December 29, 2004: Michael and Jeffie Leave Dallas
November 25, 2004: Thanksgiving
Return to Index for 2004


Page Index
Christmas 2004

Trip to Florida
Dallas Chorus
Christmas Symphony
A Bike Ride
At Ruckman Haus
At Ron Mathis' House
Christmas Day


December 11-25, 2004
The Christmas Season


 

Usually, in this album, I've used a separate album page for each different trip or event, but in the case of the Christmas season here, we did a lot of small things, or there were a lot of events where not many pictures were taken, and it would seem to be overkill to start creating album pages for just one or two pictures. Hence the structure of this page. You can use the links in the upper left to go directly to each trip or event, but since there aren't that many pictures anyway, you can just as easily scroll through the page, bypassing what you might not want to see.


 

December 2-9: My Trip to Fort Lauderdale

I retired in early November. It wasn't so much a retirement as I just decided there was no reason to continue to knock myself out traveling all over hell and gone teaching classes. Sure, the job was fun, but it got to be a chore to go back and forth to Austin, and to deal with the hassle that travel has become since September, 2001. So I just stopped.

This has left me free to make much more use of the Florida condo, and I not only plan to do that but also to do some major renovations there as soon as possible, so that staying there is even more fun than it is now. So I took a trip down there in early December. This led to some problems with our usual event at the Christmas Symphony (that you'll hear about in the next section, below) but with Fred's help these were not insurmountable.


Anyway, I did make a trip down here, and, basically, all I did was just relax and enjoy the condo and the weather. Outings with Ty and Scott, visits with Ron Drew and Leroy, some time at the beach and lots of bike riding were all on the agenda- as were the frequent drinks at the dock by myself and with other residents. I took almost no pictures at all, this trip.

The only one I did take was the inset picture that I used here, which is a picture of the Christmas decorations that are already up in the small circle up at Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, which is one of my frequent destinations or stopovers when I am out riding my bike. The two aerial views below will orient you.


 

Route from My Condo to
Lauderdale-by-the-Sea
Where Commercial Boulevard
Ends at the Ocean at
Lauderdale-by-the-Sea


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December 4: Fred Hosts at the Dallas Men's Chorus

One reason why it would be difficult to create separate album pages for this time of year concerns a scheduling problem that we had with our usual attendance at the Dallas Symphony's Christmas Concert. Back in October, I had planned a trip down to Florida to kind of celebrate my retirement in early November. Fred and I had already been down on our Fall trip (as you have probably already seen), but I wanted to come down again since I now had the time. I planned the trip to be from Thursday, December 2 to Thursday, December 9.


When I started making arrangements for the Christmas Symphony, I found that our usual group would not all be able to attend. Lynne and Lou would be gone, and Ron Mathis would be on a business trip on the 11th, the date of the Christmas Concert. So, with Lynne's help, we solved the problem by splitting our usual group into two. Fred would host the first group consisting of (left to right in the picture taken in my kitchen that appears at the left of this text) Lynne, Lou, Fred, Jay and Ron Mathis, who would attend a Christmas performance by the Dallas Men's Chorus over at SMU on Saturday, December 4th, while I was in Florida.

Fred did an excellent job as host, having everyone gather at my house, have some hors d'oeuvres and drinks, attend the concert and have dinner afterward.

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December 11: I Host the Christmas Symphony


When I returned from Florida, I started getting ready for the second group of our friends; we would be going to the Christmas Concert at the Dallas Symphony Center. On Saturday evening, the 11th, these friends gathered at my house. Of course, Fred was in both groups- lucky him.

In the picture at right, the folks are (left to right) Tom Harris, myself, Barbara, John Evans and Fred. Again, we had some drinks and hors d'oeuvres and were in our Symphony seats well before eight. The concert was a lot of fun, as it usually is, and we went to dinner at Gloria's afterwards.

This was another fun evening, and now Fred and I have given a small Christmas "gift" to each of our friends here in Dallas.

