Holiday Letter 2017

It's been a quieter year in terms of reportable events. The only work travel was the usual trip to San Diego at the beginning of March, and the annual November meeting that was in San Francisco this year. I didn't take my "usual" trip to the UK because the money that might have gone to that went to home improvements instead. I took a few day trips instead, including to the Wilder Homestead in upstate New York which is where Almanzo Wilder, the husband of Laura Ingalls Wilder who wrote the Little House on the Prairie books, grew up. I also explored eastern Ontario with the view to maybe buying my own homestead in the area, and found it convenient to drop by St Albert Cheese to use on my surfeit of bread, plus went with Andrea and her highland dance troupe to Oktoberfest hosted by the local well-liked independent semi-craft brewer Beau's.

On the San Diego trip, my mother and John came out to meet me; we visited the San Diego Zoo in the rain and toured the USS Midway, a retired aircraft carrier turned into a museum. Given that my main view of military life has come from sci-fi shows inspired by naval traditions, this was quite an introduction to what the reality must have been like. Cramped, no privacy, no independence.

In San Francisco I visited my cousin John and Autumn and their new child Anna. I'm unfamiliar with children and it was quite interesting to see how parenthood has changed their lives (and their cats' lives). They hosted a house concert with Mason & Weed while I was there, and took me for a hike in an area behind Stanford University known as The Dish, with paved but very steep trails that gave Autumn quite a bit of exercise with the baby carriage.

Work has been largely focused on updating two of the standards I work on, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 and Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) 1.1 (and a number of related specs). WCAG 2.1 is intended to succeed WCAG 2.0 but take 1.5 years to complete instead of the nearly 10 years spent on WCAG 2.0, which has required a lot of focus, compromise, and acceptance that some goals will have to be met later. WAI-ARIA mainly required testing this year, which took a while to ramp up while the new working group chair led the development of automated testing tools for this technology, but we were finally able to complete it before the end of the year. Next year we will begin ARIA 1.2, hopefully complete WCAG 2.1, and work on longer term projects such as a more substantial update of accessibility guidelines and better incorporate accessibility considerations into the general technology development process.

I keep thinking that cheese making will be the next hobby to run away with me, but this year I got started with beer brewing. It has much in common with the wine and cider I've been making but has the added step of "mashing" the grain to convert starch to sugar, as it's the sugar which ferments to alcohol. There's an alchemical satisfaction to adding hot water to crushed malted barley, and an hour later having malty sugar-water called "wort". By using various treatments and roasts of malt or sometimes other grains, different types and ways to use hops, and sometimes other ingredients, a wide variety of beer styles can be produced - which means lots of room to explore. I still think of myself as more of a wine or cider person, but I have nearly 200 bottles of that aging in the basement, and the acidity provokes heartburn more, so beer has been a good diversion.

My cat Manji is good, finally got him to lose some weight and keep it off, and both his energy and digestion seem improved. I figure he's about as old in cat-years as I am in people-years, rounding the hump of middle age and starting to slow down. The weather outside is as white as the cat is inside, so it's good I have an overstocked freezer, shelves full of pickles and preserves, and a bucket of local wheat to make bread. There's also a bucket of sugar, so I'll have to try not to enjoy the holidays too much!

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