hog Day, 1985

Dear Friends-and-Relations,

Satchel Page, the famous pitcher-philosopher once said, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” An interesting question for me during this year in which I became a million years old (in binary, that is). Because subjectively I don’t even feel a hundred (octal). On the other hand, if I think hexadecimally, I am a stripling of forty, which seems more comforting.

Since such base analysis leads only to ambiguity, let us look for intrinsic properties. I am now both a square and a cube. This numerological feat was last accomplished when I was a babe of one and will not occur again until 2713, but I’m not sure how significant all that is.

Maybe a new definition would help. Maturity has been defined as “A point of unstable equilibrium between adolescence and senility.” My last adolescent dream was to win the Boston Marathon. Except for the 4467 people who finished in front of me, I fulfilled that dream two years ago, so I guess I’m in the past-mature stage of life.

According to another definition, middle age is “Halfway between you and the oldest person you know.” I’m still well short of that point.

Perhaps it would be clearer to look at one aspect of life at a time: intellectual, physical, emotional, and sexual, for example. Intellectually, it’s probably a sign of something when you are invited to a meeting to receive an award rather than to give a lecture on your latest research. None-the-less I was pleased when the American Academy of Mechanics gave me their medal for Distinguished Service to the Field of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics only the second time this award has been made.

Physically, I’m afraid my body has been telling me to quit pounding it so much. Instead of PRs in my running this past year, I had arthroscopic knee surgery in February and reinjured the same knee in September. In between I didn’t run any marathons, but I did come in first in the over-50 category in one half-marathon and twenty-seventh in the 60-and-over category in another. There was only a four-minute difference in my two times, but there are lots more fast old men in Oslo, Norway, than in Winona, Minnesota. As of today, I’m back up to 40 minutes of gentle running, and I’m religiously doing my strengthening exercises and alternatives such as swimming. I have unbounded optimism that I can still set a new PR or two but not at 26.2 miles.

Emotionally, I don’t have temper tantrums and I can still laugh at myself. But I get increasingly furious with unsolicited hard-sell telephone calls. My sex life is none of your business.

So that’s my year. Thea wants a page of her own this year. If the mechanics all goes as it should, you’ll find her contribution on the back of this page.

Greetings, Family and Friends

Things are always hopping in my department at Cray, with goals such as speeding up the compiler by 25-30%, writing software for the new 4-headed machine, being certain our “invention,” multitasking on a 2-headed machine, also works on a 4-headed one, and so-on and so-on.

Organizationally, we were facing the fact that the company was out-growing its small company status. We suffered through several sequential reorganizations, survived all of them, and ended the year very much in the black. We can now turn our eyes outward and contemplate the real competition the Japanese are offering us. There is a lot of pressure on me and my department. I have a superior staff, now built up from 26 to 36 staff members. I can’t explain why I felt that 1984 was a quiet year. On the other hand, 1985 looks unquiet with some very tight schedules, no let-up, and a lot of travel.

We both did some traveling in ’84. Phil covered New York, Chicago, and Washington, DC on business. I saw Paris, Munich, Berlin (East and West), other parts of Germany, and San Francisco on business. Together, sometimes combining business and pleasure, we were in L.A., Palo Alto/Sunnyvale, New Orleans, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and the Big Island of Hawaii.

Phil wrote of our children. Let me brag about my brother (many of you saw this in the newspaper and should skip this paragraph). He won a MacArthur award of one-quarter of a million dollars for his work on arms control and nuclear disarmament. He has resigned as Deputy Director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, will continue his research position there, but will spend half-time on his work in arms control. Perhaps, if his work is successful, our wish for peace will come true.

This is me back again to talk about my lineal descendants. I know that yearly letter writers are universally accused of bragging about their children, so I won’t tell you that daughter Sue has been promoted to Associate Professor at UCLA and that she and husband David have both been invited to give lectures in Germany (in German), but will instead ask you to sympathize with the severe back problem she had this year. Among other things it forced her to postpone the German trip at the last minute and to scale it down from three months to three weeks.

Son Philip T. has decided to go back to school after more than ten years in industry, and he is working towards a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering here at the University of Minnesota. I won’t mention his straight-A average to date, but will merely tell you how utterly delighted Thea and I are to have him living only a mile away from us. In return for letting him use my faculty parking space at the U, he gives me a ride whenever I want it.

Nor will I tell you about the computerized financial planning package being developed by our younger daughter Lisa and her POSSLQ Bill which will probably make them rich enough to support us in our old age, but will only complain about the fact that it’s been over a year since her employer CDC sent her from California on a business visit to Minneapolis.

Of course, no one can expect me not to brag about my grandchildren, but as one of the colorful pro-football players said recently, “If it’s true, it’s not bragging.” April, at 7-going-on-8, took her first solo plane trip this year to visit her Aunt Lisa, and we’re hoping to arrange a visit to us before long. She’s becoming quite a young lady, and her younger sister, Miriam, is the most delightful four-year old that ever existed.

At the other end of the scale, both our mothers are still going strong. Thea’s mother is still at The Sequoias in California, and mine has now moved to the Monroe Manor in Wisconsin where she is only a few blocks from my sister Mary.

Square and Cube though I be, I’m still having fun looking for the Right Angles. Hope you’re doing the same.