Thursday, December 30, 2004

Say cheese!

We had fondue for dinner tonight. I can't think of too many things that are better than fondue! All that creamery, garlicky, oozy goodness. The Swiss got it goin' on!!! By the way...the bag of fondue cheese said it was for 3-4 people. I ate 75% of it. That means that I ate three Swissy's worth. Damn!

Honesty is the best policy!

We went to the A Chau (Gesundheit!!!) Asian Market in Basel today to pick up a few things for our New Year's Day feast. The total cost for our things was 39 francs. I gave the lady a 200 franc note, and she gave me...261 francs change!!! An easy 61 franc profit plus free Asian groceries??? Of course not! I brought the mistake to the lady's attention, and she exchanged the 200 CHF note for a 100 CHF note. My good deed for the day!

Monday, December 27, 2004

Bz the waz...

I've been using Mrs. TBF's laptop today for blogging. Her work laptop has a German keyboard. Most of the keys are the same as the American keyboard, but the major differences are the y and the z are reversed and the apostrophe is in a different place. So, if I donät end up correcting what I tzpe, it looks something like this. Itös prettz annozing. I made the decision when we moved here that I was going to stick with the American kezboard. Mrs. TBF (verz bravelz) decided to go with the German kezboard. So, on the rare occasion that I have to use a German kezboard, I trz to not be too wordz because I begin to get reallz now!

Those German lessons are beginning to pay off!

I went to the post office today to buy some garbage stickers (here, you have to buy stickers that you stick on each bag of garbage which means that you pay for each bag of garbage you throw out). When I walked up to the front door of the post office, I was surprised to find about forty people standing in line (usually it's one or two people). The line did not move at all after two minutes, and I told the man in front of me that I only needed to buy Abfallmarken, and he told me that I could buy them at the pharmacy down the street and save waiting in line. I drove down the street, bought my garbage stickers, found out the price is actually going to be reduced after the first of January (imagine that...the town is actually going to reduce the price of something!), and then I went to pick up Mrs. TBF who was playing tennis with a friend about five minutes away. So, making some small talk in German easily saved me twenty minutes of waiting time today.

We spent Boxing Day...

...packing boxes. Actually, we have been packing five or six boxes per day for our upcoming move. It's pretty hard packing boxes for a move that's coming up in a month. You can't just go shelf by shelf or cabinet by cabinet. You have to actually think about what you're going to be needing over the next month, skip those things, and then just try to fill up the boxes the best you can with the other stuff. We've made pretty good progress so far, and I'm sure we'll be totally ready when moving day comes up at the end of January. At least I hope we're not doing frantic packing the night before our move.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas!!!

I just wanted to take a short break from the gorge-fest I've been experiencing over the past few days to wish everybody a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! Mrs. TBF has been cooking up a storm, and I've had no complaints....chicken pot pie, steak and Guinness pie, fried calamari, etc., etc. I just tell myself that it's winter, and I'm a mammal damn it!!! I need an extra roll of blubber for winter protection. It's part of my genetic make up.
That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


Today is the 21st of December. In North America, it's written 12/21/2004. However, in most of the rest of the world it is written with the day before the month (personally, I think that's a stupid way to write it...Isn't the month more important than the day?) In Switzerland, it's written as 21.12.2004. What does all of this mean??? It means that it's the perfect day of the year to honor Rush's 1976 masterpiece album - 2112.
So, Mrs. TBF has been treated to both the original album, and a live version of 2112. Although she hasn't said anything, I'm sure she's not too happy about it. Maybe I'll show my appreciation by throwing some Coldplay into the CD player. I don't mind them, but they're no match for Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Another trip down memory lane...

Twenty Six years ago today - on December 15, 1978 - I saw Rush in concert for the first time. They were touring in support of their Hemispheres album, and they played at the International Amphitheater in Chicago. I'm not going to bore you with a bunch of praise for this great band (people pretty much either love them or hate them). But, I would like to point out that Rush has had 22 gold albums in America. That puts them in a tie for fifth place all time behind The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Kiss, and Aerosmith. Pretty impressive, huh? So, why aren't they in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? If you think they should be, then click HERE to go fill out a petition to help get Rush inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Has it been FIVE years already???

What was on everybody's mind five years ago this month? Y2K!!! I can't believe that it's been five years since the end of Western civilization was supposedly nigh. Were you one of the many who were buying back-up generators, stock piling drinking water and canned goods, etc. I have to admit that I did stock pile two gallons of drinking water, and I may have had a flashlight in a drawer with dead batteries in it. But, I never really bought into the hype. Sure, I had thought about buying a back-up generator, but it was more as a back-up to power outages caused by ice storms - not Y2K!
When you look back at it, it all seems pretty silly now. I'm sure there are a lot of people who are still laughing about what a killing they made off of gullible people during the Y2K scare. Although, at the time, I guess there was the general feeling that something COULD happen.
If you do a "Y2K" search on Yahoo or Google, all you find are a bunch of "dead" websites. It's old news....almost as if it never happened. I mean, when's the last time you actually even thought about Y2K?

Happy birthday to "The Wall"!

Pink Floyd's masterpiece album - The Wall - is 25 years old this month. OK, you caught me, it was actually released on November 30, 1979. But, since I got it as a Christmas gift in December, 1979, I'm celebrating the 25th anniversary this month. I can't even begin to count how many hours have been spent listening to this album/CD. First, in my bedroom in Wheeling, IL on my Radio Shack stereo with my black light on (how 70s!), then in my various dorm rooms in Evanston, IL. Then, I bought it on CD in the late 80s, and soon it will go onto our new iPod.
Yesterday's German lesson, of all things, jogged my memory regarding this album. Carmen - my German teacher - used the words "der Mauer". When I asked her what it meant, she said in English: "The in Pink Floyd The Wall". My first thought was...Rock on, Carmen!!! Then, she spoiled it all by pointing out to me that the album came out the year she was born. Damn!

One of many TBF Rules...

If my window blinds are down...PLEASE DON'T RING MY DOORBELL!!!! That's just one of many rules I have which I will share with you over time.
A certain person who will remain nameless (Clue: She's Canadian and lives next-door to me) rang my doorbell this morning at 9:00 to ask me a question. My blinds were drawn, and there was no sign of life. The only reason I ended up going to my kitchen window to see who it was was because I'm expecting a delivery of moving boxes today, and I thought it might be the delivery man.
R.E.M. sleep interuptus.....NOT GOOD!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Juha soitti...

Minun serkku Juha soitti pari tunttii sitten. Hän meinnaa tulla Sveitsiin kaymäs. Ugh....just forget it. I can speak Finnish, but I have one heck of a time trying to write it.
What I just wrote was: My cousin Juha called a couple of hours ago. He intends on coming to Switzerland for a visit. Actually, he is going to be coming here from Finland on a business trip, and we're trying to coordinate getting together. I haven't seen him since 1985 when he was about 17 years old. I'm assuming he's changed a bit since then. I know I have.
We spoke on the phone for about thirty minutes. It was nice talking to him. He speaks English, but I told him I need to practice my Finnish every chance I get since it gets a bit rusty in Switzerland. I only speak Finnish with my father on the phone about once per week, and that's only for about three minutes. He's not that much of a phone talker, so after three minutes he hands the phone over to my mom. My mom speaks Finnish too, but I always speak English with her. So, this thirty minute Finnish conversation was a real treat.
When you tally up today's languages it comes out to: German: 95 minutes (90 minute lesson plus some random talking in public), Finnish: 30 minutes, English: 10 minutes (I ran into one of Mrs. TBF's ex-coworkers at Starbucks, I spoke with a neighbor for a couple of minutes, and random comments to the pets).
Speaking of the pets, I better go feed them. Dominique is pacing!

Monday, December 13, 2004

What the Hell happened????

