December 1997

Last week we came back from an extended weekend trip to Bermuda where we spent Thanksgiving.  The Mayflower Pilgrims started the Thanksgiving tradition in 1621.  Twelve years earlier other colonists had been stranded on the coral reefs of Bermuda and the few who stayed established the first English colony.

It is said that Bermuda can be compared to a large boat, but a better saying would be a big war ship turned into a cruise ship.  For centuries Bermuda was the British “Gibraltar of the West” – a strategic outpost with 10 forts on an island 20 km long and 3 – 4 km wide.  As late as World War II the biggest most modern cannons were still being installed, but the age of rockets made all the American, Canadian, and British troops leave in 1996.  The forts were put to other uses.  The one we liked best was turned into a botanical garden.  Imagine the contrast – huge cannons in a tropical garden setting!  The war ship was turned into a cruise ship.

As lovely as the brand new cruise ship that took us from Los Angeles to Acapulco in late summer, just before a hurricane devasted that beautiful town.

El Nino is the buzz word on the West Coast.  Last week southern California had eight inches of rain over the weekend.  However, that does not stop our children from remaining enthusiastic about California.  Susan works in the social service field north of Los Angeles, and Tanya & Oliver (they got married in Las Vegas in August) live north of San Diego.  Peter has become interested in construction work and is going to visit his sisters for Christmas.

The events of the year were recorded on a new digital camera.  Digital photography allows simple duplication with computer and printer and enables us to send our photos over telephone lines to friends all over the world who have an e-mail address.  The picture quality viewed on the computer screen is acceptable.  A small screen on the camera allows instant viewing of the pictures taken.  Brigitte decided to use the digital pictures to generate an illustrated 1998 calender.  Birthdays can’t be overlooked any longer since “Happy Birthday” appears under each portrait on the calendar.

Living in New York, a world hub close to two international airports, means a lot of coming and going to and from places all over the world.  In January we visited Susan in California.  We spent a very nice time in San Diego and Palm Springs with her and also our friends Alexa and Bela, who have been living there for a couple of years now.  Susan taught ceramics workshops this summer in Maine.  On her way back to California she visited us for a couple of weeks.  In September we met Tanya, Oliver, and Susan in the port of Los Angeles before our departure to Acupulco.  On the way from Germany to California Tanya and Oliver had an extended stopover in New York.  Brigitte went to Germany in April to celebrate her aunt’s 85th birthday.

“October Fest” is catching on in America.  We were invited to Ilse Ludewig’s “Fest”, celebrated in an old tobacco barn in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Equally enjoyable was visiting Ingeborg and Rolfe March for Rolfe’s 50th birthday.

Business has improved over the last year, but now we worry about how we might be affected by the problems in southeast Asia, a major market for us.  Hopefully our growing service sector:  measurement on a fee basis, maintenance contracts to service our equipment at customer sites, and software sales, will make up for a shrinking instrument market.  Our company now has as many people working in software development as in engineering and design.  For the first time one of our employees works as a telecommuter from his home over e-mail.  New PC hardware and software comes on the market so fast that we have a hard time to keeping up with our own software.

We are looking forward to hearing from you.  E-mail Christmas greetings double in number each year, but getting a photo with an old fashioned Christmas letter is still most enjoyable.  We have collected Christmas letters from a friend in South America since 1968, and because he sends us a family picture each year we now have photos of their family spanning four generations.

We hope this letter finds you in good health and spirits.  Have a happy holiday season and a successful 1998.