Letter Writing

Since my Dad died we have received many condolence letters and cards. It is hard to overstate how comforting these are.

They have inspired me to write letters. One of my favorite books is The Gift of a Letter by Alexandra Stoddard. I like it because it inspires me. Reading it feels warm and comfortable like sitting by the fire wrapped in a blanket.

2014-12-04 09.04.55

Letters may seem old fashioned but there is permanence about them. I always save letters from friends. It is a real joy to open an old letter and connect with my friend again.

Stoddard says:

"A world of difference separates a phone call from a letter. The phone is a utility–a convenience like a refrigerator or a washing machine, A letter is a gift. It can turn a private moment into an exalted experience."

She suggests:

"Sit by a crackling fire and read some of your favorite letters. While sitting there soaking up all the love and support, think of one person you love and write a beautiful, loving letter to that person. Let the flame in the hearth warm your heart. One letter in a lifetime to a mother, a daughter or a special friend could make a greater difference than you dare believe."

I have not always been good about letter writing. Even thank you notes sometimes don't get written. But like so many things I can always start again and decide to be a letter writer.

Stodddard suggests that one write with a fountain pen and collect pretty stamps to use. This I have done. I put a Harry Potter stamp on a grandchild's letter or a Judy Garland stamp on a letter to my daughter. It is is a joy to sit down and think about the person I am writing to. My letter becomes a conversation with that person.

I use old postcards and notes from friends as bookmarks. Recently I reread a friend's note that I found in one of my books. It made me smile and remember how much I like and admire her. We haven't talked in a while. I think I will go write her a letter.

My Dad – Donald Wayne Robinson June 26, 1927 – September 9, 2014

My Dad, Don Robinson died Tuesday September 9, 2014. He was 87 years old.

He moved to Reno in 2008 after my Mom died. He and I went out to Starbucks almost every day for coffee. He leaves a big hole in all of our lives. I'm sharing his obituary with you here.

————

Donald Wayne Robinson, 87, died Tuesday, September 9, 2014, in Reno, Nevada.

Born June 26, 1927, in Minot, North Dakota, the son of Ruth and Ray Robinson, he moved to Reno seven and a half years ago from Escondido, California where he and his wife Margaret had lived for twenty years.

He grew up in Bismarck, North Dakota. He joined the Navy in the spring of 1945 prior to graduating from high school. His parents accepted his diploma for him.

Don graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Civil Engineering in 1950. On September 24, 1950 he was united in marriage with Margaret Helen Gibson. They were married for 57 years until her passing in 2007.

He worked for Standard Oil which later became Amoco, for thirty-three years. He helped design and construct the Standard Oil refinery in Mandan, North Dakota. In March of 1964 he and Margaret with their four children moved to Brisbane, Australia where he was a Project Engineer for the construction of the Amoco refinery on Bulwer Island. In 1969, the family moved to London, England and then to Milford Haven, Wales where he was project manager for the construction of the Amoco refinery there. In 1974, he and Margaret moved to Fungerumi, Zaire, Africa where he managed the construction of a copper cobalt mine for Amoco. A year later, when that project was cancelled, he accepted a position in Chicago as Manager in Synthetic Fuels Development with Amoco, and the  family moved to Wheaton, Illinois. He was elected Vice Chairman of the Council on Synthetic Fuels and appointed to the National Coal Council by the Secretary of Energy. He retired from Amoco in 1986 subsequently he and Margaret retired to Escondido, California.

 He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1956. It is a tribute to his strength that for more than 58 years he never let the challenges of living with diabetes define his life or limit his activities. He climbed the Grand Teton, enjoyed an annual fishing trip with friends at Lake of the Woods, traveled the world, moved more than twenty times and loved, provided for and supported his family. Donald was a faithful Christian all his life. He lived his faith.