I just watched a show on BBC called "Whitney's Addictions". My God...what the Hell happened? It's amazing what happens when that downward spiral begins.
By the way...the Brits pronounce it: "Whitney Hooston." What the hell is that?
Yeah, I know. It's late. Mrs. TBF is in Zurich for a few nights. I just finished doing my German homework in front of the T.V. Actually, I didn't finish. I just gave up. My homework isn't being graded. I'm forty-two years old, and I don't have to do my homework if I don't want to!

Friday, December 10, 2004

Well? I'm waiting...

Six weeks ago, a man came out to repair our boiler. At first, it was going off every couple of days or so, and I'd have to go down to the basement to turn it back on. It was a bit of an annoyance, but I learned to live with it. Suddenly, it started shutting down every few hours, and it became a hassle. That's when I decided that I'd had enough, and I called the service company.
The service man came out and did a temporary fix. He told me that he needed to order a replacement part and that he would come back out to install it when he received it. He spoke English very well, so I know there was no misunderstanding.
A couple of weeks later, a lady called from the company and set up an appointment with me (in German) for the following week. The appointment was for a Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m., and when nobody had shown up by 10:00 a.m. I gave the company a call.
The lady (once again, in German) told me that she would have the man stop by our house that morning. I figured that I had misunderstood her German and that I had just gotten the day or time wrong. When the man showed up a couple of hours later, he told me that he didn't even have me down for an appointment that day. He told me that the wrong part had come in, and that he, himself, would call me himself after I returned from Chicago on November 20th. He also told me that the lady I had spoken with at the company speaks perfect English and is married to a man from England.
This past Monday (December 6th), I called the company and spoke with the lady. I told her that I understood that she spoke English, and she responded in German that she does but my German is completely understandable and that she was going to speak to me in German. So, I muddled through a conversation in Germ-lish (a combination of German and English), and understood that she was going to check with the repairman and call me back.
Yesterday (December 9th), I called her back and she basically told me that she hadn't forgotten about me, and that she will call me when the replacement part comes in. I told her that it had been about six weeks since the first service call. She said she realized that, and that she will call me when the replacement part comes in.
So, that's where we stand right now. I have no recourse because it's the repair company that the landlord uses.
These are the little frustrating episodes that really grate on me here in Switzerland. I told this story to one of my Swiss neighbors, and she told me that it's the same for her and that it's not just the foreigners who are treated this way. Whenever you need something here, it has to be ordered.
Who couldn't run a successful business if you didn't have to carry an inventory and you didn't have to worry about customer service. Mein Gott!!!!

I was just wondering...

Why don't Swiss people wear gloves and hats? I've noticed this for some time, and it was noticed immediately by my parents when they visited us a couple of years ago.
The temperature this morning was below freezing. Mrs. TBF and I both had on hats, gloves, and scarves when we walked to the tram. We were definitely in the minority. Most of the people we saw just walked around looking cold with their hands pulled into their sleeves. Why they don't put on a pair of gloves, I just can't figure out. I even noticed a mom riding a bike with her two-ish year old child riding behind her in the child seat. The kid's gloveless hands were flailing around in the wind. Also, the kid wasn't wearing a hat. There's no way this kid could have been warm enough when you added in the wind chill of a bike ride with a temperature of -1ºC.
It's really strange. The locals wear winter coats, and the heat on the tram gets turned on, when the outdoor temperature drops below 15ºC, but very few people wear hats or gloves when it's really cold out. Sometimes, I just can't figure out these people.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

And now for the French Swiss!

Last night, Mrs. TBF and I went out for dinner with Tom and Sylvia. We drove about thirty minutes to a town called Soyhières which is just outside of Delémont - in the French speaking part of Switzerland. Even after living here for four years, I still find it amazing that you just drive thirty minutes away (within the same country), and they speak an entirely different language.
An interesting thing is that the French Swiss and the French French actually understand each other when they speak French. The Swiss German speakers, on the other hand, have a very strong dialect. The Swiss can understand when the Germans speak, but the Germans have a hard time understanding the Swiss. As a matter of fact, when a Swiss person is speaking German on a German TV program, the producers often put German subtitles at the bottom of the screen.
Anyway, language was not a barrier at Le Cavalier restaurant because when the first waiter heard that we were English speakers, he just switched places with another waiter who spoke very good English. Tom and I had some frogs legs, Sylvia had a nice vegetable platter that they made up for her, Mrs. TBF had some perch, we enjoyed a few bottles of wine, I had a nice banana split for dessert, some whiskey, and some coffee. They even brought us a couple of side orders of French fries. After dinner, the chef came by our table and shook our hands.
The perfect streak continues. We still have not had a bad meal in Europe!

You gotta love the French!

Our old neighbors Tom and Sylvia have been in town this week. Yesterday, Sylvia and I took the train to Strasbourg to check out the Christmas market. Christmas markets aren't really my cup of tea (I think once you've seen one, you've seen them all), but I thought it would be nice to go to Strasbourg since I hadn't been there in four years.
We had an early start. We arrived at the Basel train station at about 7:00 a.m. so that we could buy our tickets for the 7:30 a.m. train. The Basel main train station is actually divided into the French and Swiss stations. So, if your journey is taking you to France, you simply walk through French border customs in the station, and then you are officially in France.
At 7:30, there was no sign of our train. We looked at the electronic board, and noticed that it was not posted. So, we just took the 7:58 a.m. train instead. This was my first dose of French for the day - no notice, no apology, no...nothing. The train just was not there, and we had to take the next one....c'est la vie!
After arriving in Strasbourg, we found our way to the information office at the train station. The sign outside the office actually read "General Information" in English alongside the French and German equivalents. I went to the desk and asked "Parlez vous Francais?" The response: "Non!" Then, I actually managed to blurt out Ou est la marché de Noel (not sure of the spelling), and the man's coworker rambled on in French and pointed down the main street. So, off we went...hopefully headed toward the Christmas market.
To our surprise we arrived at the market about fifteen minutes later. I won't bore you with the details, but the market definitely had a plethora of food, mulled wine, candles, ornaments, etc., etc. Sylvia and walked around for about an hour, and then we headed to this shop that has hand-painted, Russian wood carvings.
It was a nice shop. It seems that the specialty are these hand-painted carvings of Santa Claus. And, I must say, they are pretty least they held my attention for about five minutes. Sylvia, being on a first name basis with the store owner (apparently she has a whole army of Russian Santas at home) was picking up the various carvings, comparing them, looking at the prices, etc. I had noticed about eighty or so "Do Not Touch" signs posted about the store, but apparently Sylvia had immunity. I, on the other hand, quickly found out that I did not share in this immunity.
I saw this little three inch nesting Santa, and when my finger was a mere centimeter or so away from it, I heard the petite store owner (who had suddenly turned into the general of the Soviet Red Army) bark out: "DO NOT TOUCH!!!!" Hoping to avoid Gulag) I immediatly slinked to the other side of the store. Along the way, I passed Sylvia who pretty much had a Santa under each arm, one under her chin, and was using a fourth one to scratch her back while the store owner smiled and asked her how her husband and children were doing.
After leaving the store with a couple of Santas, Sylvia and I went to the only restaurant in France that does not serve French onion soup or French fries. We couldn't believe it. The waiter did not (probably, would not) speak English, but I understood his French well enough to know that he was saying they did not have onion soup. Sylvia, being a vegetarian, wanted a green salad and a plate of fries. We had seen that some of the main courses were served with fries. However, the waiter just would not bring us a side order of French fries. So, I ate my liver quenelles with potato salad, and Sylvia had a green salad with two slices of bread. The food was good, but onion soup and French fries really would have hit the spot. To make matters worse, when we were getting up to leave, we saw another waiter setting down a big platter of fries at another table.....sacre bleu!
After lunch, we took a taxi back to the train station. We saw a sign for departures and headed in the direction of the arrow. About a minute later, we saw a sign that said departures was in the direction we had just come from. So, we turned back thinking that we missed a sign or something. As it turns out, we hadn't. There were just two signs about fifty meters apart from each other saying that the departures area was in the opposite direction. I fully expect that Sylvia and I are going to be on an episode of French Candid Camera in the near future.
After ignoring the signs and just finding the departure platform on our own. We boarded our train for the return journey to Basel (or, Bâle as the French call it). It was fairly uneventful until the French border patrol officers suddenly showed up. Before I knew it, I had some kind of official credentials about three inches from my nose and a man with an armband asking me a question in French. I just said, "Passport?" He said I need to see your passport and luggage. I gave him my passport, Swiss residency card, and held up my shopping bag from the Christmas market. After convincing him that I live in Basel and was just returning from the Strasbourg Christmas market, he allowed me to avoid being thrown into a French prison. Sylvia seemed to get a little more of the third degree since she is a holder of an American passport as opposed to my Canadian passport. But, she too avoided the guillotine. We kind of chalked it up to them having a little fun hassling a couple of foreigners. That was, until we saw them doing everything but strip searching an elderly French man. This silver-haired, approximately sixty-five year old, professional-looking, French man had his briefcase AND WALLET searched. They actually searched behind the credit cards, under the money, etc. inside his wallet. They found nothing, thanked him for his time, and then moved on.
And what is the result of this day, you ask? The result is: I still love the French! There's something about them that appeals to me. I don't know what it is. They're just incredibly unique, and I never know what to expect.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Am I taking crazy pills or something?

