Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy holidays 2010

Welcome to the Dessler family year-end holiday message for 2010. Our big news: Alex and Michael started kindergarten this fall. Michael informs us he likes school, while Alex says he doesn’t particularly like learning, but he likes going to school.

In their spare time, Andy and the kids enjoy doing science experiments. Their favorite so far is the dry-ice volcano. Unfortunately, not all the experiments go as planned. One experiment, the details of which will not be divulged here, destroyed one of the trees in the backyard. It did not just kill the tree — the experiment actually knocked it over. We won’t be doing that one again.

Michael (left) and Alex enjoy a contemplative moment of quiet and serenity

The kids have started playing sports, doing t-ball in the spring (see Michael’s first homerun), judo this summer, and soccer this fall. Unfortunately, the teams are co-ed and girls at this age are bigger, faster, stronger, and meaner — which means we spend most of the games screaming, “Alex, GET OUT OF HER WAY!” right before 40-lb Alex gets flattened by a battleship with pigtails. Michael is a little bigger and faster, with a well-developed self-preservation instinct, so he’s generally able to avoid harm.

Alex (left) plays a game on an iPod while Michael watches

The kids have also discovered video games. Alex in particular is obsessed with Mario Galaxy (and it’s sequel Mario Galaxy 2) on our Wii. They also play games on Andy’s iPad and on the Nintendo DS. Andy tries to explain how, when he was a kid, the only toy he had was a bag of dirt --- and how his walk to school was uphill both ways.

We realize that many people only read this only to find out what’s up with Max and Kasper, our valiant Weimaraners. So here is their update: Max is now 7 and Kasper is 5 and they had an exciting year. Max continues to slay lizards and frogs at an astounding pace, and enjoys spending time on facebook every evening. Kasper, on the other hand, had an unhappy year: he has food allergies and primarily eats a dog food containing kangaroo as the main protein. Unfortunately, it got recalled in August because of possible salmonella contamination and he’s been eating a vegetarian dog food since then. Yuck! We’re pretty sure it tastes like cardboard, so we’re hoping that the kangaroo food gets back into production soon.

Max (left) and Kasper relax in the backyard

Andy is still working on climate change, and he’s now focusing on understanding how clouds regulate our climate and whether and how they will amplify future warming. In our 2008 holiday letter, we wrote, “Andy expects much better things [on climate change] from the Obama administration,” compared to the Bush Administration. Well, that didn’t work out as expected.

Andy is sorry that we’re not doing anything to head off climate change, but, as a purely scientific question, he’s very interested to see exactly how quickly the Earth melts from all of the carbon we’re dumping into the atmosphere. After all, when rational people solve an environmental problem, then you miss out on seeing how bad it would have been had you done nothing. So, for example, we'll never know (except in computers), how bad ozone depletion would have become because we took action to head it off. But in this case, it's looking more and more likely that we'll run this grand geophysical experiment to completion. It should be fascinating!

Ultimately, it took 50 years for everyone to accept that smoking caused health problems, and it may take that long for everyone to realize that climate change is real. If so, then we have a good two decades of "debate" left. In the meantime, Andy’s doing more outreach to get the word out: here's an an oped he did with some colleagues, or a BBC radio interview (starts at 14 min.). Andy was excited when he found out that the interviewer was Jon Stewart, but then he found out it was the BBC’s version of Jon Stewart, who is not funny.

Susan still runs the office of Dr. Lorene Henry, a psychiatrist here in College Station. She also spends a lot of her time keeping the kids out of trouble, driving them around, and helping the teachers of Alex and Michael's kindergarten classes.

We'll leave you with some fun Dessler trivia: Andy figured out this year that "Andrew Dessler" is an anagram for "endless reward." Susan is not convinced.

We hope you and your family had a great 2010 and an even better 2011.

Andy, Susan, Alex, and Michael (and Max and Kasper)
5110 Congressional Dr.
College Station, TX 77845
Andy: (new e-mail address)