Vaughan Family    


  Home    Biography    People    Places    Multimedia: Making It Work    On the Water    Writings/Presentations

Hermann Steffen

Manfred Hermann Steffen Trejos, quien residía en San Antonio de Escazú,
falleció a los 48 años. Sus funerales se efectuaron en la iglesia Don Bosco.

[Costa Rica and the data highway...]

By Hermann Steffen

Download as a PDF [86KB]

Paula Steffen: Filed Outgoing Message  ::  Hermann  ::  Page 1 of 1

Subject: Hermann
Sent: 9/25/98 6:58 PM
To: Tay Vaughan,


I forgot to mention that I emailed Hermann Steffen last year when I saw his name and project on the Timestream pages. My maiden name is Steffen so it has led to a fun correspondence. But I'm having to dig out my high school Spanish dictionary. We call each other Cousin 'cuz we figure we must be somewhere along the line.

(Just more odd "Paula stuff"...)

Paula Steffen: Filed Outgoing Message  ::  A story.  ::  Page 1 of 1

Subject: A story.
Sent: 5/22/98 7:05 PM
To: H. Steffen,

Hello Hermann,

I came upon that webpage as I was checking all of Tay Vaughan's stuff at Timestream. I am a student and our text was Mr. Vaughan's book, "Multimedia: Making it work". I came upon a misspelled word in the book, and as I wasn't grasping all of it anyway, I had the gall to email Mr. Vaughan regarding the matter. To my delight he wasn't offended and thanked me, as a fourth printing is coming out in July. He then emailed me a poster about a presentation he was giving in a rural Maine community. I traveled to Appleton to hear and meet him... quite exciting. He's a very interesting person; perhaps you know him?

My father said his family (grandparents) were from Luxenbourg and Alsace Lorraine. They had a crazy name, Heulmantle. That's about all I know. In my father's family they talk about "Willie Richie", Geary Steffen, one of my father's brothers who was the world's lightweight boxing champion and Geary's son, Geary Steffen, who was an ice skating champion and was Jane Powell, a movie actress's first husband. I never found any of these folks intriguing; just notables but sort of dumb.

Our you a native of Costa Rica? Do you know many Steffen types? I don't; just the ones in my immediate family. Thank you for the run down on all the related versions of that name. I never really thought about it ... 1 like the Greek connection. I feel crowned in many ways, sometimes good and sometimes bad. I don't really feel that I have enough brains to handle all this multimedia technology (I wish they'd quit referring to it as high end learning; I think that makes the whole matter worse.) at my ripe old age (58) but then I certainly don't want my brain to deteriorate right away. But my complaint is that I only started this computer stuff a year ago and can barely click and drag. So I have to work three times as hard in school as all the eighteen year olds that I'm around. My thumb was my pacifier; not a computer. Yes, I've seen the other Hermann Steffen, too, in my surfing. But you got elected as you had the Tay Vaughan connection! I've never known anyone from Costa Rica.. .haven't traveled much but that's not to say I don't want to... maybe will someday.. if my life changes dramatically. It's OK with me. I spent my first approximately forty years in California and now almost twenty years in Maine as long as I'm near an ocean. I would like to know about "the project."

Cheerio, and thanks for emailing back. Yes, locating all the Steffens on line would be fun! How do we do that?! Can Bill Gates help us?


Paula Steffen: Filed Outgoing Message  ::  Re: A story.  ::  Page 1 of 2

Subject: Re: A story.
Sent: 5/23/98 12:24 AM
Received: 5/23/98 4:23 PM
From: H. Steffen, stefeeny@sol.
To: Paula Bedell,

Hi Paula!

Yes indeed, I know Tay and consider him my friend, which is how my project ended up on his Web site. He's got quite a stage presence, doesn't he? But he's also very down to earth in person, which is nice.

Interesting about the two Geary Steffens, the lightweight boxing champ and the ice-skating champ who married Jane Powell. I remember my father saying that his grandfather had been a police officer in Hamburg, presumably of high rank because he was the first in the city to institute the fingerprint method for catching culprits. Of course, it might have been on his maternal side (the Dregers), but I did not get that impression.

My grandfather, also named Hermann, was also a remarkable man. I only met him once, when I was six years old, so I do not have very many memories of him. But my father said that he fought in ?4I and also in WWII. Because he refused to join the Nazi party (he thought they were a bunch of lunatics), he was sent to whatever front was the most dangerous, in the hope of getting rid of him. However, he always managed to come back, laden with medals because of his courage and fortitude in the face of "grave and unusual dangers" or whatever the military phrase might have been, much to the chagrin of his Nazi commanders.