Or, am I the only person who realizes that the 70+ year old ladies with the jet black/dark brown/pumpkin orange hair who ride the tram are dyeing their hair? I mean, come on...give it up! I know your hair is grey. Maybe the rest of the tram passengers are fooled, but I'm certainly not. Just show off your grey hair with pride - you earned it! At the very least, choose a color that isn't quite so extreme. May I recommend a nice light brown, or a dirty blond. There's something about the combination of a deeply wrinkled face and charcoal black hair that just isn't right.

Something you don't see everyday...

Mrs. TBF and I were watching some show on BBC last night, and I noticed that the interviewer was wearing a monocle. That got me to wondering - Where does one buy a monocle these days?
For the answer, I just had to turn to the trusty internet. I typed "monocle" into Yahoo, and the first choice was: "Buy Monocle eyewear at" It's nice to know that the monocle wearer has seven styles to choose from. I guess if I were a monocle wearer that I would want a different one for each day of the week too.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Happy birthday, Bob Neuenfeldt!

Bob used to live behind me when I was growing up in Wheeling, Illinois. I think his addres was 43 Redwood Trail, and his parents names were Bill and Inez. He also had two sisters named Debbie and Donna. For some reason, I always remember his birthday on December 5th. I'm not really sure why. It's just one of those dates that sticks in my head. He would be 43 now, and I haven't seen him since about 1975 when he moved to California.
I noticed in Yahoo People Search that there is a Bob Neuenfeldt listed in Newport Beach, CA. If that's him, kudos on "making it." Newport Beach is pretty affluent, so he must be doing OK. Happy birthday from TBF.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Many good things happened yesterday...

First of all, an excellent week of fitness culminated with an intensive, butt-kicking kick boxing class followed by some relaxation in the Sauna Landschaft and five minutes in the tanning bed at my gym.
Then, Mrs. TBF returned from a two-night business trip to Dublin with some black puddin' from the Dublin Airport duty-free shop. If you've never had black pudding, I highly recommend it. Find an Irish butcher, and bring some home for a proper Irish breakfast.
Mrs. TBF and I then walked over to Emil Frey to pick up our car. The men in the blue lab coats had it waiting for us all vacuumed out. Most importantly - the CD player was repaired. Not only was it repaired, but they had it cued up so that when I turned the car on, Going For the One (my favorite album of all time), by Yes, was playing. It was the third CD in the player, so it couldn't have been at random. By the way, when you have your car repaired in Switzerland, you don't pay before you leave the dealership. THEY SEND YOU THE BILL IN THE MAIL...SOMETIMES AS MUCH AS ONE MONTH AFTER THE REPAIR! Can you believe it? What a trusting country. Could you imagine what would happen in the U.S. if you didn't have to pay your car service bill before getting your keys back? The U.S. bill collection industry would double overnight!
After we returned home, I took a forty-five minute nap. Then, I finally finished the last of the turkey soup with a couple of BLT sandwiches. As a rule, any day where bacon is consumed automatically bumps that day into the top percentile of all days.
Finally, marital relations probably would have resulted in this being the pinnacle of all days, but Mrs. TBF and I were rather tired. She was tired from her trip, and I was tired from a combination of kick boxing and a stomach full of bacon. I guess it just wasn't to be. But, it was a great day nonetheless!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

It's THAT time of year again...

Tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m., I have to bring my whip (that's gangsta' for car) in for its ANNUAL oil change. Yup, I said annual. My buddies - the technicians in the blue lab coats - at Emil Frey use synthetic oil, and I've only driven about 5,000 km. this year, so I only need to have the oil changed once per year. I'm also going to have my 50,000 km. service which means, in their words, that it will be a gross Service (gross as in German for big, not as in English for disgusting). Since we shipped our car from America, I have to put a sign in the car reminding them that the odometer is in miles, not in kilometers. The first time I ever brought the car in for service, they told me that they had done the 12,500 km. service. I told them thanks, but the car actually had 20,000 km. (or, 12,500 miles) on it. I didn't really mind the honest mistake one time, but I don't really want it to happen again. Having your car serviced is an expensive undertaking in Switzerland - an oil change costs about $60 as opposed to the $25 one pays at Jiffy Lube in the U.S.
Also, the notice for my car inspection just came in today (January 31, 2005 at 1:00 p.m...."please arrive five minutes before your appointed time"). Switzerland has incredibly thorough mandatory car inspections which apparently come up once every four years. They go over the car with a fine-toothed comb, and whatever they find wrong you have to have repaired within a certain time period. This, too, can become kind of expensive. I'm going to bring my notice in to the blue lab coat boys tomorrow and tell them to get the car ready for the inspection. I fully expect tomorrow's service to cost about 2,000 CHF (about $1,735 U.S.). Then, I'll have to bring it back right before the inspection to have the engine steam cleaned (required for the inspection) and pay a high wage earning mechanic in a blue lab coat to drive my car over to the testing station (not required, but there's no way I'm going to try to decipher auto part names in Swiss-German), and it will set us back another few hundred francs. When you add up the maintenance, insurance (2,900 CHF per year), parking (175 CHF per month in our new apartment), and gasoline (1.45 CHF/liter or about $4.78 U.S./gallon), it starts to seem pretty expensive to keep a vehicle that we drive only a couple of times per week.
And speaking of insurance...I just e-mailed our insurance agent with a few questions, and I asked him why our car insurance premiums are so high considering that our car is now five years old. He responded with a number of reasons, but the shocking one was that the insurance value in Switzerland of our 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited is 46,000 CHF. That means that our five year old Jeep is currently worth $39,937.48 U.S. in Switzerland (using today's exchange rate). Our car is worth more than we paid for it five years ago!!! Maybe it's not that expensive a thing to keep around afterall.

I blew it!

I just had two Jehova's Witnesses come to my door. I should have invited them in for some turkey soup. Sure, I'd have to listen to their schtick, but it would have been my chance to unload the leftovers. It was God's way of getting me out of my predicament...and I blew it!!!

Turkey...Day 6, and counting!

