Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Winter Solstice Letter -- December 2014 -- Thomas G. West and Family

Greetings to old friends and new friends. Looking back at 2014, we see that the West family has much to be grateful for. Over the holidays, son Jonathan will be visiting from Los Angeles for ten days – and son Benjamin with Susannah are already here visiting from New York City for the holidays. We will be having Christmas dinner at our house with cousins as well as seeing other family members and many old friends at gatherings over the holidays. Tom is especially grateful for the many good things that have happened over the year in connection with his work -- so many years in the making -- since his first book was published in April of 1991. In late November, Margaret and Tom returned from a week in Singapore where Tom had been invited to give five talks as part of their new effort to highlight and take advantage of the distinctive talents of dyslexic children and adults. A senior minister of the Singapore government was among those successful dyslexics who told their stories. Long a leader in so many commercial and technical fields, Singapore appears to be at the leading edge once again.

Early in the year, Tom’s article giving an overview of recent developments was published in the first issue of a new journal, the Asia Pacific Journal of Developmental Differences, “ ‘Amazing Shortcomings, Amazing Strengths’ – Beginning to Understand the Hidden Talents of Dyslexics.” In March, Drs. Brock and Fernette Eide hosted the second Dyslexic Advantage conference, this time in San Francisco. Here the distinctive advantages of dyslexia came through in the stories told by individuals from Silicon Valley and the venture capital world -- along with stories from a NASA engineer, a CDC physician and a prize-winning pediatric surgeon and a young computer science graduate and new entrepreneur. Partly as a result of the San Francisco conference, Tom spent three days in July with dinosaur researcher Jack Horner in Montana. Together they are planning a very short book about dyslexic ways of thinking and dyslexic ways of making discoveries -- perspectives generally misunderstood even by professionals in the field.

In August, Tom gave a talk at the international computer graphics conference (ACM-SIGGRAPH) in Vancouver, BC, Canada – attending with Ben and Susannah. Amazingly, several old friends also attended -- Donna Cox, Jim Blinn and Alvy Ray Smith – all of whom had kindly provided blurbs for Tom’s second book, Thinking Like Einstein. Tom was interested to hear from them the backstory of the Science magazine top prize-winning NASA visualization, “Dynamic Earth” (excerpt with “Coronal Mass Ejection and Ocean/Wind Circulation”). Clearly, the best scientific visualization for many years (easily available for download on the web). Tom has been showing the 4-minute video at every talk this year – as an excellent example of the power of visual thinking and visual technologies.

In October, Margaret helped to arrange a gathering at a friend’s house in memory of Irma Aandahl with WAMU-FM friends from the early days in the 1970s. Irma, who had been a mentor to so many of them, would have loved the amazing and funny stories of the growing pains of public radio at the very beginning. Also in October, Margaret’s cousins travelled from Britain with the Choir of Liverpool Cathedral (including one young son) as they sang in the Washington National Cathedral and in Christ Church, the church of George Washington in Alexandria, Virginia.

In addition, October included the celebration dinner for the grand opening of the Wye River Upper School in the renovated 1926 Armory in Centreville, Maryland (Tom’s home town). Tom remembers 12 years previously when two mothers told him they wanted to start a school for bright dyslexic students. Fortunately, they received the help of those who knew how to raise $5 million in historic preservation and private funds. Everyone in Centreville seems especially proud and excited about the arrival of WRUS.  With a public library talk in October and an Open House for the West Gallery in December, the art of Charles and Anne West is gaining greater visibility and recognition. Old friends recall local scenes from former days -- and young local artists discover a hidden treasure in their midst.


The Wests send their love and best wishes for Christmas and the Winter Holidays. May the New Year of 2015 grow ever brighter as the days slowly grow longer once again. -- Tom, Margaret, Jon, Ben and Susannah