2010 Annual Letter from Kurt & Marieluise Riegel

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With our annual letter now firmly established as a family tradition, we send you our greetings with best wishes for a superduper 2011! 

We hold no illusions that the reader will pore over every detail of this letter in this busy season. We mostly just get a kick out of composing a letter because it causes us to reflect on events of the year that brought us happiness and challenges – you know, the stuff that makes life interesting and worth living. So if even one reads it that'll be an unexpected bonus and we'll turn cartwheels.


Marieluise completed her project in designing and sewing a line of children's clothing, morphing and expanding those efforts into a completely new approach for adult women's wear made of recycled sweaters. It's wild and crazy stuff, wonderfully artistic and creative.

She was the technology innovator in our household this year. Needing a way to accept credit cards at the craft show, she encountered nothing but complexity and exorbitant fees in "merchant services" middlemen. We found a marvelous device called Square, and got an Android phone to plug it into. Now she swipes credit cards to zap payments directly to her bank account. It's a hit, maybe offering a prospect of "breaking" the merchant services middlemen in the same way that iTunes "broke" the music distribution industry. Good riddance. Kurt likes the Android phone so much that we each now carry one.

She exhibited at the Sugarloaf Craft Festival in Gaithersburg and her crafts sold like gangbusters. She reports that customers seemed to be sick of the recession and simply started spending again, damn the torpedoes.

Kurt continued as a member of the Severn River Commission, completing an exhaustive review of new county law governing floodplain management, erosion and sediment control, stormwater management, subdivision and development, and zoning. He formulated the Commission's position and presented it to the Anne Arundel County Council in written and oral testimony. He also addressed issues covered by Maryland's Critical Area laws, theoretically controlling practices within the first 1000 feet from water that are so important to Chesapeake Bay ecological health. Those laws look a lot better on paper than in practice, consistent enforcement being an unrealized ideal.

Maryland Public Television hired a boat and took Kurt out on the Severn River, interviewing him for a documentary on the River and the Chesapeake Bay. It was a fun excursion, the interview and taping went great, and we captured a mix of Nature's beauty and Man's desecration of it. It will air in February 2011.

He finished work on Annapolis Mayor Josh Cohen's transition team, working up policies recommending a "no discharge zone" plus reforms in boat waste pumpout management to improve the quality of Annapolis' waters. In a bit of political activism, he also worked in Chris Trumbauer's campaign for Josh's old County Council seat. Victory!

Kurt had a wonderfully productive experience working with the Antares Group to conduct a peer review of the Department of Energy's Geothermal Research Program. Principal investigators convened in Crystal City for a comprehensive review of those programs, Kurt concentrated on the portion of the program involving the use of heat pumps with earth as a source/sink of energy for conditioning buildings and some industrial/agricultural processes. If we were building a new house, we'd love to install a geothermal heat pump system with modern hydronic distribution rather than the old fashioned air ducting that prevails in America. Efficient and controllable!

Marieluise & Kurt still live in a nice house that we transformed from a mid-70's mediocrity into one that bears distinctive marks of our personalities and suits us in many ways. However we chafe increasingly over its size (too large, size bringing proportional maintenance and climate conditioning inefficiencies), and its location (suburban, putting us always in cars to get to anything interesting.) So we took a run at selling our present house and buying a new one in walkabout downtown Annapolis. Alas, we can verify the existence of an asymmetry in the disaster that is the US housing market. The house you sell is cheap because buyers realize the bubble has burst, and the house you buy is costly because sellers still pretend it hasn't. Thwarted by market dynamics, we ended the experiment but will try again another day.

Our dog Lexi (50/50 Yellow Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever) grew from puppy to adult. She's a delight, the world's best water dog, if not yet a great boat dog. If she sees water, she's goes in immediately and you can't get her out for an hour. Aboard our sailboat she gets nervous on tacks and severe heeling. When it gets too wild for her she goes below and hides out in the shower, the small space being comforting. We notice that thunder sends her to our home shower also. Here she is swimming in the Wye River on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Kurt will teach his course again in Environmental Compliance Management at Johns Hopkins University beginning this January. It has become well established and popular among JHU's offerings, always reaching its enrollment ceiling within days of its initial announcement.

Jane Riegel's 100th birthday was January and we all pulled together a terrific family celebration. Over 100 people attended to recount memories, give tributes, tell jokes and exhibit a fine slide show covering highlights in her life. The Queen of Gulchleigh reigned over the proceedings with quiet dignity and grace – and we think she actually had a pretty good time.

We put together a nice web site documenting the celebration, including photographs, the video/slide show presentation, and a list of participants.

