CH-6005 Luzern, Switzerland
My Christmas cards and letter are late this year. Rather than apologize, I'll merely remark that, like all of us, I vow each year to start sooner next year. Unfortunately, when Christmas approaches, events always seem to conspire and cause delay. From talking to friends, it seems I am not alone with this problem. My suggested solution is that we should celebrate Christmas just after New Year, instead of just before, so that we'll have our fresh resolutions to provide the appropriate moral impetus. I believe the orthodox Christian church already does this. In any case, here are some of the events of this year:
The weekend after the 2002 New Year found us in Stockholm, attending the wedding of a couple we know here in Switzerland. He's Italian and she's Swedish-Swiss. It was a joyful event attended by an interesting collection of family and guests. Much to the consternation of the Italian guests it was also a very cold weekend, with mid-day temperatures of about -20C. There was less consternation amongst the northern Europeans, who seemed to take it in stride. The event was special for me because the couple had first met at my 40th birthday party.
We visited Oslo for a long weekend in February. Oslo is an interesting city with a beautiful harbor, and is the subject of this year's Christmas card. To the north of the city is the Holmenkolen, which is reachable using Oslo's subway and features over 2600km of cross-country ski trails. We had brought our skis with the intent of exploring some of it. It was strange indeed to ride in the subway and see people fully dressed for a day of skiing, carrying their skis, standing alongside commuters with briefcases on their way to work. We also enjoyed the maritime, Kon-Tiki and polar exploration museums.
This year was my fifth appearance in the Engadiner Marathon. My race result was just behind the previous year, but I managed to retain my classification for next year. Obviously I haven't completely solved the polling problems I discovered after last year's race. I felt pretty good after the race and two days after the big event, Sandra and I skied the fist third of the course over the frozen lakes.
Our big exciting trip for this year was a cruise in the Aegean Sea. Initially, I was turned off at the thought of a huge cruise ship with formal events and dinners with the captain. In the event it turned out that the cruise ship was actually a small sail assisted motor yacht with only 100 passengers, many of whom were in the travel business and had lots of fascinating stories to tell. We started with a visit to Istanbul, one of our favorite cities, and continued along the Turkish coast to the Greek Islands and Athens, visiting many archeological sites along the way. Highlights were the Roman ruins at the ancient city of Ephesus, which at its height was one of largest cities in the world, and the extensive Greek ruins at island of Delos, said to be the birthplace of Apollo.
As many of you are aware, this summer was extremely warm in Switzerland, with a record breaking 40C in July. Unfortunately for me it was also rather humid which made the heat fairly unpleasant. Given the heat, it was a bad year for outdoor sports. It was just too hot. Luckily, we live beside an alpine lake, so we spent many of our weekend afternoons swimming to escape the heat. Since I was mainly working at home this year, many of my lunch hours were spent in the water too. In spite of the heat, I managed to continue with my (evening) Kung Fu training and this fall I also started practicing Tai Chi. We also spent a number of weekends in Luino, on Lago Maggiore, in northern Italy.
This summer also gave us the opportunity to return some of the hospitality we've previously enjoyed, in the form of visits from a number of very good friends. It was great to see them all again.
In late August, thankfully after the record temperatures had subsided, my mother visited from California. While she was here we went for a number of long walks in the local mountains, surprising both Sandra and me with her fitness. We also hosted a big BBQ where she met Sandra’s family, e.g. the Largo clan. Given no common language between them, I was expecting communication difficulties, but given some wine and lots of hand waving, it all worked out fine.
Our other big exciting trip this year was to Mauritius to lie on the beach for a week. And we literally did that, no excursions, no trekking, nothing but sitting about reading and (over-)eating. Obviously we didn’t see much of the island, but what did see was pleasant, as were all the people we met. I must confess that I did do a lot of snorkeling, right off the hotel beach. In the waist deep water there were literally hundreds of species of bright and colorful tropical fish. All in all, it was well-deserved and relaxing break, one our very few non-action packed holidays. A cousin summed up this holiday with: Q: Where is Mauritius? A: I don't know, we flew!
This year was saddened by the loss of a good friend who died of cancer. He was not yet 40 and left a wife and two small children. This was a real shame, and puts many of our tribulations into perspective.
Just last week we returned from a short trip to Dubai, where we spent five days in Dubai, staying in the neighboring emirate of Sharja. We had hoped to relax on the beach, but the winter winds had begun so we went shopping, in the myriad of markets and hyper-modern shopping centers, instead. We also enjoyed delicious Middle Eastern, Persian and Indian food. In some respects, it was a pointless trip, but we wanted to use up some air-miles that were about to expire.
Professionally, it has been another challenging year, which thankfully has ended on a hopeful note. I spent the first half of 2003 developing a software framework to enable the rapid implementation of database backed web applications. This was a speculative project that I started and completed all on my own in my home office. In May, using the framework, I produced a demonstration version of a Construction Drawing Management System for large hydroelectric project in Iceland, which they subsequently purchased. During the second half of the year I have been completing the system, which has now been in productive use since the fall. I own the complete product rights and hope to build a viable business around the system. As my marketing effort progresses, and if you are interested, you will be able to read about it. Success is not yet guaranteed, and next year will definitely be exciting. Stay tuned to my corporate web site.
My personal web site continues to grow, and this year I've published a number of new photographs and essays. See the Recent Updates page for details. I now host the Mackay Family Genealogical Web Site created by my cousin from the results of my grandfather's research. It includes an on-line copy of his First World War dairy. I also sponsor a small web site for Sho Takahashi, a Japanese artist friend who recently exhibited at a gallery in London. You can find links to these items at the bottom of my home page.
Given the spirit of Christmas and the political events of this year, I'll close with a, perhaps inappropriate, plea for peace and reconciliation. I have been quite disturbed by events this year; both the continuing actions of terrorists and the countries combating them. While the reactions against terrorism are understandable, and here I include not only the military countermeasures but also the curtailment of personal liberties in the name of security, they are not in all cases justified. I fear they will lead to an escalating cycle of repression and violence, which will ultimately cause long-term harm to all nations. I'm certainly not an expert, but I feel that greater common good would result if some of world's leaders put aside their selfish goals and differences, and put more effort into supporting the people that they supposedly serve. I may be naive, but perhaps you should think about that next time you vote.
In any case you have our very best wishes for the holiday season and the coming year. Thanks for last year's cards, letters and photographs. As always, I look forward to hearing from you in the coming year.
Best wishes from Sandra and myself,