December 2006

Dear Friends and Family,

It may be tough to keep up with the changes in the Allen household this past year, so we’ll start with a summary: Eric decided to skip his senior year of high school, Susie changed jobs—twice, John headed into the solar thermal business, and Tiffany, Jason, and Avalon moved to Amsterdam.

One of Eric’s teachers first proposed the early high school departure. Once his parents got used to the idea, it seemed to make sense. He’s passionate about what he wants to do (electrical and computer engineering), he’s anxious to get going in that direction, and he’ll be catching up with his age peers. Skipping the senior year of high school is common enough that some colleges mention it on their Web sites. Lacking a fourth year of English, Eric won’t receive his diploma until he sends back his freshman English grades.

His robotics team is still the focus of Eric’s extra-curricular energies and leadership training. His team came in third overall in the Botball regional competition and traveled to Norman, OK for the national championships (Hawaii in 2007). 

One highlight of Eric’s year was his real-world summer job, programming the user interface for Allocade, a start-up so new that it doesn’t even have a Web site. Their product is scheduling software for hospitals. Eric has already learned lots about business, especially customer relations. 

Susie’s employer (the one that rehired her in 2005) experienced a major executive management turnover, and the mass employee exodus began. Although her position seemed secure, she chose to leave and join another start-up, which seemed to be more stable. Three months later, they laid her off. Luckily, this time the job market seems to be good, and she has enough experience and a good enough network to produce some good leads. At the time of publishing, we don’t know where she’ll land, but one prospective employer is flying her to Seattle for a third round of interviews (for a technical writer position in their San Jose office).

John is exploring the alternative energy field, specifically solar thermal. His goal is to make solar thermal a less expensive alternative to photovoltaics. He is currently participating in the Be The Change environmental leadership program offered by Acterra, a local environmental group.  

Just a couple of weeks ago, John flew to Nashville to be trained by Al Gore to give Gore’s global warming pitch (from “An Inconvenient Truth”). Their goal is to train 1000 people, selecting 200 at a time. John’s committed to give the pitch in 10 different venues locally, without charge. 

Although Tiffany and Jason had just bought a new house on the outskirts of Sacramento, when WebEx offered Jason the opportunity to work in their Amsterdam office for a year, he and Tiffany didn’t think twice about it (Ava was undecided). They even found a family to live in their new house, take care of their pugs, and landscape their yard! They launched their new adventure in October and are already embracing a European (slower) pace of life. After a tough couple of weeks in temporary quarters (when Jason and Ava were both sick), they moved into a small two-bedroom apartment, furnished it with Ikea, and made friends with the neighbors.

Tiffany maintains a blog of their experiences. We have also discovered Skype and can talk with her on the phone for pennies. At two years of age, Ava wonders what the fuss is all about. She’s just happy getting lollipops from the shopkeepers and goodies from Sinterclaus in her wooden shoes.

Much like an end-of-season cliff-hanger, this letter should entice you to tune in next year to find out about Eric’s college selection, Susie’s new employer, and whether the Marandas family extended their stay in Amsterdam for another year. (Or drop us a note.)

We send you all lots of hugs and warm wishes this holiday season, and we hope you are looking forward to new adventures in 2007.