We had our Thanksgiving turkey at Andy and Di's house last Saturday night, and I have to say it was some damn fine bird! It was about 9.5 kilos/21 lbs., and I made it on the Weber as usual (11 minutes per pound, indirect method, add 10 coals per side...has never failed me yet). As it turns out, it was the bird that almost wasn't. Let me explain.
About a week before our dinner, while I was in Chicago, Mrs. TBF went with a French speaking co-worker to the grocery store just over the border in St. Louis, France. There, they ordered an eight kilo turkey, and said that we'd pick it up on Friday, November 26th. When Friday came, I picked up Mrs. TBF and a few of her co-workers. Fortunately, her assistant (who is French), also came along just in case we had any problems. And, as it turns out, we did.
As we walked up to the meat department, we noticed one 9.5 kilo bird in the "public" cooler. I kind of stayed back looking it over while Mrs. TBF's co-worker began speaking with the man behind the meat counter. Suddenly, I saw him shaking his head, which was followed by him and a butcherette looking through various coolers. He told me (translated by Mrs. TBF's co-worker) to guard the ONE REMAINING TURKEY in the cooler...I did. After finding no turkey with our name on it, he looked at a list, and then he showed us that our name had been crossed off. Why? I guess we'll never know. All I know is, that we ended up walking out of Géant with a bigger bird than we expected. And, that brings me to my point...
The downfall of a 9.5 kilo turkey: turkey leftovers for days. Sunday through Tuesday consisted of leftover turkey, stuffing, etc. Last night, I thought I was in the homestretch when I was making the turkey soup. Then, I realized that I had about three more meals worth of soup leftover after eating last night's dinner. I'll have turkey soup for lunch and dinner today, and then for lunch tomorrow.
I love a good bird. But, enough is enough.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Just another day...

Mrs. TBF wished me a happy Thanksgiving yesterday morning, and then I forgot about it. You see, it's not Thanksgiving here in's just an ordinary day. I forgot all about it again until I received an e-mail from my ex-next-door-neighbor Chris wishing me a happy Thanksgiving. So...a happy belated Thanksgiving to all of my family and friends in America.
This afternoon, after my kick boxing class, I'm going to pick up Mrs. TBF from work and we're going to head into France to pick up our turkey at Géant. She ordered an eight kilo (17.6 lbs.) bird. Actually, she had a co-worker who speaks French order it for us. Hopefully everything goes as planned. Otherwise I'll be doing charades in front of the butcher at the grocery store since I speak about ten words of French. We're going to be having our Thanksgiving dinner at Andy and Di's house this Saturday night for the third year in a row. I will barbecue the bird on my Weber, and I have to shuck a bunch of oysters. Mrs. TBF is preparing something too, but I'm not sure what exactly.
Yesterday, I had a man come to give us a moving estimate. He said we're going to need about 100 boxes. I'm going to do most of the packing myself, and then have the moving company move the boxes and the big stuff. It's going to involve using an outdoor elevator or crane at the new place, so I have a feeling it's not going to be cheap.
Moving in Switzerland is a real hassle compared to moving in America. In America, you just move. Here, you have to de-register at your town hall. Then, you have to re-register at the new town hall. Also, we have to have our ISDN phone box disconnected at our current house, and re-installed at our new house. The good news is that it means we'll keep our current phone number. The bad news, is that we have to pay some guy an exorbitant fee to do it for us. I was fortunate to find a man who does this service (and speaks English) this morning parked in front of a neighbor's house who's moving today, and I got one of his business cards. I also took the phone number off of the neighbor's moving van so I could call another moving company for a moving estimate. I called the office, tried speaking in German, realized that my knowledge of German moving terms was limited, asked for an English speaker, and spoke with three people before I found somebody who spoke perfect English. He's coming out next Wednesday morning at 8:00.
After getting the moving estimates, then I'll have to arrange the moving date. The people who are currently in our new apartment will be out by the first week of January, but our lease does not begin until February 1st. Since the apartment has to be repainted before we can move in, the trick is to try to get the management company to do it by the middle of January so we can rent the apartment back from the current tenants for the last two weeks of January. If I can do this, it will give us a lot of flexibility in moving. Plus, it'll be cheaper to move if we can do it on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. If not, the move will have to take place on the last day of the month. It'll be more expensive, and it will be a total hassle.
Stay tuned. Don't touch that dial.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

My two-week hiatus is over!

I've been back from Chicago for five days now, and I've been taking a bit of a rest from blogging. It usually takes me a few days to get over my jet lag, so I've been kind of in a daze for the past few days.
The trip went well. A few memories from my trip:
-Hey flight attendants from United Airlines flying from Frankfurt to Chicago...I know you've had to take a pay cut, but how about an occasional smile? Oh, and a "thank you" wouldn't hurt either.
-Saturday...I saw my niece - Kiera - play soccer. Then, we all went to Chili's where I had an Awesome Blossom and a bacon burger. Later that evening, Perry, Renee, and I went to see Muse at the Riviera Theatre on Saturday, November 13th. I saw a man receive three stick-on passes after he told a bouncer that he was with "Team Epic". So, I waited about 30 seconds and then told the same bouncer that I was with "Team Epic" and that I needed three passes. He gave them to me, and we were seated in a special reserved seating area at the front of the balcony with a great view of the stage and a waitress who took our drink orders. I wonder what "Team Epic" is!?!?! And let me just say that MUSE ROCKS!!! I was so amped after the concert that when a bum on the street told me he "needed money for a place to stay for the night"...I gave him $5! And, I told him that I didn't even mind if he spent it on beer!
-On Sunday, Perry, Renee, and I went to Costco. COSTCO RULES!!! First of all, it was a real novelty shopping on a Sunday. Secondly, it was nice seeing 20 lb. slabs of ribs, 50-roll packs of toilet paper, gallon cans of ketchup, etc. for sale. The meat department nearly made me weep. Later that evening, Perry deep-fried a couple of turkeys....DAMN GOOD BIRD!!!!
-Monday...some shopping (bought some Michael Vick signature Nike cross-trainers at Sportmart...I'll bet that there aren't too many of those in Switzerland...especially size 13!), went to the dentist, and had a dinner (at 4:15 p.m.!!!!) at Old Country Buffet with my parents, my Aunt Lauha, my sister, and her kids. It's amazing what kids eat. My nieces and nephew basically stuck to Jello, French fries, corn, and ice cream!
-Tuesday...rented a car (Black Cadillac Sedan DeVille...felt like my dad!), had two Whoppers for $3 at Burger King for lunch, did some power shopping (some Tommy Bahama shirts and Kangol hats), and then went into the city to Dave and Shannon's house for dinner where I saw their 2-month old daughter - Stella - for the first time.
-Wednesday...met with our financial advisor, lunch and more shopping (including another trip to Costco where I bought lots-o-beef, and a trip to Home Depot where I bought some cement for my dad) with my mom and sister, went to the Apple store for the PC to Apple switch class where I did not become convinced that Apple is the way to go (it's too bad because I was ready to buy an Apple on the spot...although I haven't ruled it out yet), bought an iPod, dinner with the family at Diana's house.
-Thursday...returned my rental car, went to Finn and Diana's ice skating lesson, helped my dad carry a shower base from the garage to the bathroom he's remodeling at my sister's house, ate some Costco steaks for dinner with my mom, dad, Diana, Colm, the kids, and Jo (my mother-in-law).
-Friday....said goodbye to Jo (I stay at her house when I'm in Chicago) when she dropped me off at Diana's house, went out for breakfast with Diana, Mom, Dad, and Finn at Egg Harbor where I had the special with a side-order of my much beloved corned-beef-hash, said goodbye to the family, the car picked me up to take me to the airport at 11:00, and then I was gone.
Let's just say that I returned to Switzerland with well over my CHF 300 (approx. $250) limit, including: a bottle of tequila, four Tommy Bahama shirts, two Kangol hats, several DVDs (All In The Family Season 1, Mr. Show, SCTV, Farenheit 911, Super Size Me, etc.), cold and allergy medicine, an iPod, cross-trainers, books, etc., etc. Upon arriving at Basel Airport, the customs guy actually put my carry-on through the x-ray machine...but he didn't say anything.
Ahhhh, home sweet home!

Friday, November 12, 2004

Thanks United Airlines...