Mr Robinson was preceded in death by his wife Margaret Helen Gibson Robinson and his granddaughter Jennifer Margaret Gail Thompson. He is survived by his four children and their spouses; Marion and Duke Vermazen of Reno, Nevada, Barbara and Michael Simpson of University Place, Washington, Elizabeth and Steven Thompson of Memphis, Tennessee, and Charles and Annie Robinson of Mendon, Massachusetts; sister, Dorothy Jensen of Centerville, Minnesota; nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

 Funeral and burial occurred Sept, 22 in San Diego and Escondido, California

The family suggests memorials to The American Diabetes Association, The Glaucoma Research Foundation or The Salvation Army.

———–

If you would like to read about my Mom her eulogy is here

I miss both of them a lot. I was so lucky to have them for parents. They always believed in me. I can honestly say that I am who I am today because of them.

Red Coat Picture

 

My Nephew’s Wedding – and Exploring the Cincinnati Area

Earlier this month my nephew, David got married in Ludlow, Kentucky which is just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. I love weddings and seeing all the family and friends. This wedding was no exception. It was such a happy time.

IMG_0798

Katelyn's Dad is the pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church of Northern Kentucky. The church was built in 1896. It has been a Catholic Church and a Baptist church and now the congregation is restoring it. One of their first tasks was to remove the dropped ceiling to reveal the soaring roof and stained glass windows. The acoustics in the church blew me away. The hymns and other music added to what was already a beautiful and joyous wedding.

IMG_0807

The other fun thing about an excuse to travel like a wedding is that we get to explore new places. Duke and I flew into Cincinnati Thursday before the wedding. We picked up Allison Thursday night. On Friday we drove to Frankfurt Kentucky to see the capital of Kentucky. We took the capitol tour. What a beautiful building. It may be the most beautiful interior of any state capitol I have visited.

IMG_0784

IMG_0771

We were on the tour with a group of grade school children. Did they ever know their state history. When the guide asked them who the first Governor of Kentucky was, they knew (Isaac Shelby). When asked who what the state motto is they all said in unison "United we stand, divided we falll".

Friday night was the rehearsal dinner, the wedding was Saturday afternoon. Saturday night we went to the Blue Whisp Jazz Club in downtown Cincinnati. We had a great dinner and heard the Dick Sisto Quartet playing the music of John Coltrane. The vibraphone was right in front of where we were sitting. Dick Sisto wielded four mallets over the vibraphone and we sat and listened and I was mesmerized.

IMG_0838

Sunday we went to the Union terminal in Cincinnati. It was completed in 1933 to replace the 7 train stations of the 7 different railroad companies that served Cincinnati. The building is an enormous half dome. Apparently one of the biggest in the world.

IMG_0839

 

It has been converted into a museum center with 6 different museums. We toured the history museum which was great. But for me the highlight was the free tour of the train station itself. The mosaics above the central concourse are big, bright and beautiful. When we first walked in all I could do was stand there with my mouth open and say wow! I loved them. We got to go up in the old control tower and look out over the railway yard.

IMG_0843

IMG_0841

 Sunday night we had a fabulous dinner at an Italian restaurant called Via Vite also in downtown Cincinnati

Monday we all flew home. We took Allison to Dayton for a 6am flight and then we flew out of Cincinnati at 2pm. It poured rain the whole drive to Dayton and back. It doesn't rain like that in Reno!

IMG_0854

Now we are back in Reno for the big push to the end of Tax season. If you or anyone you know needs their taxes done I'd be happy to do them for you. Here is a link to my office with profile on the H&R Block website.

Project – New Aquarium, Divider, Stereo Cabinet, and Bookshelf

When we bought our house it had a half height divider between the hallway and the family room. This picture was taken on Thanksgiving 2008 just a couple of weeks after we moved into the house.I am standing in the living room looking towards the hallway and the family room. The divider can be seen just to the right of the book shelf.