Offspring & OffspringOffspring

On Marieluise's side: Tonya continues teaching at the University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. The big family event was her wedding to Kevin Sweet, who also teaches there.The bride and groom flew from the dry desert to the rocky and very wet environment of York, Maine. Friends and family convened from afar to take over a charming inn, all making it a joyous and festive occasion.We visit Pasha & John and their children Josh, Emily & Jamie several times a year in New Hampshire where they run a fitness/yoga center. We open our doors to Mark for our traditional Sunday bagels/lox brunch as often as possible, just to give respite from his work on sustainability for the University of Maryland. We sometimes lure him and friends out for a voyage on Starducks.

On Kurt's side: Tanya edited an episode of HBO's Game of Thrones and has worked most of this year on Fright Night, her first 3D film. Sam continued a plethora of projects including his voiceover work on TV and video games, and also screen writing and performing. Eden continues her acting on The Young and the Restless, and her really big news is that she and Andrew expect a baby boy in May 2011. Everybody (Tanya & Veronique, Sam & Quyen, Eden & Andrew) bought a new house this year in LA and are in various stages of renovations/alterations. They are clearly more skilled at selling and buying houses than we are, so we're trying to subcontract our future house deals to them!


Off we went this year to Park City, Utah, our second time there. It's a fine ski town, even more stimulating because the Sundance Film Festival is held there and we were able to see several of this year's winners. Instead of traveling with a ski club, this year we teamed with Ed & Linda Gray to snag our own condo. We had the bonus of drop-in's by Mark Stewart and Bonny Mitchell. Skiing was wonderful, great weather, tolerable injuries, and terrific companionship.

Toward the end of our stay there, we received a huge snow dump that was great for skiing but impossible to fly out of, so we wound up staying an additional 2 days. "Please don't throw me in that briar patch!"

We're a'quiver with anticipation over our upcomng February trip to Telluride, CO with our same ski buddies and Bonny & Sam & Quyen.

Sailing Adventures

Annapolis has a fine springtime tradition called the "Burning of the Socks," from simpler and poorer days when watermen wore the same socks all winter. When warm weather arrived they were so sick of their smelly socks that they took to burning them on the day of the spring equinox. Thus did they welcome warm weather and resume their barefoot lifestyle. We too participated in this ceremony to kick off this year's sailing season.

Sailing on Starducks was fun as ever, a number of nice sailing voyages taking us all over the Chesapeake Bay. We did several trips over to St. Michaels, a nice little walkabout town on the Eastern Shore that's with swimming/running diversions for Lexi our dog, and the venue for the annual Small Boat Festival. We've fallen into the habit of attending this event every year with Ed & Linda Gray, usually joined by Todd & Ellen Croteau's family.

Early in the summer, sailing in the Chester River toward a raft-up with Doug & Laura Tilley, we dropped sails and hove to in order to buy crabs from a passing waterman. Intending to resume sailing, we pulled out the furled jib ... but it was stuck! A cell call to a technician at an Annapolis boatyard yielded the advice, "Just crank harder." Big mistake. Screws had come loose at the bottom of the foresail furling foil, allowing it to slip down about 8 inches, just enough to allow the spindle at the top of the forestay to slip off the foil and jam. Cranking hard basically unwound the forestay cable wires, ruining the forestay and requiring a complete replacement – ouch!

We hosted a few nice people for wonderful sailing trips aboard Starducks, including Kurt's brother Quentin and friends, Abby Williamson, several people from the Spinsheet crew list. We sailed out during the Naval Academy's commissioning week, hosting a nice champagne brunch and viewing the Blue Angels scream over our sailboat in amazing acrobatic maneuvers.

Odds 'n Ends

We loved our three chickens and came to depend on the 3 eggs a day they so faithfully delivered. Our chickens were very nice critters. Alas, a crabby neighbor blew the whistle on us and we had to give them away. Kurt has not been able to bring himself to buy an egg since, realizing how large the gap is between our chickens that walked the ground eating a natural diet, and industrial egg operations.

We can't help noticing that our contemporaries seem to be complaining more and more about things medical, some even proceeding to die in moments of absent-mindedness. Alas, even we have been overheard whining about the odd ache or pain. Can it be that we are getting older? A question to ponder.

We trouped down to the Washington Mall to participate in Jon Stewart/Steven Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity and Preserve Fear, blending into a crowd of over 200,000 people. The experience was a hoot, even though we must admit we would have seen and heard more of the on-stage events by watching television. The signs carried by participants were hilarious!

Have a wonderful 2011, keep in touch with us, come visit and sail with us on Starducks, and we look forward to seeing you soon!


Pictorial Supplement

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Posted at home.comcast.net/~qmhdk/x2010

    115 Blackfoot Drive,  Arnold MD  21012
E-mail   Kurt.Riegel@gmail.com       Marieluise.Riegel@gmail.com   
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