Christmas Letter 2016

JoeTourist: 2016 Solar Eclipse &emdash; Totally eclipsed Sun showing plasma streamers and Bailey's Beads in false colour
2016 Totally eclipsed Sun showing plasma streamers and Bailey’s Beads in false colour

In February and March, I took a 30-day Holland America cruise aboard the Volendam out of Singapore, visiting lots of destinations in SE Asia. It was my first time visiting this region of the world, so it was fascinating to see all the different cultures in the five countries I visited. While aboard the ship, I also observed a Total Solar Eclipse from the Makassar Strait of Indonesia on March 9th. So this cruise was doubly exciting!

In Indonesia, I saw Komodo Dragons, the beautiful islands of Bali and Lombok, and volcanos and temples on Java. Earlier in the cruise, we sailed up the Rangoon River, spending two days in Burma-Myanmar, where I saw beautiful golden temples, experienced the Scott Market and street festivals in Yangon (Rangoon). Visiting Malaysia and Thailand were also standout experiences, but it was always nice to return to the ship after a day’s outing. I actually took two back-to-back cruises, so I got to see quite a bit of Singapore as well, since it was the home port for the ship.

2016 Transit of Mercury across the Sun
2016 Transit of Mercury across the Sun

On May 9th another rare astronomical event occurred: the Transit of Mercury. This beautiful apparition was visible from my front yard here in Victoria, so no traveling was required, and the weather miraculously cleared for the Transit! I managed to take some nice photos using a very similar setup as I used for the Total Solar Eclipse – a camera, tripod, telephoto lens, and solar filter.  Earlier in April, I also observed and photographed Comet C/2014 S2 PANSTARRS from our local astronomy club’s observatory here in Victoria. So 2016 was a very fruitful year for observing rare astronomical events!

Work crew after removing the railings from the old deck, with Rolly in the driveway.
Work crew after removing the railings from the old deck, with Rolly in the driveway.

We had our front deck replaced this summer. It needed to be rebuilt, since the old deck was not only leaking, but was not originally built to code, so the job ended up taking a few weeks. We now have a nice new deck, and decided to get rid of the standard pickets and rails in favour of glass panels, so the overall look is very much improved!

My neighbour lost her husband to cancer several years ago, and she had been living in their house alone for several years. Her family arranged for home support, but eventually she had to leave to live with her daughter where she could be better looked after. I was close to both her and her husband for 25 years, so I did what I could to support them while they lived in their house.

For Sale sign - 3044 Jackson
For Sale sign – 3044 Jackson

Once she was gone, her son looked after the place, but made a big mistake when he let a homeless man “rent” the basement suite under questionable arrangements. The neighbourhood quickly ended up with our very own “tent city” setup in their yard, as he invited his friends over to stay and party! Eventually my neighbour decided to sell her house, and her son had to evict this problem tenant and his entourage. What a bad scene it was! The house quickly sold in October, thanks to Victoria’s hot housing market. A young couple are currently doing a major renovation to the place, since it hadn’t been maintained properly for the last few years.

There is also a large property further up the street being developed with townhouses. At the moment it has a single house on it, which will be demolished in favour of multi-family dwellings. I attended a consultation meeting with the developer a few months ago where he presented his plans to the neighbours. It looks like the development is currently stalled, but I’m sure it will eventually go ahead, since there is lots of money involved. Three other houses changed hands this year, so our normally quiet little neighbourhood has seen it’s share of disruption and change this year!

My workstation: Apple Mac Pro with Dell 27" 4k monitor, Dell 24" HD monitor & WD 4Tb portable Thunderbolt drive
My workstation: Apple Mac Pro with Dell 27″ 4k monitor, Dell 24″ HD monitor & WD 4Tb portable Thunderbolt drive

I have been active on the technology front, swapping my old Mac computers for new ones. Earlier this year, I sold my Mac Mini computer and traded up to a Mac Pro with some pretty fancy features, lots of horsepower, and a beautiful Dell 27” 4k IPS monitor. This makes a wonderful desktop workstation, where I can edit video, attend to my various websites, and enjoy multimedia.

