Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Greetings 1996 from the Hill/Reiff clan

[the family at home]

Backyard at 4214 Southwestern, Houston, TX, December 1996

Highlights of 1996 "in their own words"

[Andrea and Amy in Colorado]


Hi , I turned 10 last year (1995) and I guess I was so excited that I forgot to tell everyone that my present was a sweet, palomino, quarter horse. In case you didn't know palomino is brown fur with a blondish mane and tail; a Quarter horse is a breed of horse (named after the quarter-of-a-mile races they ran for sprints). I'm in middle school this year, 6th grade. We have 9 classes, 5 academics and 4 electives our academic classes are (in the order that I take them) Math, Science, Social Studies, Reading, and English. I have 3 academic classes a day, my 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class the first day and so on. My electives (again, in order) are Computer Concepts, Spanish, P.E., and General music. I have 2 electives per day exept for Wednesday because we get out early. School's cool but I miss my old teacher and one of my great friends. My teacher got married, changed her name, and moved all the way to New Jersey (If your reading this Mrs. Angelo, I miss you.). One of my good friends moved away last year but I don't like to say why ('cause it's kind of sad). Well, I guess I have to go but I have enough time to say HAVE A MERRY MICE CHRISTMAS AND A PURRFECT NEW YEAR !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! bye bye!

[Andrea at Girl Scout camp] Pat adds: The kids all have been active in drama this year, with a three-week summer drama camp, and afterschool drama clubs both in spring and in fall. Andrea has a real flair for the dramatic - she manages to lose her shyness when "on stage". In her fall play she played the part of the princess in their adaptation of "Who Stole the Tarts?"; their group also made all the stage props and even tarts for the reception afterwards! Andrea went to resident Girl Scout camp for the first time this summer, spending the week with her best friend Dara Nichols. She also went unaccompanied on a fall trip to visit her good friend Jody Barnhard in Ohio - a real adventure! (click on any of the thumbnails to get a full-size, higher resolution jpeg of any of these pictures).

[Amy on Montana]


It's been another exciting, fun year for all of us but I'll be writing this for my self (the paragraph). Anyway let's start from the beginning. When I walked into the class room on the first day of school I saw my 3 best friends!!!, Elsa (a horse FREAK like myself who would regularly be in my class), Beth (a good friend who's nice, she would be in Mrs. Weber's class), and Kelly (my #1 friend, known her since 1st grade, a person who is vary kind and funny should have been in Mrs. Anglo's class) then I rembered: I WAS the only 4rth grade girl in Mrs. Edebor's class when joined with Elsa Beth and Kelly. The year went by so fast - one thing that comes to mind was that we won our soccer tournament - very mery christmas!!!

[Amy galloping bareback on Montana] Pat adds: Amy is definitely the avid horserider in the family . Although Montana is technically Andrea's horse, Amy rides him much more (Andrea treats him more like a large pet who would come into the house if we'd let him). Amy often rides with no saddle, bridle, or halter - just a rope around the neck - like I used to do with our horse Domino when I was her age. On Montana with Amy in the upper photo is her second cousin, Molly Hubbard. Amy again went to the Frio river with her good friend Samantha Sciulli this year.

[Adam geting a hit in little league]


Hi, it's been another year and a lot has gone on. I got a new soccer coach for the Flames (the same team as last year). We won first place in the regular season! In school I have the same teacher as last year. Ms. Weber is tough but I'm learning a lot this year. Ms. Weber complimented my math because she said she couldn't do a 2-digit by 2-digit multiplication but I could. I'm glad that half of the school year is over. I was on the Buffalos little league team and we got second place in the finals! I hope that your year has been good. Well, mine has. I like my new room upstairs. I got a bunk bed for sleep-over friends. I went camping on a boy scout camp-out. We had a great time and played a lot of games. This year I got a new go-cart! It's really fun and fast! I hope you have a Merry Christmas!!

