A little late this year on the end of year letter but wanted to say
hello to everybody. In the age of twitter, this update should be almost
done, so for the time pressed, you can still find us at 308 scott st,
e-mail and phone numbers are still the same. The apartment is a lot more
crowded with Nathaniel taking over the dining room as his bedroom. We
would still love to see you if you are in San Francisco, but the futon
population has crashed considerably. I have been working for Amyris
biotechnologies in Emeryville for the past 15 months on biofuels and
Sarah is halfway through second year law school. Nathaniel will likely
go to kindergarten next year.  Pictures as always on the website and I
have improved the viewing experience and turfed the aging java applet
so it won't kill your computer.

I feel like I have been on the run all year although I have traveled far
less than ever. I barely made it out of of California all year and our
biggest excursions were to Oregon for a week for vacation and skiing. We
have put Nathaniel on skis and he has done admirably. We went up to
Tahoe just before Christmas and he is capable of getting down smaller
green slopes without much ado.  My travel has been compressed into a
small triangle between Pacifica where Nathaniel still goes to preschool,
Emeryville where I work and home. Several times a week I do a three phase
commute with car to Pacifica ( :( yes I'm using a car semi regularly
now ),  train and then folding bicycle. It's actually not the worst
commute I have had and the train and bicycle sections are relaxing and
productive. Work is great. It's the usual highly stressful start up with
impossible deadlines but I work with really nice and smart people and I
feel good about the impact of the work. If second-generation biofuels are
technically feasible (which looks to be the case) they will have a huge
impact on the environmental footprint of fuel consumption. There has been
a surprising negativity in the media I think mainly due to corn-based
ethanol and scare campaigns around food but I don't think anybody is
going to sweat too much if the Western world has less sugar to consume.

Sarah is a second-year law student at USF, which is conveniently about 10
minutes away on a bicycle. Anybody who has studied law or lived with a law
student knows the drill but for those who haven't, the entire legal system is
as best I can tell, a giant pile of excrement with every layer defecating
on the layer below and first-year law students are the lowest of low. The
system is extremely sadistic (I can never recall exams starting at 6 PM
on Friday evening or weekends) and they hand out pamphlets on coping
with anxiety, stress, insomnia and anger management. Surprisingly the
anger management pamphlets were the first to run out. That said, I think
there is a tremendous sense of satisfaction mastering the material. Every
exam, Sarah tests her knowledge by walking through her outlines with me
and we get to complete some practice exam questions together so I am getting a very rough
and superficial understanding of US / California law which is greatly
improving my appreciation of television law drama.

Nathaniel is Nathaniel, changing every week. He has a good chance of
becoming a lawyer when he becomes older. As it became colder recently he
asked "can we go to the snow?!, But let's not go skiing this time". Life
is full of negotiation at that age. His favorite activities are playing
with his Thomas train set (at least 20 m of tracks tunnels mountains
trains stations bridges etc.), playing at the local sandpit (duboce
"cafe" park,  or alamo square "kite" park).  He is good with numbers
letters and increasingly words. We will find him camped out sometimes at
6 AM in the morning on his couch, remote in hand watching Teletubbies
and feasting on whatever is easily available in the fridge. We began
the "search" for a school a few months ago realizing belatedly that
he would be eligible next year. He is a relatively late birth so the
private schools mostly won't take him, but the public school system
will. I say search because it's obvious in a few minutes with the
Internet which schools are thriving in San Francisco, but there is a
centrally run lottery system that administers application and if you
pick top schools for your seven preferences you have an approximately 2%
chance of getting one. To further complicate things the system is biased
towards trying to create "diversity" in the schools through a maniacally
complicated formula that ensures you are unlikely to be admitted to a
good school in your local neighborhood. The alternative is > $20k/year
for kindergarten at a private school. Wish us luck. We looked at over a
dozen schools and although this has absolutely no impact on our chances
we felt like we did our homework in the middle of preparing for exams
and advancing the state-of-the-art in second-generation biofuels ;)

I thought I was busy until I became a parent and now time is one of the
most precious resources. When Nathaniel sleeps, I get time for small
projects like writing this. I don't get out very much. Your best chance
of catching up is helping us dig a hole in the sandpit over at Duboce.
That said, my friends are a critical part of my life and happiness and I
am trying to make a better effort at staying in touch. I always love to
hear from people, am often slow to reply but read things immediately. I
realize that in the blink of an eye that Nathaniel will be busy and grown
up and I want to spend quality time with him at the same time, so there
is a lot of time stress but it won't be forever. I hope this finds you
well, 2009 was a tough year for pretty much everyone (Tiger Woods had a
particularly eventful year). Hoping that 2010 things you better things
and that you don't forget to stop and say thank you for the here and now.