Year-end update for 2012

Good-bye 2012

It’s time again to review the year that’s ending; hurray to the blog version of the Christmas letter! It has been a good year. This year had to be better than 2011, of course, since the latter was dominated by Marianne’s cancer recurrence and the necessary chemo treatments and surgery. If you read our retrospective of 2011 below, you will see it says near the top that we were ready to see 2012. Happily, 2012 did not disappoint us, so on with our reminiscing!

Teaching from her own book

After a long recovery from her December 2, 2011 operation, Marianne got enough energy back in time for full-time teaching in the spring semester. What was special about it was that she was able to teach her personality psychology course out of her own published textbook in the spring semester. She had done this once before with a pre-publication rough draft of her book, but this was the real thing. The class went very well. Marianne also has a website now about her book, which Dimitrios set up for her as a Valentine’s day gift (yes, we are nerds; why do you ask?).

Right after the semester was over, we headed to Bermuda, one of our favorite vacation spots. It’s such a favorite that we are not sure how many times we have been there. We think this was the fifth time. It was also a different visit — our friend Rob, who left Blacksburg, VA, for Belfast, North Ireland, a few short years ago for a new academic position, joined us in Bermuda. He turned 50 this year, so this was a celebratory vacation, and he had never been to Bermuda, a problem that has now been rectified.

We stayed at our previously favorite hotel, the Elbow Beach Hotel. It occupies a commanding position over Elbow Beach (what else?) and used to be a huge complex of a large hotel building and many smaller units that have 4 rooms each, with balconies and gardens and views of the ocean or flower gardens or both. Last time we were there, all buildings were in use and we had some excellent meals in the main restaurant of the large building. Imagine our surprise to arrive and find out that the main building was for some years now degraded to just a shadow of its former self, with no active guest rooms, no active restaurants, and only the lobby and concierge service fully functional. Clearly the owner of the hotel, Mandarin Oriental, is suffering some financial difficulty and/or is seeing a lucrative future only in smaller, bungalow-like units for the guest rooms. Our room was excellent, however, and so were the surviving restaurants, both on the beach. Our room also introduced us to our new addiction: a Nespresso machine. I do mean addiction: we returned to our house on May 31st and bought a Nespresso machine of our own on June 1st. We have enjoyed many espressos, cappuccinos, and lattes since.

For posts we made from Bermuda, complete with photos, please click on “May 2012” on the right or here. If you click on “June 2012” or here, you will also see, near the bottom, two nice photos of the two of us created by Rob.

Out with the old (pool), in with the new (gazebo)

When we bought our house in 2000, it came with a then one-summer old pool. Since then, we have had many a fun-filled pool party with our friends of all ages (I think the age range of all our pool party participants extends from 2 months old to 84 years old). But the pool was getting old and creaky (it had a visibly patched hole in the bottom for several years neat the end of its life) and eventually we decided that it was too much to maintain. Our wonderful neighbors got together and dismantled it, in return to being given the aluminum from the pool frame to sell, and we were ready to get our new yard toy, a gazebo. No sooner had it been installed, we were having breakfast in it. The next order of business: we will find ways to integrate the gazebo into our future garden parties and barbecues. We are not going to give up one gathering our friends frequently when the weather is good, even now that there is no pool to make the gatherings into pool parties. We have already had some gazebo parties so the testing phase is over.

Ocean City vacation

We had a New Jersey shore vacation in Ocean City, as in the previous several years, for two weeks in August. We rented a five-bedroom house (the same we had rented in 2010 and liked then) and were joined by lots of friends and relatives. It was an excellent time at the ocean. Next time we do this, however, we will not schedule it too close to the start of the fall semester. Coming back to the classroom just a couple of days after returning from vacation was a little hectic. Some photos follow. (There are several hundred photos to choose from; we are preparing a selection to be shared online with the people who joined us on this vacation; we are behind schedule on this but we will do it.)

D and kids


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Marianne’s new teaching in the fall semester

After teaching the same courses at her University for 20 years, Marianne got to teach the senior seminar (capstone course for psychology majors) in the fall and will continue in the spring (it is a two-semester sequence). This was exciting and at the same time it made the semester very busy. As some faculty members who have been teaching the senior seminar retire in the next year or two, Marianne will become the main coordinator of the seminar.

Marianne’s start in the vaccine study in March and her good health exams

In March, Marianne became a participant in a study of a vaccine intended to prevent further recurrences of ovarian cancer that has already recurred at least once. The principal investigator of the study is an oncologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the doctor we have gone to twice for second opinions over the years; Dr. Hanjani is a co-investigator. The idea is to see which of two ways of strengthening one’s own immune system against ovarian cancer cells is more effective. The study involves a sparse but complicated schedule of injections, blood tests, CT scans, and physical examinations by Dr. Hanjani. The injections are much easier to take than chemotherapy and all the tests have been wonderfully reassuring. A few days ago, during one of the examinations, Dr. Hanjani told Marianne it is time to forget about the cancer and go on with her life. He also indicated he is ready to have the chemo port removed. We are elated by his confidence, based as it is on such good evidence.

Hurricane Sandy

We were far from the only people affected when Hurricane Sandy came around in the end of October. The eye of the storm came directly over our house. We were lucky that the rain that came with it was not as heavy as predicted in our area, otherwise we would have had a flooded basement, as we were left without electricity for 24 hours and our sump pump that keeps the basement dry when it rains heavily is electricity-powered. Also, right after the eye of the storm had passed, we heard a huge thump that turned out to be a large branch of a tree falling on the house next to us (the tree is in between that house and ours, on the verge of our driveway). All in all, we were truly lucky. So many other people lost their houses and all their possessions from this storm, and of course many lost their lives.

The house the tree branch fell on changed owners very recently and the first order of business of the new owners was to remove the branch and the rest of the tree the branch fell from. It took a while for this to happen, but at least now we are no longer afraid to park our car in our driveway. Pictures from the tree removal:

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Odds and Ends

Dimitrios has nothing too special to report regarding work; teaching went well and he presented in his departmental seminar a new paper he is writing with old friend and coauthor Rob. Worth mentioning is the publication, early in 2012, of a book review by Dimitrios in the Journal of Economic Psychology. Those who know the kind of economics he studied in graduate school will have a grin in their faces. Also remarkable about this story: he was invited to write the review for that journal after the book review editor of the journal came across a posting D had made on the Google+ social network. D intends to use this to justify his obsession with participating in Google+ for some years to come.

Looking Forward

We are looking forward to remodeling our kitchen early in 2013 and to taking a wine cruise down the Rhône some time in the summer. We considered this cruise this year also, but ran out of time to fit it into our summer. The trick will be to do it without compromising our vacation at the shore. Ocean City, while damaged by hurricane Sandy, still is the place we would like to go to for our beach vacation with friends, to continue our tradition of doing so almost every summer since 2007.

We hope everybody who reads this has a happy and healthy 2013!