...for NOTHING!
I woke up at 4:30 a.m. this morning so that I could catch the 6:55 a.m. flight from Basel's Euroairport to Frankfurt for my connection to Chicago. Mrs. TBF and I walked up to the check-in counter at 6:07 a.m. (you have to check-in 40 minutes before your flight in Basel), and the man told me I was too late. "How could that be?", I asked. As it turns out, the Lufthansa flight from Basel to Frankfurt was changed from 6:55 a.m. to 6:25 a.m. I booked the ticket through United, and they never informed me of the time change. Fortunately, there is a later flight to Frankfurt, so I'll be able to make my flight to Chicago. I was going to have a several hour layover in Frankfurt. Instead, Mrs. TBF and I went back home, and I'll just have a shorter layover in Frankfurt. I was able to check in and get all boarding passes, so I'm all set for my trip. We bought the ticket and used miles to upgrade to business class (I refuse to fly coach that kind of diva-like?), and I didn't lose my business class seat to Chicago even though I had to be re-booked....which is good!
Of course I know that one should always confirm their flight before flying, but when you do, they just tell you that they would call you if there were any changes. So, what's the point? United didn't call me. I'm sure if I complain, they'll just tell me that Lufthansa should have notified me (my flight to Frankfurt is on Lufthansa). I guess, all's well that ends well.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

What should I pack for Chicago???

I just checked the weather forecast, and I saw that it's going to be in the 40s and fairly sunny in Chicago over the next ten days. I want to pack light, but my clothes are so big that even when I try to pack light I end up needing a big suitcase. I guess I'll just have to print my packing list and go from there.
My neighbor Andy thinks it's mildly insane that I have a packing list in my computer with everything I've packed on past trips. I think it's organization at its finest. Chicago's always a tough pack, however, because I do have access to washers and dryers and I do end up buying a lot of stuff. So, I don't need to bring a lot of stuff with me, but I do need to have room for bringing stuff back (i.e. the farting George Bush and Santa Claus dolls I ordered at Fartmart).


I was waiting for my yoga class to begin today, and in comes a substitute instructor. The regular yoga instructor conducts the class in high German which means I probably understand about 70% of what she says. Every now and then she blurts out something to me in English, I look around the room, and I see that I'm doing something different than the rest of the class. Anyway...the substitute instructor conducted the class in Swiss-German. Comprehension percentage dropped from about 70% to about 20%.
Zum Beispiel (for example):
Inhale in high German is einatmen. Exhale in high German is ausatmen.
In Swiss-German they are (and I'm writing these phonetically): ee-shnoofe and o-shnoofe
I mean....COME ON!!! They're not even close.
I managed, however, to make it through the class by keeping a close eye on the instructor and the rest of the class. At the end of the class, during the relaxation section, he went to each person and performed some kind of bizarre pressure point thing. I'm not really sure what he did on the other people, but on me he pushed down on my shoulders with incredible force, then he pulled my hands one at a time while sliding his other hand down my arm from the shoulder to the hand, and finally he did some crazy thing which I can only describe as pretending my spine was a keyboard and playing it like a piano. It was strange, but I did actually feel pretty refreshed after he did it. I hope he didn't mind that my shirt was SOAKED with sweat since I had used the eliptical trainer before the class.
After the class was over, I told him in German that I enjoyed the class. He started speaking to me in English. As it turns out, the guy has lived in Switzerland for many years, but he's originally from Cleveland.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

I made a baby cry, and I helped a man with his belt... that's accomplishing something.
Since I was kind of rushed (as usual) to make it to my 10:00 German lesson, I didn't have time to finish my breakfast at home. So, I took a banana along to eat on the tram. I took a seat in the lower tram car where the baby strollers are, and I sat right next to a stroller with a little 18 month (guessing...I have no idea really) boy who became fixated on my banana. He reached out for it, and I just shook my head no. He became more insistent, and his mom told him to let me eat my banana in peace. He became even more insistent, so I told him (in my best German) that it was mine and that he couldn't have it. This resulted in ear-piercing screaming which means that my German was good enough for the kid to understand. Either that, or I mistakenly told him without realizing it that I was going to kill him or something. Fortunately for the other twenty or so people on the tram, the lady and demon-child got off at the next stop.
Fast-forward about five hours later. I was at the gym, finished with my workout, and I was about to leave. Suddenly this really old man asked me if I could help him with his belt. At least that's what I think he said (he spoke in the Basel dialect and I'm lucky if I understand 15%). If not, too bad, because I helped him fasten his rather nice Bally belt. His hands were trembling, and I could see that whatever workout he had just completed had pretty much sapped him of most of his energy. I tightened his belt, he told me that it wasn't tight enough (again...that's what I think he said), I tightened it about three more notches, this seemed to satisfy him, he thanked me, and I was on my way. I have to give the guy credit. I mean, he had to be in his early 80s and he's at the gym working out.
What's your excuse?

Monday, November 08, 2004

I'm sore!

I went to the Kick Power Intro course at my gym on Friday afternoon, and I had my butt kicked. What a tough workout. After about five minutes, I began to worry that I couldn't make it through the whole class. I did...but it was really hard. I think it'll be some time before I'm ready for the non-intro class.
I tried to lift weights after the class, and that lasted for about ten minutes. The soreness was starting to set in, so I just stretched and then went and sat in the sauna for fifteen minutes. By Friday evening, I was getting pretty stiff. The soreness lasted throughout the weekend, and I'm still a little stiff this morning. Hopefully, I'll be able to make it through my yoga class this morning.
On Friday night, we just stayed at home and relaxed. Saturday was spent in town shopping, and then we went to Ronny and Geraldine's house around 7:45 for a nice dinner. Yesterday morning, we had to get up at 6:00 a.m. because Dominique had to go outside in a real hurry. I made the mistake of feeding her some stinky French cheese on Saturday evening, and I don't think it agreed with her. We went back to bed at 8:00 and slept until 11:00. At 1:30, we went over to Christian and Nimashini's house for a nice late lunch, and we were home by about 5:30. We pretty much just relaxed for the rest of the evening...watched a little football, ate a little pizza, Dave and Jane came over for some coffee...that's about it.
This morning, Mrs. TBF had to take the 6:46 a.m. train to Zürich Airport so she could catch a flight to Prague. She'll be there until Thursday evening. She made her train with one minute to spare, and that was only because traffic was lighter than usual. It's amazing how different we are when it comes to trains, planes, etc. Mrs. TBF feels that if the train leaves at 6:46, you need to be on the train by 6:45 and 59 seconds. I, on the other hand, would rather get there at 6:30 and just relax with a cup of coffee without the stress. I'm flying out of Basel Airport to Chicago this Friday morning, and Mrs. TBF is driving me to the airport. I'm not sure what time my flight leaves, but whatever time it is, I'll have to tell her that it's twenty minutes earlier than it actually is. Otherwise, I'll be doing the dreaded sprint through the airport.

Friday, November 05, 2004

"The land of great water pressure...It's good to be back!"

That's what I just heard Mrs. TBF say as she was coming out of the shower. She just came back from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur this morning. She called me at 7:00 a.m. when she got on the train at Zürich Airport to let me know that she would arrive in Basel at 8:15. I hung up the phone, and I immediately fell into another coma. Fortunately, I woke up at 7:35, threw on some clothes, took Dominique out, powered down a cup of coffee, and made it to the train station at about 8:20....just when Mrs. TBF and our neighbor Steve (returning from a trip to India) were beginning to wonder where I was.
I went to bed at about 1:00 a.m. this morning, so I only managed to get about 6½ hours of sleep. Mrs. TBF just told me that she slept for TEN HOURS on the plane. It looks like I have some catching up to do.

What are the chances???

Muse is one of my favorite bands. Last night, on a whim, I decided to check out their website. And, what did I find? I found out that they're going to be playing in Chicago at the Riviera Theatre on Saturday, November 13th...while I'm in Chicago. What are the chances of that happening?!?!? I dragged Mrs. TBF with me to see them in Wettingen, Switzerland last November, and now I have a chance to go see them again one year later. If I have to go alone, I'll do so. However, I'd prefer to go with somebody. So, if anybody I know in Chicago wants to go see a totally kick-ass band a week from tomorrow...let me know!
I also saw that the Finnish "Love Metal" band called HIM is also playing at the Riviera the following Saturday. Unfortunately, my return flight to Switzerland leaves Chicago on Friday the 19th. I'll miss them by one day! Perskkatti!!!!!. Although seeing both bands in one week would probably be too much for a TBF in his 40s to handle.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Strange sightings at the gym...

