(Narration by Carlos.)

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You are probably thinking , "Hmm, Carlos finally got his annual, end of year newsletter out on time." Wrong. It has been over two years since my last newsletter. I had intended to send one out early in 2003, but other demands on my time had priority. My previous newsletter was sent out just before my November, 2001 trip to Nepal. You can access this at: After my trip to the Himalaya, I compiled a photo essay which I posted on the Web (most of you received notification via email). Part 1 is at and part 2, which has the best photos is at I spent several days in Bangkok on my way home. I had intended to post some of my photos but never did.

            Shortly after my return from Asia, Bill Henry died at a hospice in Palo Alto at age 73. For those of you that didn't know him, Bill Henry is hard to describe. He was essentially a homeless person who had evaded meaningful employment since his days as a commercial pilot several decades ago. He traveled around the country visiting friends. He had made my condo his headquarters since the diagnosis of kidney cancer some 6 or 8 years earlier. He was originally given only a few months to live, but he got the V.A. hospital in Palo Alto to aggressively treat him, often with experimental procedures and survived for an exceptional number of years. His legacy was a bedroom in my condo jammed with junk. He was a pathological pack rat and couldn't pass up acquiring any worthless item.


January. Beth, Dustin and I spent a week at our time share at Waikoloa on the Big Island of Hawaii, Click for Photo I began teaching the spring term, my next to last year of FERPing (faculty early retirement plan, in which I teach only one semester a year).

March. We drove to Death Valley during spring break. Beth had never been there and was blown away by its beauty and spectacular geology.

April. Began getting Social Security benefits.

June. Beth and I flew to Jackson Hole for a mini-reunion of my Dartmouth class. I gave a Powerpoint presentation on the geology of the Tetons and Yellowstone. I was also the geology guide on our bus tour of Yellowstone. One of the highlights was the white water rafting on the Snake River. There are probably more photos of people than you want to see at but there are pictures of rafting and more.

July. On July 16, after 7 years of premarital bliss, Beth and I went downtown and got married beneath an arch of plastic flowers at the county clerk's. Dustin and Beth's brother, Mike, were the only guests. Dustin practiced his gymnastics during the ceremony.

            The next morning I flew to Dubuque, Iowa to meet with editors at McGraw-Hill to plan for the 10th edition of Physical Geology. Diane Carlson, my coauthor, and I were put up in a Victorian mansion that was converted to a B & B.

 I decided to stop flying for several reasons and landed a Cessna 182 for the last time.


Flew to Baltimore for two family reunions. First, the Plummer family reunion took place at a resort in West Virginia. The attendees were spouse and significant other of my two sisters and me as well as offspring and their offspring. Only my son, Brian, who had to work in LA, didn't make it. We visited Antietim and other historical sites. A leisurely float in inner tubes on the Shenandoah River

            Between reunions, Beth, Dustin, Charlie and I visited Bruce and Joy Sloane. Bruce was a fellow geology major at Dartmouth. Their rural home is at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The hummingbirds at their feeder were a virtual swarm. Dustin fell in love with their dog, Buster. One day we went to Luray Caverns and saw and heard the wired stalactites played like an organ. We drove along Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge mountains. Exceptionally clear weather for the Appalachians.

            Before driving northward, we visited my sister, Penny at their home near Anapolis, MD. We took the Metro into D.C. and spent most of a day at the Smithsonian' Natural History Museum.

            The Strasser reunion was in Monsey, NY at Beth's brother Pete's farm house across the river from NY City. All of Beth's six brothers and their families were there, as were a number of old family friends. One highlight was a lunchtime cruise up the Hudson River from West Point. The boat is one of the oldest diesel powered ships in existence. It was used in World War I. One day we went into NY city and Beth's brother Pete showed us around some of the houses he is restoring. We went to the American Museum of Natural History, where Beth did much of her research for her Ph.D. Their new geology exhibit is spectacular.

            Drove back to Maryland to spend another night with Penny and Ken before flying back to Sacto.


The USGS and CSUS Geology Department, which share a building on campus, had a 3 day field trip at Lake Tahoe. This was Dustin's first camping experience. On the second day, we were trying to get to the top of Eagle Rock along a steep, foresty slope at the base of a cliff. Suddenly, kids ahead of us began screaming. They had been attacked by a swarm of hornet's whole nest had been kicked up. We ran to rescue them and all of us (Beth, Dustin and I) suffered nasty stings. Dustin is just getting over his justifiable paranoia of all things flying.

