[photo of family on horseback]

Somewhere in Colorado (north of Leadville), July 2, 1995

Happy Trails to You!

Christmas Greetings 1995 from the Hill/Reiff clan

Highlights of 1995 "in their own words"

[Amy caricature]


Hi, It's me Amy !!! I like school .I mean I'v got a perfect, very nice, and well teaching teacher! Who is one of my best friends ..... Oh! did I tell of my other best friends like Brittney, Elsa, and Shelly.Although in the beginning of the school year only my friends that are now my best friends were real good at paying attention .See the other girls in the class would exclude us! Now it is fixed ..and very well !!! So nowall the girls are friends .Good friends!!!!!! And...speaking of friends my best friend Samantha took me to Frio over the summer vacation we had tons of fun especially .... tubing!!! well good bye and have the meryest cristmas ever!!!!!!

Pat adds: Amy spent a week this summer in the Hill country at the Schlitterbahn and tubing in the Guadeloupe. It sounded like a great time. Tom & I will chaperone their cluster's trip to the area in January, but I suspect it won't be the same.... Amy sang in the school's chorus this year, including two Christmas performances (with Andrea's bell choir as accompaniment on several of the songs). True masochists can get a videotape from us if they dare. All three took horseback lessons this summer at Hermann Park stables; for Amy and Andrea it will be a lifelong passion, it appears.

[Andrea caricature]


Hello! My name is Andrea,of course. I really love this year andhope you do too. I have a super family except I just heard my parents talking about selling me , Adam , and Amy for extra money , which sounds great if they just don't sell me . My teacher is great and so are all my friends. I have a great friend named Jody but she moved away andwe're pen pals. Well I don't have any thing else to say except, WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! bye bye!

Pat adds: Andrea forgot to mention her most exciting news: a new horse "Montana", for her birthday this year! He's a sweet gelding who loves apples and watermelon rinds, but with a canter like a train wreck! Her riding school experience is coming in handy as she now knows how to groom and tack him up. Andrea is also a great artist and writer - definitely takes after her dad there! The caricatures were done at the Galvez hotel Easter weekend when we all had a great time at the beach. Click on the thumbnail to get a big version.

[Adam caricature]


Hi it's me again! How are you doing? I'm fine. This year I got a new coach for soccer!! [coach Rick] And his son is in my class!! My team was called "FLAMES"! On Monday the 18th I took my rank test[karate] and think I will get my green belt! I have a great teacher this year ,and hope Iwill have her next school year. I hope to see you soon and I hope you enjoy Christmas!!!! WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Pat adds: The kids like their teachers at the Rice School, and the multilevel cluster system appears to be working a lot better than last year. All three participated in soccer this year (and I was a ref for the third year). Fortunately winning wasn't as important as participating!


It's been an interesting year, with several small steps forward and no major setbacks (unless you count the government, which is shut down for the second time in a month as I write this). Our research group at Rice seems to be holding up okay amidst all the downsizing that's going on in the space physics business, although it's depressing that valued colleagues elsewhere are not holding up so well. The relative success of the Galileo mission to Jupiter, against all odds, is heartening, but tempered by the thought of how much better it could have been, and should have been.

In the meantime, our year was highlighted by several much shorter trips. Pat and I slipped away for two brief honeymoon/business trips, one to Bermuda in Feb. and one to San Francisco last week. We enjoyed surprising Grammy in Dallas on her 81st birthday in April, and her visit to Houston/Galveston in May, and reunions with various subsets of the greater Hill clan in Dallas in August and Thanksgiving, and our by-now usual week in Snowmass in June (with kids), followed this time by a week in Boulder including the 4th of July. The kids did all sorts of exciting stuff while Pat and I sat in meetings (like kids rafting with Beckyriver rafting with Becky Hairston), but we got to share some of the exciting stuff, like hot-air balloon watching, horseback riding, a July blizzard at Independence Pass, great fireworks at the U.C. stadium, rock climbing, etc.

Closer to home, our biggest lifestyle change in '95 was probably giving our two girls their own semi-private bedroom, which in turn required moving Adam out of the formerly 3-kid dormitory room, which in turn required giving him his own room upstairs, which in turn required Pat and me to move our home office out of that upstairs room into the "front room" (which was probably called the "living room" on the original blueprints). So we accomplished most of that, although most of our office junk is still lurking under Pat's antique grand piano in the front room waiting until we have time to stash it in all of the keen new office furniture that we recently bought ourselves for Christmas.