I forgot to mention that I saw three strange things in the locker room at my gym yesterday.
First, when I arrived, I saw a man grab ONE paper towel from the dispenser and proceed to stand on it while he was getting dressed after his workout. He would stand on the paper towel balancing on one foot, put one leg into his pants, switch feet, etc., etc. He actually fell off the paper towel at one point and really seemed ticked off about the fact that his bare foot touched the locker room floor. I'd say this is a little bit obsessive. The Swiss are really into not producing excess garbage. This had to be his motive combined with an unfounded fear of getting athletes foot. I say unfounded because the cleaning lady comes in and cleans the locker room floor about every thirty minutes. I'd say that fungus has about a .0001% chance of surviving on that floor for more than a couple of seconds. Good God...just use an extra paper towel, or better yet, just stand on the floor with your bare feet.
Second crazy thing...
I saw a man using one of the blow dryers to blow dry his feet. He sat on the bench with his naked butt touching the wood and his bare feet touching the floor, and he sat there for about two minutes blow drying his feet. Does this strike anybody else as a bit strange? I understand why he wants to dry his feet well, but one guy is standing on a paper towel because he doesn't want his bare foot to touch the floor, and another guy has his naked butt on the bench and bare feet on the floor. Maybe they could have a conversation and agree on some kind of compromise.
After my workout as I was getting dressed, I noticed this young guy primping his hair for about five minutes. I am not exaggerating. This guy was teasing his streaked hair for no less than five minutes. His hair kind of made him look like he belonged in Jefferson Starship circa 1985. He kept pulling at it, and putting a little more gel in it, and turning his head from side to side while looking in the mirror, all the while not changing the look of his hair in any way whatsoever. It really made me glad that I shave my head - it's definitely easier and much less time consuming. I kind of watched him out of the corner of my eye, and I would have watched him longer to see what the end result was going to be, but I noticed that I was dressed and I had no real reason to be sitting there anymore. I didn't want him to realize I was watching him since I recently read in FHM magazine that Switzerland is the gayest country in Europe, and I didn't want him to get the wrong idea. So, I had no choice but to leave. Now that I think about it, I should have waited in the cafe to see how much longer he stayed in that locker room.
Well, there you have it - yesterday's trilogy of weird. I'd have to say that it was an appropriate precursor for another weird Swiss male phenomenon that usually begins around this time of year: the full-body, five-minute application of body lotion after the workout and shower. But, perhaps, I'll save that for another time.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004 guy didn't win!

I woke up at 9:25 this morning, and after feeding King, making myself a cup of coffee, and walking Dominique, I switched on Fox's Unfair and Unbalanced News and found no mention of my guy - Ralph Nader. So, I had to switch to CNN to find out that he was in third place with only 1% of the vote. Oh well, I guess there's always 2008! He'll probably be running against Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton.
When I'd tell people I was for Nader, I'm sure everybody (at least those who knew who he was) thought I was kidding. But, I wasn't. If I were allowed to vote (Canadian citizen...not a convicted felon), I would have voted for Nader. I looked at a comparison of the candidates on the top ten election issues, and I agreed with Nader on 8, Kerry on 5, and Bush on 1. Plus I agree with Nader that the two party oligopoly must end! And furthermore, am I the only person who thinks that the electoral college is stupid? Somebody please educate me as to why this is still a good thing in the 21st century!
I guess it's not a total loss. Four more years of Bush is a positive thing for the pharmaceutical industry, and that's a good thing for Mrs. TBF and a lot of our friends. Bush just signed a tax cut that lowers taxes for "richer expats" as the International Herald Tribune called us, and I'm sure there will be more tax cuts that benefit higher income earners far more than the middle class. The value of the U.S. dollar will probably continue to plummet, and that means that our wire transfers will buy even more U.S. dollars (currently 46% more than when we moved here in October, 2000).
So, I'm going to look at everything through rose-colored glasses and have a positive mental attitude. Gotta go...I have to make a wire transfer to the U.S. so I have some of those cheap U.S. dollars waiting for me in my account when I arrive in Chicago in nine days!
I guess it was a good day afterall. Thanks for asking!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

It's all good!

At least it was today. I managed to wake up in time for my 10:00 a.m. German lesson. It's funny to think that 1,500+ days ago I was waking up at 5:30 a.m. so that I could make it to the office for 7:30 a.m. Now, making it to a 10:00 a.m. German lesson that's 5 km. away is a challenge. Anyway, I had a good German lesson! Carmen (my teacher) was upbeat as usual, and I left the lesson with a feeling that I had "done good!"
After the lesson, I took the tram from my German school to my gym...even though it's less than a five minute walk. I mean, come on, I needed to save my energy for my workout. And...a good workout it was! Today was my full workout with weights plus thirty minutes on the eliptical trainer. After working up a good sweat, I went downstairs to the spa and had a good , relaxing sauna.
After the gym, I walked over to the train station and picked up a Laugensandwich mit Lachs und Selleriesalat. It was damn good! I took the tram to the grocery store, picked up a couple of things, came home, had a good walk with Dominique, and then took a good twenty-minute nap.
Mrs. TBF called from Kuala Lumpur to tell me that she had had a good flight from Singapore, and that she was about to settle down to a good night's sleep (KL is a good seven hours ahead of Switzerland).
I (along with Dominique and King) enjoyed a good dinner of penne with cilantro pesto and chicken, gave Dominique a good handful of after-dinner treats, and now I'm enjoying a good cup of coffee while writing in my blog.
Pretty soon, we'll be settling down for a good night's sleep. The first thing I'll do when I wake up in the morning is turn on CNN to find out who won the U.S. presidential election.
I hope the results are good!

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Happy November!

I just finished reviewing our new rental contract, and I looked up to notice that it's November 1st. That's rental contract. I handed in the notice for our current apartment this past Friday. Our last day here will be January 31, 2005. It's been fun living here, but it's time to move on. We're looking forward to the new place. But I guess not everyone's happy about it. My neighbor Andy has started quoting a line from Zoolander: "Ya' dead to me!"
I actually spent several hours translating the contract from German to English. I was astonished to find out that we're responsible for things like:
Zur Vermeidung von Feuchtigkeitsschäden ist die Wohnung sowohl im Sommer als auch speziell im Winter täglich ca. drei mal während ca. 3-5 Minuten intensiv, am besten mit Durchzug durch vollstäandiges Oeffnen aller Fenster, zu lüften und genügend (ca. 20ºC).
Imagine that! And the Swiss think that Americans waste energy...go figure!
I was happy to see that nowhere in the rental agreement does it state that an outdoor fireplace is not permitted on the rooftop garden. So, we're going to have the 400 kg. fireplace moved to the rooftop, and I'm not going to ask permission because they'll just come up with a reason why we're not allowed to have it. You know the old saying - It's better to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission. That is actually an old saying isn't it?
The apartment rules are loaded with lines like: "... Vorschriften sind genau zu befolgen." which means that the rules are to be followed EXACTLY! I think they need to read The Big Finn's rules, the most important of which is to T.A.F.C.P! (take a f---ing chill pill). Maybe I'll invite the owner of the building up for a nice cup of shut the f--- up!, and we'll talk about it!

Saturday, October 30, 2004

1,500 days...and counting!

Today marks 1,500 days of retirement. My last day of work was September 21, 2000. Here are some FAQs along with the answers:

Do you miss working? No.

Will you ever work again? Hopefully not. It would take something like us suddenly taking a turn toward financial ruin for me to go back to work. If this situation ever comes up, I'll go back to work in a minute. Needless to say, I hope we never have to face this situation.

Is there anything you miss about working? I miss getting paid every month, but I don't really think about it too often. Every now and then I think about how much income I've missed out on, but it doesn't really concern me too much.

Don't you get bored? No.

What do you do all day? I go to the gym, take German lessons, grocery shop, walk Dominique, walk Sam and Toby, take care of the yard, write in my web log, update my website, cook, clean house, read, watch T.V., run errands, plan trips, do laundry.

What won't you do? I will NOT iron!