After the war, his refusal to join the Nazi party paid off. He eventually became a high executive at an insurance firm I visited with my dad once, holding his hand as we entered into an elevator with no doors that never stopped ascending and descending, so that you had to time your entry into it. I am a native of Costa Rica, yes. My father came here with my Costa Rican Mother after they met and married and lived for a few years in Venezuela. My father came to "the New World" after having gone through WWII himself and having spent some time in an American prisoner camp. He got along extremely well with his captors, and ever after was more inclined to make friends with Americans than with Germans.

I'm sure you'll do fine at computing, although probably neither of us will do as well as our son Sebastian, 4, who can already work a computer before he has learned to read or write.

The nice thing about Costa Rica is that, since it is at the narrowest waist of the Continental Divide, you can literally have breakfast on the Pacific coast and dine on the Atlantic (Caribbean) side, with lunch in the highlands. So while I cannot see the ocean from where I live, I can be down at the Pacific coast in two hours, or be at the Atlantic in three hours or so.

I'll let you know more about the project.


Your cousin (several times removed),


| Hermann Steffen         | Christina Feeny        |
| Computer and            | Translat|ons           |
| Environmental Reporting | On-the-Ground Logistics|
|   and CMC Consultancies |     for Media Projects |
|                |
|               Tel.: (506) 228-9373               |
|               Fax:  (506) 228-7063               |
|        Apto. 3834 San Jose 1000 Costa Rica       |

Paula Steffen: Filed Outgoing Message  ::  Warm weather  ::  Page 1 of 1

Subject: Warm weather...
Sent: 5/24/98 6:14 PM
To: H. Steffen,

Hi there, new cousin!

Well, Mr. Vaughan was kind of low key in Appleton; but his message is compelling! His appearance wasn't really advertised to folks who would have attended had they known. It was held in an unheated New England meeting hall and happened on a very brisk spring day. The audience was mostly older Appleton area people, friends of the local historical society and library; maybe fifty at the most! But I enjoyed it greatly and so did my 88 year old friend who lives in that part of Maine and who knows nothing of computers let alone multimedia. Your grandfather sounds cool, the current expression for interesting around the states... a man with his own mind.

My husband was in WWII also but didn't see active duty because of health problems caused by the Navy. He is considerably older than I and is in the end stages of emphysema, service related amongst other things. I embarked in this new area of knowledge (for me; was a social worker/counselor type for many years) originally as a respite from being Ralph's primary care giver, just a few hours of class a week, but now I am hooked! I have so far to go, having acquired the gear (computer, printer, scanner, camera and programs) rather hastily, equipment that I don't really know how to properly manage yet. Macromedia Director is very hard for me, being new to computers. But it sure is fun, and amazing! My brother, Larry P. Steffen, and his son, Paul, know much more than I do. Paul's page is http: //www. concentric. net/-psteffen/

Costa Rica sounds great. But I assume you have mostly hot, humid weather... tell me I'm wrong. I'm, or was, a redhead with horribly sensitive skin. It's taken me a while to get used to the few months we have in Maine with some hot, humid days. California, of course, is dry even when the temperature is up.

Your project must be well underway by now. I am trying to read the proposal but don't understand the all of it- many .many abbreviations that I'm not familiar with. And I really haven't learned how to set up my printer so that it gets all the lines in properly. Since I switched from 7.6 to OS 8, the DeskJet 87øCxi has taken on a mind of its own. Thank you for writing... who knows? Maybe someday we and our families will meet!

Your Cousin,


Paula Steffen: Filed Outgoing Message  ::  Re: Warm weather  ::  Page 1 of 2

Subject: Re: Warm weather
Sent: 5/24/98 11:50 PM
Received: 5/25/98 4:33 AM
From: H. Steffen, stefeeny@sol.
To: Paula Bedell,

Hi, Cousin Paula!

That's Tay all over. He's a brilliant man. If I had a scanner (next on my list, but need to improve my cashflow), and if you could read Spanish, I would send you a scan of the story I wrote about him (I used to cover computer issues for a national newspaper here), so you could see how amazing he is. On the other hand, he does have some autobiographical pages on his Web site, where you can see his remarkable transitions from student of medical anthropology to qualified carpenter in Germany, from cello player to shipbuilder, everything leading up to the world of multimedia. At the same time, I think he really could use a business manager, or an agent, to publicize his appearances and leverage them with instructional videos, etc. He deserves to be making more money than he is, and turning on a lot more people to what he has to say.