[Adam swimming with a manatee] Pat adds: One of the highlights of this spring was our trip to Florida. Although the weather was cold, we donned wet suits and swam with the manatees - a real hoot! The manatees knew that they were safe (we were in an official contact zone at Crystal River), and they would come right up to you. One of them rolled over so that Amy could stroke its tummy. We also saw one nursing her baby (their mammaries are located in their armpits!) We also had a day at Disney world, a day at Universal Studios, and a morning at Cypress Gardens with my Dad and his wife Betty followed by an afternoon at Busch gardens - whirlwind but fun. (See the photo gallery below for more pictures from that trip)

[Tom and Andrea at the farm


This may not be the best time to reflect back on the past year because, just now, Pat and I and the rest of the Space Physics and Astronomy Department are in the midst of moving our offices to another building on campus, so life is anything but normal even by the standards of what normally passes for normal around here. Our move is occasioned by the fact that, at Rice in 1996, nanotechnology (as in Nobel Prize) is hot, and space physics is not. Still, there have been some interesting highlights in space physics this year. The Galileo spacecraft orbiting Jupiter is making some fascinating discoveries (got to get a paper out on that one of these days!), and the similar Cassini spacecraft is nearly assembled for its launch next year to Saturn (though it will take another 5 years to get there -- patience is a virtue in this business). There was good news and bad news this year for new magnetospheric spacecraft in Earth orbit: "Polar" was launched into a perfect polar orbit, but "Cluster" was launched into the swamps of South America. Ask Pat for details -- she's involved in both.

[family at Independence Pass We were funded at Rice to participate in the new National Space Weather Program, which I hope turns out to be as important as it sounds. So it hasn't been a bad year, professionally; I'm just nostalgic for the golden years when I spent more time writing papers than writing proposals. (Pat adds: He just got good news that his Planetary Atmosphere proposal is being funded, so I guess he's good at writing proposals!) In the meantime, my favorite hobby continues to be watching the kids grow up and "get a life".

[latest image from Polar]


This year, I was able to take my students to the launch of Polar in Vandenburg in February - this first time that I've seen one of "my" spacecraft launched. (Click on the thumbnail to get the VIS "picture of the day". But Cluster unfortunately had to be destroyed when launch software malfunctioned, spreading its precious cargo over the jungles of northern South America (several of the pieces have been recovered, and some might actually be usable!). In addition to the triumph of Polar and the tragedy of Cluster, my greatest thrill was to be part of a team selected to fly a new mission "IMAGE" at the turn of the Millennium (which includes a magnetospheric radio sounder that I have been working hard on). In July I started a term as Chair of the Department (amazing - noone else wanted to preside over our painful move). Thank God, I have Umbe to help me get through the mess.

[Andrea at a pond in Colo]My fondest joy is watching the kids blossom - we had great fun camping together after the GEM meeting in Colorado (sharp eyes can find me in the pond picture with my face glued to a videocamera) - there's lots more pictures below. (And obviously, many hours of videotape for the truly masochistic).

I'm hoping to take the whole family on my next eclipse junket: a 7-day cruise to Aruba in Feb 1998 (join us! check out the future travel web page ). The cruise departs from Puerto Rico, and we see the eclipse from the ocean between Aruba and Curacao. Should be major fun!

It's also a pleasure to watch my students mature - Loretta, Gang, and Rudy are all now established scientists on their own; Ben and Shan are about to graduate; and Andrew is showing his mettle as well. Loretta (at Los Alamos) now has a daughter of her own (named Ariane, but unlike the rocket, she didn't explode at her first launch), and Gang now has a permanent scientist position at NCAR. Rudy is at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, working on UARS data. Ben is thinking about going back into the engineering side of space; and Shan has some good nibbles on a computer-based job here in town.

As part of my public outreach program, we now do "Ask the Scientist" videoconferences over the internet. The software is free and the hardware is cheap, so hop on the internet and let's have a chat! My reflector is, and I'm frequently online.

Photo Gallery

The best of the stills from 1996 (in approximate chronological order)[kids at Disney World]

Disney Worldin March was a great day - fortunately, we talked the kids into Epcot instead of the Magic Kingdom. Even so, there were plenty of "characters" to sign their souvenir hats! By then, it had warmed up a bit after the frigid time swimming with the manatees (see the photo in Adam's section above).