If you had to go back to work and could do anything you wanted to do, what would you do? My dream job would be a freelance restaurant critic, or I wouldn't mind being a butcher.

What's the best part about not working? I no longer have to deal with complaining customers, I have very few demands on my time, and Mrs. TBF and I can enjoy our evenings and weekends because we don't have to run around doing errands during non-business hours.

Is there anything you'd like to get off of your chest? Yes. I have to confess that I didn't really work that hard when I did work - I just had a knack for getting good results (my mantra was always - Work smart, not hard!). Since I was in sales, I figured that the results were much more important than how I went about getting those results. Although my bosses probably thought I was working my butt off, in actuality I was really loafing most of the time. I'd often make no sales calls after having lunch with a customer and go swim laps at a local gym (where I'd see other sales reps working out), read the newspaper in my car, stop at my sister's house and have some coffee and read the newspaper, go home early, or all of the above. Sorry Mike, Nick, Randy, and Larry...I hope this doesn't change the legacy of The Big Finn. Now that I've said all of this, I think I've officially made myself UNEMPLOYABLE. Thanks for letting me get all of this off my chest. I feel a lot better. Whew!!! I think I'll go take a nap!

I highly recommend the Gundeldingerhof Restaurant in Basel!

A group of eleven of us (Mrs. TBF's co-workers and the spouses) went to the Gundeldingerhof last night for dinner. This was the second time I had been there, and I have to say that I just love the place. We all just opted for the 5-course "surprise" menu and a bunch of bottles of wine from the eighteen page wine list. They basically just ask you what you don't like, and then you choose either meat, fish, or vegetarian for the main course. We ended up having smoked salmon with sauce on a bed of parsley sprouts for our starter, pasta with chèvre for the primi piatti, venison with polenta for the main course (the fish option was Seeteufel/monkfish), a cheese course, and then a tiramisu unlike any I've ever had before for dessert. These courses were washed down with several bottles of wine from Portugal, Spain, France, and Italy.
Mrs. TBF kind of starved herself during the day so that she could enjoy a bit of everything. She also shared some of her food with me, so I ended up having about and eight-course dinnner.
We had a great time. I look forward to going back there soon.

One stone gone!

As some of you may know, Mrs. TBF has been doing Weight Watchers on-line for the two months. She had her weigh-in this morning, and she's now lost a total of 14 lbs. - or 1 stone as the Brits would say. I take some of the credit because I've been planning her meals. But, she deserves about 95% of the credit due to the fact that she hasn't cheated on the diet even once in the past two months.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Exactly on time. How Swiss!

Our washing machine broke again, and I had to arrange for a repairman to come out and fix it. He called me this morning at about 7:45 a.m. to tell me that he would be at our house at 11:00 a.m.
At precisely 11:00 a.m., I looked out the window and saw the repairman walking toward our front door. When I opened the door, I heard a church bell ringing in the distance to signal the top of the hour. The repairman took a quick look at the machine and told me it would take about an hour to fix.
I did a couple of things around the house, and at 12:00 he called out to me to let me know that he was done. I thanked him, opened the front door to let him out, and I heard the same church bell ringing again....noon!
I'm sure he probably went to his truck, ate his lunch, drove to his next appointment, and arrived there..exactly on time.

Christmas in...October?

I just came back from OBI. One of the fluorescent bulbs in our bathroom burned out, and I had to go pick up a new one. While I was in the store, I walked past a display of Christmas decorations, artificial trees, etc.
It's October 27th. What the Hell...?

I'm a gambling man!

I had to go to Dr. Buser's (pronounced Boozer) office this morning to pick up some pills for Dominique. She takes one and one-half pills per day for her thyroid. When given the choice of which quantity to buy, I chose the 1000 pill container because it was the lowest cost per pill. Who cares that the 1000 pills will last for 667 days (1 year and 10 months), or until Dominique is fifteen years and four months old. I was inspired by Toby last night. He's fifteen years and two months old, and...still kicking!
I figured that it was a good gamble to take. Plus, I didn't want to think about the alternative...

I took care of a couple of good old boys last night.

Our neighbors Dave and Jane have two old dogs - Sam and Toby. Sam is a Black Lab, and he is 14 years old. Toby is a Golden Retriever, and he's an older than dirt 15 years old. I normally walk them three times per week. However, since Dave and Jane were both in the U.K. last night, I was called into feeding and sleep-over duty. Along with the two old guys, Dave and Jane also have two Siamese cats with attitudes - Schnüffi and Nuni (I think that's how you spell their names), and I was given the task of feeding them also. I'm happy to report that everything went very well. Toby did have to go out at 1:00 a.m. for a quick pee, but that was better than the alternative which would have been me having to clean up a pee accident upon waking up. Actually, I only faced two challenges.
First, I had to kick Schnüffi and Nuni off of my bed that Dave was kind enough to set up for me in the living room. They had no interest in giving up the bed, and they gave me quite a bit of lip when they had to be forcibly removed. Second, Toby parked his old carcass on the floor at the head of my bed right under my pillow, and he proved to be quite the windbag. I can honestly say that prior to last night, to my knowledge, I had never in my life been woken up by a fart smell. I can no longer make that claim. Toby saw to it that I woke up four times. Sam and the cats were nowhere to be seen. So, it was either Toby or me, and I'm blaming Toby.
I woke up at about 6:30 a.m., and neither one of them seemed very interested in going outside. However, fresh air was of utmost importance to me by this point, so I became the militant dog sitter and forced them to leave the comfort of their warm home for a rather crisp morning here in Reinach.
The cats even joined us for our walk. One big happy family!

Monday, October 25, 2004

It's (almost) official. We're (probably) moving!

We've only told a few people so far, but we've decided to move. We put in an application for an apartment in Binningen (which is only about a seven-minute drive from where we live now), and I found out today that our application has been approved. Now, all that remains, is for us to sign the contract. Assuming that the rental contract is in order, we'll be moving into the new place either on February 1st or March 1st. The reason why the date is not certain is because we have to give a three-month notice when moving out of our current place. If the landlord receives our notification letter by this Friday, then we'll be moving out of here by January 31st. However, we still have to receive the rental contract for the new place, look it over (remember, it'll be written in German), sign it, and return it to the new landlord. There's no way we're giving up our current place until we sign the new contract. So...we just have to be patient and wait for the new contract.
We're excited about the new place. The living area is all on one level (easier for our old Hund) instead of the seven levels we currently have, and above us will be a great private rooftop garden that will be all ours! As soon as the contract is signed and our notice is given, then begins the arduous task of moving. Fortunately, we don't have as much stuff as we did before we moved from Chicago to Switzerland. However, it's still going to be a hassle. I'm sure there'll be a lot of frustration that will be well documented in future editions of this blog!

Friday, October 22, 2004

It's a beautiful day...

...because it's sunny, and Mrs. TBF is back from America. She arrived just after noon - minus one suitcase. The baggage handlers at Heathrow Airport displayed their prowess once again by failing to transfer Mrs. TBF's suitcase even though they had three hours to do so. Although, it's not that big of a deal. The next flight from Heathrow comes in at 17:00.
Mrs. TBF came bearing gifts. She brought me a couple of USA Todays (the thick U.S. version as opposed to the dinky European version). Even though I think the USA Today kind of sucks as far as journalism goes, I do enjoy the non-news parts of it. Also in the booty was some Bulgari BLV parfum for me from duty-free, and several CDs. Among the CDs was a Bob Seger's Greatest Hits CD from 1994. Ever since he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I've been coveting that CD, and I've been unable to find it Europe. Actually, I take that back...I did see it at the Virgin Mega Store in Paris, but it was a ridiculous 25 Euros. If you like Bob Seger at all...get it! It's packed with hits!!! Mrs. TBF's missing suitcase also contains a few packages of Snausages for Dominique. Her normal Party-Mix variety, plus a new flavor - Burger and Fries. Our baby's just going to have to be patient.
I'm blowing off the gym today, but I WILL GO TOMORROW MORNING! I only went twice this week, and I must go at least three times in a week or I feel guilty. Also, I experience an interesting phenomenom when I don't work out...I lose weight. When I'm working out four-five times per week, I actually carry a higher weight. Since I had a cold over the past two weeks, I only worked out about twice per week. This resulted in a 2 kilo weight loss. I'm flirting with the 110 kg./242 lb. mark, and that's too light for The Big Finn. The Svelte Finn just does not have the same ring to it!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Heat! That's what I'm talkin' about (among other things)!