I am sorry about your husband's emphysema. As a smoker, I was rather unconcerned when I was young and single, but now that I am 38 and the father of a four-year-old, I realize I must quit and soon. (I don't smoke anywhere near him or in fact anywhere in the house except in my office, which is well ventilated and well insulated from the rest of the house, but I realize that is not the point.)

About computers and the Net, just remember that *nobody* is an expert. Things are changing so fast, on so many fronts, that *everyone* is learning every day, including Bill Gates. Many of his troubles today, incidentally, have to do with his initially deriding the Internet (imagining that something much more powerful would have to be in place before things really took off), only to discover that the Web took off beyond anyone's wildest dreams. He then tried to shape the Web in his own image, whereas it was something quite different, much less propietary and far from monopolistic.

So hang in there, and remember: it's not how much you know, it's whether you know more today than you knew yesterday!

Costa Rica has a great variety of microclimates. In the Central Valley, where most people live, the weather is generally mild, frequently described as Spring-like by many foreign visitors. It has been unusually hot lately due to the effect of El Nino, but not suffocating; never as bad as New York or Washington in the summer. Humidity is again relative. And there are places where you could die from exposure if you didn't wear enough sweaters and wooly socks and could not build a fire.

The INSTRAW project is phrased in UN-speak, which is not always transparent. The whole point was to see what women's groups in Latin America were doing with the Net, and how more of them could go online to advance their goals. In short, the Net not as an end in itself but as a means to an end.

As you say, we may well meet someday. I would like to.

All the best,

Cousin Hermann

Paula Steffen: Filed Outgoing Message  ::  Re: Warm weather  ::  Page 1 of 1

Subject: Re: Warm weather...
Sent: 5/25/98 3:03 PM
To: H. Steffen,

Hi cousin Hermann,

I don't think my high school Spanish would help me much now, especially in reading. Growing up in California I am familiar with Spanish names but.. Oh, I had read all the pages Tay has about himself on the web thoroughly before I headed to Appleton. Actually, part of my getting up the courage to write him had to do with the fact that he started on the east coast and ended up on the west, and I have done just the reverse. (However, I may not remain here all of my days...) And Oakland, California is my birth place. And I have done alot of sailing with my family. And other stuff. He makes himself sound like another Bucky Fuller... well, not really. I think he sounds far more interesting and less stuffy.

Mr. Vaughan seemed pretty organized that day, only cold, as we all were. He had some great Apple laptop that appeared really jazzed up that he didn't even show off, I guess because of the nature of his audience, or the cold. He kept asking if there was anyone who wanted to get hooked up, and of course there was but no one could afford a computer! I really don't like that aspect of this information revolution... increasing the gap between the haves and the have nots.

Thanks for the encouraging words about learning. Today my young helper/friend pointed out the KeyQuencher Control Panel after I emailed him about finding that I had accidentally typed the date in the middle of my letter.. .leaned on some keys. I've been ignoring key combinations as I thought I had all that I could handle..If it weren't for Austin, now age 16, I wouldn't have made it even this far. But I will try to learn something new each day.

What is UN-speak? And what does INSTRAW stand for? Naive of me but aren't the Latin American women doing what we're all doing on the Net, and men too for that matter? Just curious about all this but don't feel you have to answer my probably simplistic questions.

Now I must head for town to spend the night to get ready for figuring out a summer school schedule with various schools.


Cousin Paula

Paula Steffen: Filed Outgoing Message  ::  Re: Warm weather  ::  Page 1 of 2

Subject: Re: Warm weather
Sent: 6/5/98 6:06 PM
Received: 6/6/98 5:24 AM
From: Hermann Steffen, stefeeny@sol.
To: Paula Bedell,

Hi Cousin Paula!

Sorry to have taken so long to reply, but I've been quite busy. About Tay, I agree that he's very well organized. The problem is that the computer business is quite cut-throat, and you need to have incredible powers of anticipation. For instance, he developed this beautiful Website building software that went beyond simple HTML and allowed you to build a whole site, with all the necessary links, according to a series of templates -- but he decided to develop the software first for the Mac at a time when Apple, as a result of all its troubles, was sinking to a market share of only about 5%. Had he come out with the same app for Windows, it would have had incredible success. Nevertheless, the key point, aside from his business troubles, is that he is a warm and bright human being who helped me along in my career and no doubt has done the same for many others.

>Thanks for the encouraging words about learning.

Not at all. With computers, you *have* to learn all the time. You think you've got HTML mastered and along comes Dynamic HTML, XML, and so on ....