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December 12: A Sunday Bike Ride


On Sunday the 12th, our two concerts were done and we decided to take a ride on our bikes after having breakfast. We didn't have a particular route to follow, but we left the house and crossed Inwood and then zig-zagged through University Park and over the Tollway at University. We went south a block or to to get off the busy street and then continued east on McFarlin towards SMU.



Once we crossed Hillcrest we were in the SMU campus which has lots of walks and stuff you can ride around on. You can see in the left-hand aerial view that we came in mid-campus from Hillcrest, and then wandered north to Dedman College and then back south through the quadrangle.


We paused at the quadrangle fountain to enjoy the cool sunshine and the sound of the fountain. I took the opportunity to take a movie of the center of the campus (both movie and picture taken at approximately the location of the yellow star on the aerial view of the quadrangle above).


From there we biked south through the campus towards the south entrance and the stadium. There is a building just near the stadium (I am not sure what building it is) that has a unique sculpture/fountain in front. It is a moving sculpture (not wind-driven but electric) that traces out a sine wave. There is a picture of it here.


You can't see it in the aerial view at the right, though. You CAN see the rectangular area where the sculpture was placed, but it seems that the aerial view was taken before the sculpture was installed, for it is certainly large enough to have shown up on the view. In any event, the moving sculpture is really interesting. I thought I should make a movie of it, since the picture doesn't really do it justice.

We left the SMU campus through the south entrance and crossed Mockingbird into Highland Park. We wound our way through the Highland Park streets past Beverly to Knox Street; that is where the Katy Trail, a bike path built on top of the old Katy Railroad right-of-way begins. It goes south towards downtown 2.5 miles, ending just across Harry Hines Blvd. (I did not include an aerial view of the bike path; it seems as if it, too, was built after the aerial views of this part of town were obtained.)

In the future, they are planning to extend the trail both north and south. There is a lot of development going on downtown in the West End, and there is a new sports and concert venue going up to replace Reunion Arena; the bike trail will eventually descend and end in the middle of that new development. On the north end, it is supposed to go all the way to Mockingbird. There was some talk of its eventually connecting up with the trail north from White Rock Lake, but how they can do that is beyond me; north of Mockingbird the Katy Railroad right-of-way has been taken up by the DART light rail. But we will see.

It was an enjoyable bike ride, and we had a nice evening afterward before Fred had to get up early Monday to go on back to work. Now that I am retired, I need to start thinking about how I can get Fred to do the same so that we can be free to do more hiking, camping, traveling and the like without being so constrained by his only getting a couple of weeks of vacation a year. I want to start going to Florida more frequently, and it would be nice to have him along. But Fred is very independent, so it will probably be a while before we can make much progress.

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December 14-16: I Visit Prudence and Ron in San Antonio

I am taking advantage of my newfound freedom to go down to San Antonio for my first visit with Ron and Prudence since my retirement. Actually, I had seen them fairly often BEFORE I retired because I would usually drive down to see them any time I was working right in Austin, which was fairly frequently.

I spent a relaxing three days with them during the middle of the week. I didn't take any pictures to speak of; not much has changed with them in two months, but they did ask me to try to do them a favor and take a picture for them to include in their Christmas cards. So that is what they worked on. What they wanted was something like this:

As you can see, they wanted themselves, the dogs, Max and Cassie, and the cats, Misty and Callie- all posed for the picture. Well, we tried for at least an hour to get all the animals together and to get them to sit still. But there was always at least one animal that didn't want to cooperate. I took lots of pictures that were good, except for the fact that one or more of the animals was in the process of leaping down from the settee, or one of the owners had a goofy expression trying to restrain said animals. So we pretty much gave up.

But then, a little while later, I noticed that Callie, the black and white cat, had, on her own accord, gotten up onto the settee and sat down- conveniently at one end. So I snapped some pictures of her and picked the best one of the bunch, and you can see that picture here. This gave me an idea.