I am also in the process of trading my older MacBook Air 11.6″ and my MacBook Pro 15″ notebook computers for a single, newly-released MacBook Pro 13″. That is still in progress as I write this in early December. This new notebook computer should be good while travelling, and yet also allow me to edit video and photos if I wish.

I also purchased a new iPhone 6S Plus with the bigger screen and more memory than my previous iPhone 5S. It is an unlocked phone, so when I travel, I have the option of taking advantage of cheaper cellular services instead of paying Rogers’ roaming charges. I guess between the Apple computers, iPhone and iPad, I qualify as an Apple Fanboy!

Joe & his Tesla Model S at Sooke Potholes Park
Joe & his Tesla Model S at Sooke Potholes Park

I took my Tesla electric car to Vancouver to have it serviced in September. As I did last year, I made the trip into a mini-vacation – staying a couple of nights, and taking some time to visit with friends and relatives. Tesla Vancouver does a wonderful job of servicing the car and pampering me. The traffic in Vancouver bothers me more each year, and this year is no different. I am glad to return home to Vancouver Island! I am still in love with my Model S two years later, and still enjoy how the vehicle performs so flawlessly and quietly, and yet the power and handling is nothing short of amazing. My Tesla Model S 18 months later

I had planned to celebrate my 64th birthday in October of this year on Italy’s Riviera. The Rick Steves Villages Italy tour and the flights were all booked, but at the last minute I cancelled it all and stayed home. I’m sure the Rick Steves tour would have been very enjoyable, but I just couldn’t face the long flights and the attendant hassles of travelling to and from Europe for such a short trip. It was an expensive decision, but the right one for me.

Amtrack Seattle-Tucson
Amtrack Seattle-Tucson

I have two trips planned for 2017 – neither one involves air travel! I will be going down to Arizona in February to stay with a friend who has an observatory in a rural area. A few of us from Victoria’s astronomy group are all going down at the same time to spend a week observing and photographing the night sky, so it should be a lot of fun. I’m taking the Victoria Clipper to Seattle, and then the train to Tucson! I am also driving down to Oregon in August to see the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse, which tracks right across the USA.

Tanner and Rolly on the stepping stones over the Colquitz River
Tanner and Rolly on the stepping stones over the Colquitz River

Our two dogs and two cats are happy, healthy, and just as crazy as ever. Kirk and I keep active by walking the dogs several times each day. Now that I have this fancy Apple Watch, I know that I walk over 6 kms each day and take over 8,000 steps!

Kirk and I are reasonably healthy for two older (not old) guys. I guess no news is good news, when you are talking about personal health. I go out with friends most Saturdays for dinner and drinks, and also socialize with other friends at various coffee klatches throughout the week, where we solve all the world’s problems! Astronomy is still an interest of mine, but I’m not going out observing quite as much as I used to.

I hope all your family have had a good year just past, and that you will celebrate the holiday season together. All the best to everyone for a healthy and prosperous New Year in 2017!

Joe and Kirk (the humans)
Rolly and Tanner (the crazy Jack Russell dogs)
Coda and Mello (the not-so-crazy cats)

4 thoughts on “Christmas Letter 2016”

  1. A Very Merry Christmas, Joe and Kirk…………………best wishes for a wonderful New Year! ….Marg, Jeff, Chanel and Magoo(the Pins) and Dexter(the cat)

  2. Great Christmas letter as always Joe. In good health and enjoying your passions in retirement… It’s a wonderful life! Merry Christmas from our home to yours.

  3. Joe,
    Thanks for adding me to your holiday letter list. I loved watching the slideshow from you 2016 cruises and hearing about your life during the past year. Your cruise pictures made me itch to start traveling again now that I am back in Hawaii.

    All the best to you and Kirk and Rolly and Tanner and Coda and Mello in the coming year. Please let me know if you ever plan a trip to Hawaii Island. It would be a pleasure to see you again.

    I recently joined Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo. Hilo is an hour away from my house, but a trip to Imiloa for their monthly astronomy lecture is worth it.

    Warmest wishes,


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