            We began looking for a new house. Eventually, we found one that was very different from anything we had been shown. It was built in 1957 by an architect who was a student of Frank Lloyd Wright and very much shows his influence. It was considerably more expensive than we had planned on spending, but we decided we had to have it.


I went to the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver. Went on a field trip that involved hiking around the flatirons behind Boulder.


Beth sold her house, much to our relief. The money went into our new house.


We moved into our new house. Mostly, we moved Beth's stuff in and vacated her house. I would be trickling in my stuff over the next few months. As it turns out, our new home does not have as much space as our two former houses combined. In the months that followed, we would be giving away stuff, having a garage sale, and throwing away "treasures." For a tour of our new house go to

            On December 11, Dave McGeary died of cancer. Dave was the original coauthor of our geology textbook. He joined the Sac State geology program a year before I did and we did a lot together until he retired in the 90s. He was three years younger than I.


I began teaching my last semester at the end of January. The semester coincided with when I had to work intensely on the 10th edition of the textbook. (The book will be out in February, 2004, with a 2005 copyright date.) This was also the time during which I had to move stuff from my condo, find places for it in the new house, and repair and clean up the old place. Not much free time.

In late April, we gathered to remember Dave McGeary. The gathering was at his and Elly's rural home near Folsom. An impressive array of former students, particularly those of the 70s came from all over. Dave's two brothers presided over food (barbecued beef, etc.), drink (a keg, single malt scotch and more), and ceremony (a bagpiper played between reminiscences and testimonials). As the afternoon progressed and the beverage supply dwindled somewhat, the two brothers performed the Scottish sword dance with limited grace and skill and avoided falling into the swimming pool.


My house sold, and I moved the last of my stuff out. Although we were relieved to have it sold, we would miss the swimming pool complex and the woody spaces.

            I taught my last class and had to get serious about vacating my office, the best faculty office on campus. What to do with three decades of accumulated stuff? This exacerbated the problems of moving into our new house.


Dustin turns seven.

            My retirement party was held on campus, attended by faculty, friends and former students. A computer had a continuous slides show of pictures from the past, including some from babyhood and beyond. I was given presents, some humorous, some nice. Thus ended 33 years of professing at Sac State.

            Beth, Dustin and I drove to Southern California. We spent our first night in the quaint town of Cambria on the coast. The next day we drove to the nearby Hearst Castle at San Simeon. We had never been there and were quite impressed. Afterwards, we drove north on the coast a bit and saw elephant seals. Then headed for LA and Bob and Jan Stull's house in Pasadena. We spent the next morning at the La Brea tar pit and museum. We met son Brian for lunch at a deli. After another excellent meal and night at Stull's we headed south to visit Pete Buckley in northern San Diego county. In the afternoon, we went to the beach at Oceanside so Dustin could frolic in the surf. Took in the San Diego Zoo the next day and Legoland the following day. From Legoland we drove back to LA and checked into a Holiday Inn in Hollywood. The following day was 4th of July, which we spent at Universal Studios theme park. We had a great time on the tour and some very impressive rides such as the Jurassic Park boat ride that ends in a drop down a waterfall. The Back to the Future ride with its illusion of soaring amongst glacial crevasses scared Beth and Dustin. At night, we watched distant fireworks on the way back to the parking lot. Next day we went to the LA County Museum of Natural History and looked at fossils, gems and minerals (Beth was decidely unimpressed and actually shocked at such a poor showing for the "biggest" natural history museum in the west). In the afternoon, we drove to Brian's apartment to visit with him and Charlie, who had flown down to LA with his mother. We went out to a Mexican restaurant for supper then returned to hotel. The next day we drove to Fullerton and a hotel within striking distance of Disneyland. Brian and Charlie drove in and met us in the afternoon and we took the shuttle to D’land. After going on some rides, Brian left because he had to work the next day. Charlie, now with us for the rest of the trip, tired in the early evening so he and I took the shuttle back to the hotel while Beth and Dustin stayed in the park through the firework show. We got up early the next morning to have breakfast at Goofy's Kitchen in D'land. Huge selection of all you can eat food. Dustin and Charlie thrilled at the cartoon characters wandering around and signing autographs. In the afternoon we decided to exit "old" Disneyland and go to Disney's California Adventure. In the process of exiting, Dustin somehow got lost. I was outside and Beth inside. This caused considerable anxiety and taking turns with short searches. Unlike the rest of us, Dustin remembered our emergency plan on where to meet up if we got separated and headed to the spot. Meanwhile, we contacted Security who found him and got him back to us. We returned to hotel for resting and swimming before going back to Cal. Adventure. I had never been there as it opened after I was last there when my kids were little. Some great features. The Grizzly Peak raft ride was exciting but we got soaked and I was still wet hours later. The soaring over California was great. You really felt like you were flying along the coast, Yosemite, etc. At 8 p.m. we returned to Disneyland for supper overlooking the lake to watch the fantasmagoric light show and extravaganza. When it was over, everyone rushed to the town center to watch the fireworks, wonderfully coordinated to music. I really enjoyed all of the new things and Beth was blown away by D’land, as she had never been there or Disney World (a consequence of growing up in a family with seven kids)