This been an incredibly hectic year for me! As Alex Dessler put it recently "it seems you have 3 full-time jobs" - actually it's more like 6 half-time jobs: mother, researcher, graduate advisor, PI on a major public education program, teacher, professional committee member and proposal writer. They have all been fun and reasonably successful - thanks in large part to Tom who has done 'way more than his share of the parenting duties (he jokes that being married to me is like being a single parent). My "Public Connection" project now has 4 real-time interacive kiosks at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and we're set to go into more Museums and schools this year if the NASA budget ever gets settled (our section, IITA, is due for a $35 million cut, though...). The kids have been great as field-testers for me (and have gotten a lot of media coverage in the process - see my project's news page for lots of pictures and quicktime movies of the kids in the media. In other media events Tom was interviewed on Ch. 11 for the Galileo encounter; Pat was interviewed (very reluctantly) on Ch 2 about alien abductions; and Amy was in a Southwestern Bell commerical highlighting the computer network they provided to the Rice School.

But the year has not been all work; as Tom mentioned, we have had several pleasant business trips and a couple of short family trips. We had a great time family in Rockets t-shirtsrooting the Rockets to victory for the second time - we are all "solid Rockets boosters", as the photo here (taken in Colorado) shows! It is interesting that the last three challengers on the road to the championship had coaches named Hill, Westfall, and Hill - Tom's middle and last name! We didn't make it to Maine for Christmas this year, though, which is unfortunate since they've had one of their best snow years ever . We really miss the fun in the snow with Mac and Nancy (and the kids) over the years - but we did make some of Nancy's famous bourbon balls to help take up the slack (she also sent us some, but those were gone by Christmas night).

The farm (technically a ranch - but Carroll called it Agarita Farm and the name stuck) still continues to give us many happy hours - without it, I would be a complete drudge, I fear. We get much of our intense-but-too-infrequent exercise there (e.g. aerobic shoveling and firewood hauling). It's often too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, but it's great to have a place where the air doesn't need conditioning! The cool water in the depths of the sometimes-slimy pond and the outdoor shower with the cold well water take the fire out of the summer. The spectacular views of Orion and the Milky Way or trying to cook a hotdog on a blazing bonfire without frying your face make a cold winter's evening so much warmer. You don't see bluebirds, redtail hawks, carolina wrens or pileated woodpeckers in the city! You can see why we enjoy tree climbing at Agarita hanging out at the ranch so much!!

Photo Gallery

The following are mostly from the Public Connection News Page:

The kids in Frank Billingsley's live weather broadcast from the Kiosk July 19, 1995. My favorite field testers at work! To download quicktime movies of the kids in the press coverage of our grand opening, (warning! large!) click here: KPRC 5 pm news (featuring Adam in "Space Weather") (9.4 MB); or KPRC 6 pm news (featuring Amy in "Planet Earth" and Adam in "Houston Today", and all three at the end) (8.6 MB).

The article from "Rice News" featuring Pat with Amy and Adam September 27th, 1995. (Click on the thumbnail to download a jpeg of page 1 of the article). Click here to download a jpeg of the rest of the article.

Amy in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Amy was highlighted in a "Chronicle of Higher Education" story "The Whole World, on a Kiosk" featuring our project (September 22 issue, page A8). (Click on the thumbnail to download the article). The picture was also printed in a recent Sallyport (Rice alumni) magazine.

Adam in the Houston Chronicle September 14, 1995

In September, all three kids participated in the first internet Challenger Center simulation at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. "Back to the Moon" had the student astronauts and student mission controllers land a space station "Legacy" on the Moon, with 19 veterans of Apollo 13 (including Flight Director Gene Kranz and Capcom Joe Kerwin sitting in their old seats) helping the students at Mission Control.

(Click on the thumbnail to download a jpeg of the Houston Chronicle article). For page 2, click here.

[Gene Kranz on the internet] Gene Kranz as Flight Director for the first flight of the "Legacy". Typical Cu-SeeMe image from an internet videoconference.

Ask-the-Scientist Videoconferences

In January Pat's "Public Connection" project will begin their first online "ask the scientist" videoconferences, with scientists available over the net to interested students. See the videoconference web page for more information, if you'd like to participate. I'll be glad to set up a test videoconference "just for fun" ... we can even do it from home, if you'd like to see any of us "live"!

Tom's home page | Pat's home page | (Kid's home page is coming)

Merry Christmas!