  Thanksgiving 2008

Duke tore out the divider before he installed new hardwood flooring. Since the beginning of this year  he has been building a new divider. the divider includes our stereo equipment and a new 75 gallon aquarium which he also built. He finished the project a couple of weeks ago. It looks great. I am going to share some pictures with you. This picture is taken in the living room from about the same place as the picture above.

DSC_5082

Now looking in the other direction from the family room here is Duke with the finished product.

DSC_5021

The aquarium was built from two 4 foot by 8 foot sheets of Plexiglas. 

DSC_5020

The filter is built into the cabinet below the aquarium.

DSC_5032

 The cables for the stereo system are accessible from the doors on the back of the divider.

DSC_5024

DSC_5029

There are also speakers built into the bottom right and left.

DSC_5071

Duke also built the bookshelf  on the right above. You can see our turtle in the tank. We are a bit concerned that he may be getting jealous because of all the attention that the fish have been getting lately!

 Duke's next project will be to build desks in our office. Watch this space for updates. We are leaving on a six week cross country road trip  next week so you will soon be seeing travel pictures as I blog our trip.

 

The Beginnings of a Computer Career 45 Years Ago

I attended college and had a career in the computer industry during a fascinating time. When I started college the computer industry was young. I don't think Iowa State had more than a hand full of computers and undergraduates only saw the computer from behind glass. During the 40 plus years since I started college computers have become ubiquitous

I've decided to start writing a series of blog posts about some of my experiences. I hope to write about things that might be interesting to my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.  I would have liked my grandmothers to write for their descendants. They could have written about driving a Model T, teaching in a one room school house, growing up on a homestead in North Dakota or living in the Canadian Rockies in the 1930s.

I remember being intrigued by computers during my last couple of years in High School. I built an electronic decimal to binary converter for a science fair, I think during my senior year. It was a project from a book. I knew nothing about soldering and not much about electricity. I built it but it didn't work. As I recall my Dad took it to one of his friends who got the project working for me. It had a few resisters, some wires, some lights and some push buttons. You pushed a button next to one of the numbers 1-9 and the right combination of four lights would come on to represent the binary equivalent of the number.

This is a picture of me in January 1969. I was 17. January is the beginning of the school year in Australia.

001 (2)

I attended school in Australia from 1964 until 1969. I went to high school at Clayfield College a Presbyterian and Methodist Girls school in Brisbane. The space flights leading to the first landing on the  moon were during this period. I was fascinated by space exploration. The practical use of computers and science in the space program fueled my interest in computers. Not long before we left Australia my Mom brought a television to school so we could watch the first moon landing on  20 July 1969.

From Australia we moved to St Charles Illinois and I started my senior year of High School year there in September 1969. It was hard being a new kid and having no friends. I was really glad to leave St Charles and move to London, England. I attended an American military dependents high school. I'm not sure but I think the science fair and the binary converter project may have been while I was a student at London Central High School. 

I got contact lenses soon after we moved ot London. This is my HIgh School graduation picture.

001

I knew I was going to go to college in the U.S. but I had no idea where to go. I took the SAT test in Brisbane before we left Australia. There was one other guy taking the test at the same time. I remember I had to have a social security number to sign up for the test so that is when I applied for and received my social security number. 

While we were living in Illinois one weekend my Dad drove me out to Ames, Iowa to visit Iowa State where he and my mother had gone to college. It is a beautiful campus. We met with the admissions director because I had a pretty strange high school transcript. He said I was admitted. As part of the admissions process I had to declare a major. I remember pouring over the Iowa State catalog which was a thick paperback book listing all the majors and classes. Since I enjoyed math I thought "What the heck, Computer science looks interesting." and I checked that box on the application. I figured I could always change it later.

At Iowa State in the Fall of 1970 my first computer science class was Fortran. We wrote programs on key punch pads so the key punch operators could punch the cards for us. Each line on the programming pad became a card to read into the computer.  If you procrastinated on your programming assignments you would have to use one of the key punch machines in the  basement of the computer science building to punch the cars for your assignment yourself.