            On July 8, we drove back to Sacto, with a side trip into Bakersfield to see the hospital where Dustin was born. When we told them what we were there for, they were quite surprised, but took us to the maternity ward and showed us the birthing room. The nurse on duty was also adopted and pleased to show us around. They gave Dustin all the things that a new-born gets: tiny hat, tiny diapers, ID bracelet, bottle etc.

            Later, during the summer, a ladder collapsed under me and I suffered a minor concussion and one hell of a bruised butt and back. Beth totaled her car (along with a Porche driven by a lawyer). Fortunately, no one was injured at the time, although the lawyer later developed problems.

            In August we went to the Prairie Home Companion traveling show (not the live broadcast). Beth returned to her duties as Anthropology Department Chair. Dustin began 2nd grade at a new school.


On the first, I flew to Seattle to attend the Geological Society of America's annual meeting. I had been invited to present a paper to a session on geologic education. It was cold and wet when I first arrived, but the weather improved over the days allowing spectacular views of the Cascades and Olympics. It was nice being back at my graduate school days' haunts. I stayed at Kent and Sunny Kammerer's attic and usually took the bus to the convention center. I had a good time visiting with friends, former professors (the few left), fellow graduate students, former students of mine who had gone on to graduate school at UW, etc. Social events included a reception for UW geology alumni and faculty (free food, expensive drinks), a reception for senior GSA members (free food, expensive drinks). I dined out and had breakfast with my editors at McGraw-Hill (free food and free drink). Had other meals with good friends. On the last day of the meeting, Kent and I joined Pete Sinclair and Sterling Neale for lunch. Sterling had driven up from California and he and Pete drove up from Olympia. Pete and Sterling and I date back to the old climbing days at Dartmouth, over 45 years ago. Kent produced a bottle with a small amount of Crown Royal Canadian whiskey that Sterling had left at his house some four decades ago.

            In the afternoon, I drove my rental car to Pete and Connie Sinclair's at Olympia. Sterling also there along with the Sinclairs'kids, kid's kid and significant others. Martinis, a fine dinner and wine. The next day we went to Pete's sailboat where Sterling replaced some of the wiring. That evening I supervised preparation of Thai curried chicken after the traditional martinis. Drove south the following afternoon to visit Dan Miller and wife Lois at their home on a private runway. Dan heads the USGS's Volcanic Disaster Assistance Team (see the book Volcano Cowboys). More superb food and drink. Next morning we went into his hangar, where his two vintage airplanes are parked and where he is building a plane from a kit. This is really intricate and he expects it to take several more years to finish. We visited some of his neighbors and I got to see what the finished plane will look like as well as one that is well on its way to completion. I drove back to Sinclair's for the night so that I could be close to SEATAC airport the next day and fly back to Sacto.


We have been in the house a year. We went all out in Christmas decorations; the pagans who started the practice would be proud. When the tree lights and roof lights are on, looking out of our angled picture windows, one gets the illusion of our yard being filled with Xmas trees and lights. Click to see the tree and Dustin about to rip open his many presents.

            On December 28 we will fly to Hawaii for our week at the time-share.


He is 28 and his schizophrenia seems stabilized with medications. There have been some ups and downs during the past two years. This fall he sat in on a jazz improvisation class and went back to playing bass guitar in the class. He looks forward to taking the class for credit this spring.


Brian is 26 and has been living in LA for the past year or so. He has a small apartment downtown and works at a less than optimum job at Warner Bros. But he is happy to be employed and likes his independence. He occasionally plays saxophone with jazz groups.

Have a great 2004!

Carlos (homepage) and Beth (homepage)

728 Cortlandt Drive
Sacramento, CA 95864