Dear Friends and Family,

Our big news this year is Susie’s full-time employment. After almost 15 years as an independent contractor, she became the Technical Writer for ITM Software Corp. (, a venture-funded start-up. She was employee number 24 (now up to 31), hired after she did some contract work for them. She is constantly gushing about how great the people are and how everyone is treated with respect. The company’s location means that Susie can take the commuter train to work, which gives her some walking exercise at both ends.

Early in the year, John’s candles were accepted into the Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco, which ran for the four weekends before Christmas. John looked quite the part of a 19th century London merchant, with his full beard, a beaver-skin top hat, and a matching tailcoat. To prepare sufficient candle inventory, he and Eric spent the summer developing an automatic computer-controlled candle dipper. Eric wrote the software, and John was responsible for the mechanics. What a great father-son learning project! It didn’t reach quite the point they had hoped, but it was enough to dip beeswax tapers, which John added to his line of crystallized paraffin tapers.

Our great adventure this year was joining Susie’s brother Rick and a couple of friends on a backpacking trip in the High Sierra over the Labor Day weekend. We hiked to Blue Canyon Lake at 10,000 feet, climbing almost a thousand feet in elevation in just under two miles. John had wondered aloud how such a short distance could take four hours, but he soon found out. It was Eric’s very first time backpacking, and he was quite the hiker. John and Susie were just happy they could still do it. We were all disappointed to leave a day early when the thunderheads gathered and sprinkled us with sleet.

Eric, now almost as tall as John, is enjoying 8th grade, his last year at Peninsula School. He is looking forward to high school, and we have been busy with applications and visits. After his success with soccer, Eric moved on to basketball, joining his school’s 8th-grade team. He is learning a great deal from his (volunteer) coach. Eric has been working on several programming projects independently, the biggest being “Smart MP3 Manager,” a PalmPilot program he will be selling online. He is also working with an international team of programmers on an open source BitTorrent client called Azureus (for you techies out there).

Tiffany and Jason have been enjoying their suburban lifestyle in Sacramento, although they both have jobs that require more travel than they would like. Tiffany is still in pharmaceutical sales, but she now works for Ther-Rx, a wholly owned subsidiary of KV Pharmaceuticals. She likes the independence she has in a smaller company. Jason is the Strategic Development Advisor at eUniversity, a company is Sunnyvale that provides online courseware and training through employers.

Our holiday season is a little more frazzled than usual, but we are grateful for the time we have together and the time we spend with good friends. We hope that you are enjoying your friends and family, too. Please keep in touch. We wish the best for you in 2004.

Happy Holidays from the Allens!