>What is UN-speak? And what does INSTRAW stand for? Naive of me but aren't >the Latin American women doing what we're all doing on the Net, and men >too for that matter? Just curious about all this but don't feel you have >to answer my probably simplistic questions. UN-speak is the language used by the United Nations. It's full of jargon such as "implement" and "capacity-building" and "multiplying effects" and the like. The differences you mention correspond to two different divisions: what men do versus what women do, and what is done in the North as opposed to what is done in the South (the Third World). In the case of women and men, they are brought up differently and are expected to play different roles (although fortunately there is much greater equality nowadays), so their approach to technology is different. Women also tend to make less money than men, which affects what technology they can afford. Money is also a key factor in the North-South divide. For instance, an overwhelming majority of telephone lines (let alone computers) are in the US and the other rich countries, so the prospect of Internet use is not quite the same in Boston as in Botswana.

I'll be happy to send you the conclusions of the study, if you're interested. Not much to tell, except that Sebastian (our four-year-old) has already decided whom he wants to marry (a girl at his kindergarten who phones him up every day), that I am finally enjoying a bit of leisure after two years of solid non-stop work, and that it's finally raining in Costa Rica, after an unusually prolonged dry season caused by the El Nino effect.


Your cousin Hermann

Paula Steffen: Filed Outgoing Message  ::  Greetings  ::  Page 1 of 1

Subject: Greetings.
Sent: 6/13/98 5:32 PM
To: Hermann Steffen,

Dear Hermann,

I have been out of commission because I just spent an entire week learning (really starting to learn) Adobe Premiere. I attended a class from 9am to 5pm this last week, Monday through Friday. I found that I had almost as much a problem with my back as with my brain! Sitting in plastic bucket chairs in a computer lab was difficult but I made it! Now to start making little movies out of all the clips I already have stored in various places on my hard drive. Fun! Yes, I would love to see the results of your study. It is very troubling to think of the possible results of all this technology. We are having a big downpour today in the northeast... 1 don't know if there is any particular explanation for it. It has been very mild until this..when it rained it was just in small amounts for limited periods. Who knows what is really happening. I guess us folks on earth just have to hang in there and be prepared for anything, knowing that we certainly must be responsible for much of it, somehow. But I don't want to sound too sinical.

We are having a quiet summer. My husband enjoys spending most of his time "talking" with folks on-line who have his same illness, a C.O.P.D. group. He also likes the ballgames on TV but is doing less reading lately. I plan to take specific courses like the one I just had only not all as intense, for the next few months. Monday I go to a day long course in Adobe Photoshop focussing on scanning and halftones. Somehow in between courses I hope to use my camera (which I am very new at) and take some video that I can use during the school year. You probably have done all this. I actually have a project started called "Mainely Ice", inspired by our ice storm this past winter. I will study other historical ice storms in Maine, and ice and its involvement in Maine life; industry (old ones like ice harvesting), weather, and recreation. I have some very old film on Hiram ice harvesting that I need to learn how to edit, as well as recent video and digital stills that I took this last winter. I will learn video technology through my project or maybe its the other way around! Anyway, I have a theme. Actually it started with studying the color blue (my page at and the school page at Blue seemed to lead into ice and water, etc. Rather abstract thinking I guess. And my writing isn't the greatest...

Had to stop this note for a while as thunder and lightning came our way. Our rain barrows (we live out country so we have to be ready for our well running dry) have long since filled and things are looking very green. I didn't put in vegetables this year although I have some seedlings down at my other cottage that I will bring here later.

Opps! More thunder. Guess I will just send this so that you will know that I thought of you. Is Sebastian your only? He sounds cute. Do you have a page as they say....

Cheerio... the weather is scaring me off.

Cousin Paula

Paula Steffen: Filed Outgoing Message  ::  Re: Long time, no see?!  ::  Page 1 of 1

Subject: Re: Long time, no see?!
Sent: 9/11/98 9:19 PM
Received: 9/12/98 5:51 AM
From: Hermann Steffen / Christina Feeny,
To: M. Paula Bedell,

Hi Cousin!

Sorry not to have got back to you, but I've been busy. In fact, I should be working right now (it's 9:15PM here), but I've taken a break.

I don't know if Tay's site is still actually running, although I understand from your message it's still up there. I have not heard from him in a long time.

>Anyhow, how are you? And are you still on the same project or onto >something new? This semester I'm concentrating on camera production. >next semester we'll be using Adobe Premiere.

I'm fine, although I'm missing my family. (Christina and Sebastian ore in England visiting her parents, and won't be back until the 20th,) We're getting into the serious part of the rainy season. Not much to do except work and watch reports on this extraordinary Clinton-Lewinsky-Starr sordid menage-a-trois on television. And no, the Women and (MC project is complete, and I am working on other jobs, mainly short-term. I was exhausted from that two-year stint, and don't want to take on anything major for a while.