This picture of one the keypunch machines in the basement of the computer science building is from my college yearbook.

  DSC_4946

Once we had our program on cards we would hand in our deck of cards to the clerks behind the desk in the basement where the computer was and the program would be run through the computer in the room behind the glass. Just finding all your syntax errors could take several cycles of handing in cards and coming back a few hours later to get the results of your run.

Although there were very few woman  in my classes my first computer science teacher for the Fortran class was a woman. I think June Smith was here name. We learned early on that if a line of code was longer than the 80 characters that would fit on one card we could create a continuation card by putting an x in the first column of the next card.  I remember her telling us about the student who thought you made continuation card by stapling the two cards together. You can imagine the serious damage that did to the card reader machine!

The first electronic pocket calculator the HP-35 was introduced by Hewlett Packard in 1972. It cost $395. I don't think I ever owned a calculator while I was in college. We did math for classes like Physics by hand or we used a slide rule. This picture of the HP-35 is from the book Core Memory – A Visual Survey of Vintage Computers.

DSC_4947

 Student protests against the war in Viet Nam and the killing of students at Kent Sate by the national guard occurred during my Freshman year at Iowa State. I was politically very conservative and Iowa State was a fairly conservative school. Although I had misgivings about the war I supported the U.S. policy in Viet Nam so I took no part in the protests at Iowa State.

If you have memories of this era please add them in the comments.

Random Stuff – Knitting and Duke’s BDay

It is so much fun to have a baby to knit for. In the past few month I knit a couple of things for my new granddaughter Briana.

Most recently I finished this sweater.

Photo Feb 21, 5 55 06 PM

Photo Feb 21, 5 56 05 PM

Before the sweater I knit a cape for her.

060

 

078

Yesterday was Duke's birthday. I made the traditional favorite meal – meat loaf, peas, and baked potatoes. I also baked a yummy cake – spice cake with gooey coconut, pecan frosting.

DSC_4944

And for his birthday present I gave him these.

DSC_4943

 

My Daughter’s Wedding

On September 5 my youngest daughter got married. I'd like to share some of the pictures and memories from the wonderful day.

Shannon did a awesome job of of planning and putting together the wedding. In addition to helping raise a very active little boy who turned four the weekend before the wedding Shannon is starting law school and she worked full time up to two weeks before the wedding.  I am in awe of all that she accomplished. It was truly perfect.

Here are Shannon, My Dad, and and me before we left the hotel for Lover's Point in Pacific Grove where the wedding was held.


Shan Dad Me standing

And here are Shannon and her attendants.

Bride and attendants 

The ring bearer and flower girl waiting for the wedding to start. I always worry a bit when kids are in a wedding but they each took the job very seriously and did an excellent job.

Aidan and Juliana before the wedding

My oldest daughter Allison escorted me to my seat.

Allie and Me 

My grandson Aidan was the ring bearer

Aidan

And here is the wedding party waiting for the bride.

Aidan and party

The ceremony was beautiful. The minister read letters that Shan and Bill wrote to each other specially for the wedding about why they love each other. He talked about all it takes to make a marriage. I was so happy to have it all be so special.

The ceremony

The wedding included a sand ceremony. Aidan, Bill, and Shan poured sand together symbolizing their family. 

The sand ceremony 

The recessional music was the theme from Rocky. It was great! Everyone cheered including the casual spectators who happened to be spending Sunday afternoon in the park.

Bride and groom 

Aidan and Juliana 

I don't think they could have picked a more perfect place for a wedding.

Lovers Point

When we got to the reception Aidan took a nap in Lauren's lap. Notice that he has his favorite stuffed dog under his arm.

 

Aidans nap 

Then at the reception Aidan was ready to party. He said the grace before the meal and even gave a toast. The party was fun I think everyone including the kids had a great time.

Dancing 

Aidan toast

I'd especially like to thank Rose, Sylvia, and Roger for all these great pictures!