Christopher's 2016 Christmas Greetings and Newsletter

Dear Friends,

Here is my 2016 newsletter which covers the last 12 months. I spent Christmas 2015 and all this year in Tucson, Arizona. The weather here is more predictable than in the UK and much of central and western Europe, but there can be significant changes. Normally the spring and autumn are quite dry with many sunny days and clear nights, and in winter it can get sometimes quite cold, particularly at night, but the afternoons are often quite warm. However, from time to time a winter storm comes in from the Pacific and it can rain for about a day with snow on the mountains. This evening, Christmas Eve, it is quite wet. However, the summers here are not so nice, with the hottest weather being usually in late June. July, August and the beginning of September are dominated by monsoon storms. This year we had one day in late June when the temperature reached around 47oC (117oF).

This has been a relatively uneventful year, but nevertheless has passed by quite quickly. I've had a number of job interviews, but so far none have worked out. However, I had a couple with a utility company in November and again earlier in December, and await the outcome in early 2017. In the mean time I've done some, so far only voluntary, work for a couple of possible charities. The link:

makes use of WebGL, Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) and jQuery, and the link:

uses the build-in SVG animations. together with some CSS, jQuery and JSON. However, this is only a test, and so far only works properly with Firefox.

In January I suffered an unprovoked dog attack in the public street. I was walking past a front yard on my way to catch a bus when two dogs became rather agitated, possibly because I was wearing a black jacket as it was a cold day. One of the dogs barged through the front gate, which was not securely closed, and bit me in my private parts drawing blood until the owner intervened. I reported the incident to the authorities, and it turned out that neither of the dogs had been vaccinated against rabies and didn't have licenses, and so were taken away and put into quarantine. Fortunately, the dogs had no diseases, but nevertheless I took the owner to court and got compensation for the distress. I also took the precaution of seeing a doctor as soon as possible. There were some cuts and bruises, which eventually healed.

Being over 65, I have to pay close attention of my health, and among other things, keep my blood sugar under control. In the summer I visited a urologist to check my prostate, which very fortunately is OK, and I also had my eyes checked, as I had cataract surgery a year earlier. Again, they checked out OK. I have excellent medical insurance, which covers nearly all medical costs and prescriptions.

One particular advantage of living in Arizona is the very often clear nights, outside the monsoon season and winter storms, as mentioned above. Mars had a favorable opposition in May, and Jupiter and Saturn always put on a good display. Because the latitude of Tucson is 32oN, about 20o further south than the UK, the southern sky is on good display, and both Mars and Saturn were best seen this year when they were about as far south from the celestial equator as possible. In early May there was a relatively rare transit of Mercury, when a small black dot of the silhouette of the planet could be seen crossing the face of the Sun through a telescope with the appropriate filter. The University of Arizona Mall had a scale model of the Sun, Mercury, Venus and the Earth set up at the time of the transit. The Sun was a large yellow ball, and the planets were very small spheres on posts placed at the scaled distances from the Sun. This gave the public a good concept of the scale of the inner Solar System.

For three weeks in June and July I attended a workshop at a local community college on teaching high school physics. Although I knew the physics, I was not so familiar with the various teaching techniques, which I found very useful indeed. A major component was lab practices relevant to the branch of mechanics. I also had access to the software used, which I found interesting. However, some of the software was quite old, and I could see how it could be updated. The normal cost of the workshop was $750, most people got a discount and only paid $250, but I got it for free as I had previous associations with the college.

In September my brother John paid a visit to Tucson. He was visiting the USA on business, and had a stopover in Phoenix, so he came done to Tucson for the night. We met up the next morning and had an excellent Mexican lunch in a restaurant with a couple of friends of mine, before continuing on his journey in the afternoon. Unfortunately, it was the wettest and coolest day since the spring, as the remnants of a hurricane from the Gulf of California dumped a lot of rain in Arizona.

In October I went with a church group to Madera Canyon south of Tucson, not to be confused with the Portuguese island of Madeira, which is a local beauty spot in the Coronado National Forest, then in early November there is the annual procession of the Day of The Dead. I also enjoyed the annual St.Philip's Scottish bagpipes in November. This and some other items can be found on my Facebook page here. Later in the month I enjoyed an excellent Thanksgiving dinner.

Earlier this week I went again to the annual Festival of Lights in Winterhaven, which are really spectacular. By chance I met up with an old friend whom I hadn't seen for many years.

I wish everybody a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2017.

Christopher M. Sharp (December 24, 2016)


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