Glad to know your university studies are going well.

How is your husband?



...Hermann Steffen...........Christina Feeny........
  Systemics / Translations / Reporting / Logistics
....Tel.: (506) 228-9373   Fax:  (506) 228-7063.....

Paula Steffen: Filed Outgoing Message  ::  Re: Long time, no see?!  ::  Page 1 of 1

Subject: Re: Long time, no see?!
Sent: 9/12/98 6:33 AM
To: Hermann Steffen / Christina Feeny,

Dear Cousin Hermann,

Great to hear from you but sorry that you are so busy... now don't get stressed, as they say. I didn't know what that meant until it happened to me last spring. Now I take pretty good care of myself, first, so that I can take care of others. But I understand that being alone without your family is hard too. Will you be able to take a little time off to join them? I hope so.

My husband is still struggling through his illness but we have good help now. The agency that we are using tries to consistently send the same individuals out to care for him instead of a constant change of persons. And he's has a wonderful psychiatric nurse who comes once a week and is available any time by email!! Thus Ralph's spirits have been much better, he is more at peace with himself and others. And I am feeling better able to be in cheerful spirits when I'm home.

I finally heard from Tay, and in Appleton, Maine! Apparently he bought and has been fixing up an old farmhouse there. He came to Appleton two years ago on a father/daughter trip to search for their roots (Vaughans) and returned to give a little talk (when I met him) for the people he had met and stayed in touch with all that year. And now he seems to have found roots... Anyway, I wanted a copy of the 4th edition of his Multimedia book which he is sending me. So it sounds as though he is just fine. I do hope that I get to know him but he must have hundreds of students who feel the same way. (I was unhappy to see that he smokes.) I just like that way his life sounds on the web pages!

School is another matter. Such a struggle to learn with instructors with such poor attitudes. But the young students are just teaching one another, me now too, and perhaps that is the way it should be. We just try not to let the teachers get in our way! And my little job at the cable TV station is what sustains me... where I receive encouragement. I have to say that it's not easy being my age and wanting to learn this new technology because most younger folks don't have a great deal of patience. I'm finally getting one of the graphics on my webpage (didn't understand the glitch) and now want to put an email address on it so that the head of our department, who just took off for Brazil for a year, will be able to get in touch we me. The department put up a webpage for us that isn't working properly yet. Randy Visser planned to do some on-line teaching (a beginning class in visual imaging) which, of course is old hat, but new to Southern Maine Technical College. (our school pages for our department video62.htm).

Yes, this "threesome" is sad and I ask myself "but why?" Humans aren't always (mostly, I guess) such a nice bunch. I read some of the transcripts last night on the web, wishing that I would stop reading them, which I finally did. We all have our quirks and have some control over our lives, and much of this is personal I believe. I think that in some countries right now we must be the laughing stock. Well, perhaps we've always been. I think most feel (and have felt for a long time) that this business would just go away! Mr. Gore must be feeling a bit anxious right now...

Thanks for writing and do take care of your health. I hope the rainy season is kind to you all. And we are hoping "no more ice storms."



Paula Steffen: Filed Outgoing Message  ::  Re: Long time, no see?!  ::  Page 1 of 1

Subject: Re: Long time, no see?!
Sent: 9/25/98 12:27 AM
Received: 9/25/98 5:30 AM
From: Hermann Steffen / Christina Feeny,
To: M. Paula Bedell,

Dear Cousin Paula,

Nice to hear from you.

The family's back. You'd be proud to hear and see Sebastian. He's such a mature and sensible young man -- and he's only four!

Glad to hear about the care your husband is receiving. In such matters, the personal touch really counts. Nice to hear the news about Tay, too. Does he still have the same e-mail address?

Regarding school, as long as you're learning (never mind from whom), you should be all right.

The Clinton affair (literally) seems to have been blown out of all proportion. To lie about an affair just doesn't seem to me to be in the same league as lying about a major attempt to stage a coup, which is what I understand Watergate was all about. But you Americans must have your media circuses, it would appear. Not that I condone extramarital affairs, unless there is parity (both partners can fool around, say). I suppose my morality has fewer rules than others': try not to hurt other people, and try not to hurt yourself, for the sake of those who love you, just about sums up my ethical beliefs.


Your cousin,


...Hermann Steffen...........Christina Feeny........
  Systemics / Translations / Reporting / Logistics
....Tel.: (506) 228-9373   Fax:  (506) 228-7063.....