Happy New Year ~ 2002

December 2001


Dear Friends,


We decided once again to write a letter to our friends to share with them the events in our lives during the past year. The card that we are sending with this letter shows that winter is near.  We took the photo in November, and now in December there are almost no leaves on the trees.  You will notice in the picture that Alec and Sasha have both grown a lot this year and that Mauricio lost some weight (25 pounds, to be exact).


Alec turned 10 on August 3rd.  This year he started the 5th grade.  He likes technical things (we wonder why?) and earlier this year (age 9) he started taking an interest in computer programming.  He bought a book on Perl and in no time was programming, using do-loops, if-then-else, etc.  In both 4th and 5th grades he has taken Honors Math.  For Christmas he wants a chemistry set and a microscope, in addition to the usual action figures and computer games that a 10-year old boy likes.  Alec plays soccer on a traveling team in Holmdel.  They play a tournament held all over New Jersey.  His coach is a Russian former professional soccer player. Alec is a striker and is quite talented.  He also takes swimming lessons once a week at the YMCA.  Alec loves to watch the Cartoon Network on TV and if his parents didn’t intervene, that would be the only thing he does.


Sasha turns 14 on December 31st. She is in that phase where she loves to dress up, wear makeup, shop, and behave like an adolescent girl.  We are sure that she will give her dad a lot of headaches!  She loves to stay in her room (door locked) surfing the Internet, talking on the phone, or watching MTV.   Still, she loves to read a lot and is very interested in current events.  Sasha started the 8th grade in September.  Both in the 7th and 8th grades, she took Honors Math and Honors English.  She still doesn’t know what she wants to do when she grows up.  She started the year wanting to be a fashion designer.  After spending time with her cousin Dominique, in Brazil, she turned to medicine.  Now she says she might want to become a lawyer.  In August, in Rio, she had her First Communion.  She decided on her own that she wanted to do this and contacted the local parish, studied on her own, passed the interview with Sister Pat and got authorization for the First Communion in Brazil.  Since September, she has been taking the classes for Confirmation, which will happen in May 2002.  Sasha once again played soccer in the fall on a recreational team.  This was her tenth consecutive season. She plays defense and her team placed first in their tournament.  This week she had a orientation at the YMCA gym and will start going to work-out with her parents.


Lucia and Mauricio continue to work at AT&T.  Lucia designs data networks for large AT&T customers, while Mauricio does research in optimization.  With the million  reorganizations at AT&T, Lucia had three different jobs at AT&T Solutions this year, all having something to do with data networks.  At the end of the year, AT&T offered Lucia’s organization a voluntary departure package.  After much thought and debate, she decided not to accept the package and remain at AT&T, for at least a little longer.  Research, where Mauricio works, will find out in January if there will be any reduction in their staff.  This year Research was hit hard by budget restrictions and, as a consequence, many trips to conferences had to be canceled.  Mauricio canceled a trip to Austria, and another to Maui (that hurt!), but still managed to attend a conference on a tropical island in Australia and two conferences in Portugal, as well as take part in a Ph.D. thesis defense at UNICAMP in Brazil in March.  This hiatus in traveling was good, since it helped Mauricio reassess the amount of traveling he has been involved with in the last 13 years and decide to make a substantial reduction in that amount in 2002 and beyond.  In September, Celso Ribeiro (of the CS department at PUC-Rio) concluded his one-year sabbatical leave with Mauricio and Luciana Buriol (a Ph.D. student at UNICAMP) started her one-year visit to work with Mauricio on her thesis.  Her fellowship from the Brazilian Science Council (CNPq) is what is called a sandwich fellowship, since it funds a visit in the middle of the Ph.D. program.  Mauricio’s biggest professional achievement this year was the conclusion of two books (Handbook of Applied Optimization  and Handbook of Massive Data Sets) which he co-edited and which will be published in 2002 by Oxford University Press and Kluwer Academic Press, respectively.  Each book has over 1100 pages and took more than four years to complete (relief!).


In April, the family went to France for Spring break.  We spent six days in Paris and another six traveling by car in the Loire Valley and Brittany.  The trip was great, in spite of the fact that Lucia had her wallet stolen in Paris.  In June, Sasha and Alec traveled unaccompanied to Rio, where they spent nine weeks of their summer vacation.  Mauricio and Lucia joined them in late July.  Lucia stayed for three weeks, while Mauricio stayed an extra week and brought the kids back to New Jersey.  In November, to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary, Lucia and Mauricio traveled to Amsterdam for a short five day stay.  Both agreed that these were five wonderful days, in spite of the fact that Lucia had her Palm Pilot stolen! Lucia still made another overseas trip.  In December, she traveled to Rio for her 25th year high school class reunion.  During her short five day stay, Lucia was extra careful, and managed to leave without having anything stolen!  We now are in New Jersey for the rest of the year awaiting Christmas, the New Year, and the first snow.  Mauricio and Lucia will take a few days off during Christmas week to take the kids to New York City.


The sad note for the year was the attack on the twin towers in New York.  Lucia and Mauricio were working from home that day and went through moments of great anguish.  Our small town of Holmdel was hit hard.  Even though we are about 50 miles from the site, we could smell the burning in the air the next morning.  Many people from Holmdel worked at the World Trade Center and surrounding areas. The kid’s school brought each child to their doorstep to make sure there was an adult home to receive the child.  We lost a neighbor from our street, the father of one of Sasha’s classmates, as well as the brother of Alec’s soccer coach.  A total of 12 people from Holmdel died and 70 from two towns adjacent to Holmdel.  Fortunately, all of our friend who worked at the site of the attacks were either traveling or on their way to work that morning. We have been to New York City several times since September and have seen that the city is recovering well.  Last time we went all seemed quite normal, with many people in the streets, museums, restaurants, and cafes.


We hope that you all have happy holidays and that 2002 be full of happiness, health, and achievements.  Most important, we hope that in 2002 Brazil will recover the World Cup title!


Kisses and hugs,


Alec, Sasha, Lucia, and Mauricio