I called Prudence in and asked her to get Misty and sit with her on the settee, positioning Misty at the other end of the seat. Prudence had to hold her in place, and again I took lots of shots, finally getting one that was a flattering picture of the cat without its looking as if Prudence was holding her there. You can see that picture here.

Next, we let Misty jump down and go hide, and I called Ron in and explained what I needed from them. He went and got Max and Cassie, and he and Prudence sat in the middle of the settee with Prudence holding Max and Ron holding Cassie. Again, I took lots of shots of the four of them. There always seemed to be something wrong with each one, though. Either the dogs were being antsy or the people were trying to get them to be still. But finally, I got an acceptable picture of the four of them (even though the dogs were not looking right at the camera- but perhaps that was too much to expect). You can see that picture here.

Now it was time for me to work some computer magic. I know that there are folks (you see them all the time on TV shows that have to do with the CIA or the government or maybe CSI) that can cut and paste from one picture to another flawlessly, but I was not that good, and it took me quite a while to carefully cut Callie out of the first picture, cut Misty out of the second and put them both in the third. I had to do some pruning and adjusting, but the finished product looked pretty good, for an amateur, even if I do say so myself!

Just in case you are interested, let's recap the process:


 

Pretty nifty, huh? They were pleased, and I think I still have the Christmas card from that year.

After a pleasant visit, and a successful photo shoot, I returned home on Thursday.

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December 19: Christmas at Ron Mathis's House

On the Sunday before Christmas, Fred and I went up to Ron Mathis's house to celebrate Christmas (before Ron goes home to Arkansas to be with his family) and to celebrate Jay's birthday, which is tomorrow.

Ron and Jay live in Plano- very suburban. It is about fifteen miles from my house- up the Tollway to I-635, around to US 75, north to Parker, west to Roundrock, north to Glenhaven and finally west to their house. They've lived there for quite some time; actually, Ron and his former partner Chris moved there in the early 1990s.




As usual, Jay has decorated their entire house, and especially the Christmas tree extremely well. It seems to be something he loves to do, and every time we are at their house near a holiday, whether it be Christmas or President's Day, Jay has some sort of decorating theme going on. (They must have a huge amount of stuff stored somewhere, for I can count at least ten different holidays he decorates for.)


I thought that their tree was so neat that I took a couple of movies that I tried to make "artistic." The first one is a slow pan into and out of the branches of the tree as I worked my way around it. The movie may not mean much, but you can watch it here.


The second movie was inspired by the movie you may have seen on the Internet called "Powers of 10," where the camera takes an imaginary journey from a normal view of a life-size scene closer and closer, eventually ending up at a single atomic nucleus. I couldn't do that, obviously, but I drilled as far as I could into the tree, focusing on a single light. Again, not a classic, but you can watch that movie here.

Fred also took some pictures (including the inset picture above, a closeup of part of their Christmas tree), and here is an excellent one of Ron and Jay beside their Christmas tree.


Of course, it was Jay's birthday celebration as well this evening, and we did that after the great supper that Jay prepared. Fred took a good picture of Ron and Jay and the cake and I made a movie of us all singing "Happy Birthday" to Jay.

We took this opportunity to exchange gifts, since we wouldn't see Ron and Jay again until after Christmas. We had an excellent time.

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December 25: Christmas Day at My House

This year, we had a very quiet Christmas at my house, and it was one of the few times that Fred and I weren't running around with our cameras taking all kinds of pictures. I did my usual ham for Christmas, I have brought Mom over from the Traymore, where she has been living since her hip surgery late last year.

Our only guests were Denny Milne and his partner Larry French, and so there were just the five of us. We had a quiet time, and an excellent meal (if I do say so myself, and with Fred's expert help).


The only picture that I took, for some unknown reason, was actually a short movie of Denny explaining to me some kind of conversation that he was having with my Mom, and you can watch that movie here.

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December 29, 2004: Michael and Jeffie Leave Dallas
November 25, 2004: Thanksgiving
Return to Index for 2004