[family in cypressBetty and grandpa Bill Reiff, Pat and the kids at Cypress Gardens in March. Dad and Betty are snowbirds who spend their winters in Florida and their summers in the hills of Arkansas. (The other Bill and Betty Reiff live in Mt. Desert Maine). The children have obviously recently been at Disney world, from the look of their hats! The ski show and the birds of prey display were the most fun (they let us pet a screech owl).

[Amy with ferrets]Ferrets Subway (Adam's, on the left) and Seeker (Amy's, on the right) were birthday presents this April. Playful and inquisitive, they love to explore. They also poop like the carnivores they are - yech - but the kids have been good about keeping their cage clean. I'm sure that the compost pile will be the better for it.

[Adam with kite]Adam successfully flying a two-stringed attack kite (so named because of its tendency to divebomb mom while spinning furiously just after being released on takeoff). After a while he was able to get it to stay up long enough for me to run for cover.

[Andrea in hot-air balloon]Andrea (the left-most person in the gondola) taking a tethered hot-air balloon ride in Snowmass this summer. Hats turned out to be critical to keep the hot exhaust from singeing their hair (Adam's was burned to a frizz). The hot-air-balloon festival is always one of our favorite sights in Snowmass in the summer, but this was the first time that the kids took advantage of the free rides.

[family camping in Colorado]Camping at Lincoln Springs (near Aspen) after the GEM meeting. For the first time the kids & I convinced Tom to camp after GEM. Unfortunately, that meant a 4WD vehicle to carry all the gear, for a lot of extra expense. But since we had an explorer, we were able to find some great camping spots. The first night we found a great place up lincoln springs. Lots of mosquitos, but very secluded. The remaining nights we were in Rocky Mountain National Park, in one of the prereservable sites - what a zoo! Next time we'll spend more nights in the back woods and less time with the crowds!

[snow at Independence Pass]The best part of Colorado is snow, even in July! We always get at least one snowball fight in, and often get caught in a snowfall (and once a blizzard) while crossing the Divide. For us southern Texans, any snow is unusual - although we did have a little bit this December, mixed in with the sleet (naturally, it happened on our departmental move day). Fortunately, it didn't snow while we were camping - in fact it was dang hot in Rocky Mountain National Park!

[Amy & Adam fly fishing]Flyfishing at Rocky Mountain National Park was a bit difficult with a "pocket fisherman", but Adam gave it a good try. (Fortunately, children don't have to purchase fishing licences). Amy wasn't a lot of help for him, though, clowning around. (Andrea was reading at the time - see her section above).

[Amy & Adam rock climbing]

Rockclimbing is one of our favorite family activities - noone has done technical climbs yet (although Adam has had some instruction at the rock wall at the local REI store). We have a favorite place in Boulder canyon that we climb up every year, and we found a new spot south of Boulder this year.

[from the top of Aspen mountain]The view from the top is always the best. Of course here, we cheated (took the Aspen gondola most of the way and just walked up the last mile).

[aspens in Colo]Andrea, Adam, and Amy walking through an aspen grove in Colorado. The "getting lost" feeling is one of the great reasons to be out-of-doors.

[cousins rooting for valencia]First cousins (from left) Jon Behrman (on Kevin Davis's shoulders); Brian Cabrera; Adam and Amy Hill; Matt Behrman (over Andrea Hill); and Sara Cabrera; in Dallas Aug 96 at grandma Ruth Hill's house, showing their support of the Valencia (Spain) soccer team. (only their married cousin Jay Davis is missing from this photo). The Cabreras are children of Tom's sister Susie (she and her husband Emilio live near Valencia); the Davis's are children of Tom's sister Nancy (who lives with her husband Mac in Bethel, Maine); and the Behrmans are children of Tom's sister Barbie (who lives with her husband Lee in Richardson, Texas)

[last view of my old office]This view is the last of my old office, packed to travel (unfortunately - or fortunately - the actual move came while I was in San Francisco for the AGU meeting). The boxes are not yet unpacked in our new building - but I promise to get to them soon!

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Merry Christmas!
Last Updated: December 30, 1996