Our furnace has not worked properly since we moved in. Every now and then it would suddenly go out. Every time this would happen I'd have to go into the basement, press a button, and everything would be hunky-dory. Sometimes it would go out two or three times in a day, and then it wouldn't go out for a month or so. That was, until a couple of days ago. Suddenly, when I'd press the reset button, it would go back on for about thirty minutes, then....nothing. The house wouldn't get cold, but since we have hot water heat, the hot water would eventually disappear, and we'd be taking cold showers.
So, today I called the service company (Rosenmund), and a nice gentleman came out and repaired the furnace. He was in the basement clanking away for about an hour or so between the furnace and King's litter box. Luckily, I had cleaned the litter box right before the guy came, and King didn't feel the need to use it while the man was down there working. Otherwise, the repairman would have experienced a natural gas smell that even he had probably never before encountered. Anyway, the furnace is only temporarily repaired. A part needs to be ordered, and it will be installed next week. After the repairman left, I noticed that it was suddenly too warm in the house. I had to actually adjust the temperature on my thermostat which is a pretty rare thing. If I had to guess, I'd say the thermostat in our living room is adjusted maybe two or three times per winter. This is a far cry from my mother-in-law Jo who adjusts her thermostat two to three times per half-hour sitcom.
Mrs. TBF, as you probably know, was in Chicago last week visiting with family and friends. One of things that drove her crazy when she was staying at Jo's house was that Jo has this irresistable urge to get up from the sofa about every ten minutes to adjust the temperature on her thermostat. Let me tell you, I've witnessed this phenomenon many times, and I have to say that it is pretty high on the annoy-O-meter. No matter how many times you try to tell her that the whole reason for the thermostat's existence (especially a programmable thermostat like she has) is to maintain a fairly constant temperature, she just won't listen to/believe you. Mrs. TBF swears that she heard Jo adjust the thermostat right before she went to bed, DURING THE NIGHT, and first thing in the morning (although Jo claimed that the early morning beeps came from the microwave). Now that I think about it, whenever Jo comes to visit us, she must teeter on the edge of insanity. First of all, every radiator has a dial on it so that you can raise or lower the heat. This dial goes from 1 to 5. I doubt, however, if Jo touches the one in the guest room because...
1) she has no idea what temperature the numbers correspond to 2) she's afraid she'll cause some kind of explosion if she touches the thing. Secondly, the one thermostat in our house that controls the living room is in Celsius. I know for certain that Jo has no clue what 20ºC means, and that she's afraid that if she turns the temperature up to 25ºC she'll...cause some kind of explosion. Fear of explosion, being high on Jo's list of fears, results in her just doing/saying nothing. The end result is that she just stays cold. This in turn, ends up on her post-visit list of complaints.
The list of complaints is never disclosed to us directly by Jo. However, we can always count on her revealing the list to Perry and Renee (my brother-in-law and sister-in-law) upon her return to Chicago. They, in turn, immediately reveal the list to us. What was on last year's list you ask?
1) "The house was too cold!" (I say it's just thermostat-adjustment withdrawl.)
2) "We walked too much." (I did actually make her walk seven minutes to and from the tram a couple of times, but I usually drove her into town and paid exorbitant parking fees.)
3) "We ate dinner too late." (I'm sorry, but I'm just not ready to eat dinner at 3:30 p.m.)
4) "TBF makes fun of me." (Guilty! I have to admit that one time I did hear her go into the guest bathroom, and I couldn't help calling out that I could hear her through the walls and would she please light a match! However, this was an isolated incident, and I think that overall I'm a pretty good son-in-law.)
How the heck did I end up talking about all this? Who knows? What's important is that the furnace is working again, and I probably won't have to touch the thermostat again until Christmas.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Tuesday Night Casserole...on a Monday night!

I am making one of my all-time favorite comfort foods for dinner tonight - Tuesday Night Casserole (a.k.a. T.N.C.). Yes, I realize I'm commiting a slight breach of etiquette by making it on Monday night, but I will be having the leftovers for dinner tomorrow night, so it's legit.
My family called it Tuesday Night Casserole when I was growing up because we'd usually have it on piano lesson nights which were always on Tuesdays. It was the perfect piano lesson night food because: it was quick to make, it contained all major food groups, it tasted good, and it took one-hour and fifteen minutes to bake (enough time to: throw it in the oven, drive five minutes to piano lessons, take two 30-minute piano lessons - one for me and one for my sister, drive home, eat!). It's one of those nice childhood memories that will kind of stick with me forever from growing up in good old Wheeling, IL. Yes, I remember it like it was yesterday...driving with my mom and sister in the 1973 orange Vega to the music store that was next to the liquor store and across the street from the K-mart, squeezing into the tiny practice room with my teacher who always smelled of bourbon and cigarettes, her leaving the room every now and then to refill her "coffee" cup, her gigantic platinum blonde wig, and then...home for some T.N.C.!!!
Well, the piano skills have waned (although I WILL begin playing again someday!). However, T.N.C. lives on! It has to be one of the easiest dinners in the world to prepare. Mrs. TBF claims she isn't crazy about it, but she finally broke down and told me once that she wouldn't mind having it once per month. Now, that Mrs. TBF is on Weight Watchers (she's lost 12.5 pounds so far), T.N.C. is off-limits. So, I tend to make it when she's out of town. Here's the recipe if you want to give it a try:

Preheat your oven to 375ºF/190ºC. Take 2 lbs./1 kilo ground meat (beef, pork, mixed, whatever) and add a couple of eggs, a handful of bread crumbs and whatever things you would add when preparing ground beef for hamburgers (i.e. minced onions, Worcestershire Sauce, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, black pepper, parsley, etc.). Mix well and mash into the bottom of a 9" x 14"/23 cm x 36 cm casserole dish. Drain a 28 oz./850 ml. can of green beans and spread evenly over the meat. Drain a 14 oz./425 ml. can of sliced mushrooms and spread evenly over the green beans. Take one can of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup (don't add any water) and spread evenly over the mushrooms (if you're reading this in the Basel area, you can buy Campbell's Soup at Globus). Finally, take a bag of frozen Tater Tots (not sure of the size in the U.S....probably about 1 lb.) and spread evenly over the top (In Switzerland, you can use a 600 gram bag of Pommes Duchesse from Coop, or any backofenfertig potatoes.). As the Brits would say...bung it into the oven for one-hour and fifteen-minutes, and....Bob's your uncle!

Another fine weekend of gastronomy...

As you might have read, Mrs. TBF and I were in Paris last weekend where I enjoyed steak tartare, frog legs, pig ears, etc. This weekend, Mrs. TBF was in Chicago visiting with family and friends, and I stayed behind to take care of the beasts and fend for myself. Fortunately, our friends came to the rescue.
On Saturday night, I went to a wine tasting party hosted by John and Rammy. There were 20+ people there, and we sampled many different wines and enjoyed a tasty buffet that Rammy prepared. The wine tasting is actually a competition (you have to guess the country, region, year, price, etc. of each wine) with prizes for the winners and the losers. My partner and I ended up being tied for last (I'm blaming my cold and a general lack of knowledge about wines), but my booby prize ended up being a nice bottle of wine. I had a good time, and I left with a full tummy and a nice wine buzz.
On Sunday, I woke up at about 10:30 a.m. and proceeded to be a sofa spud for most of the day. The highlights of the day were taking Dominique for a couple of walks and staring at (and not doing) my pile of German homework. At 7:00 p.m. I took the 15 second walk over to Dave and Jane's house where I enjoyed a nice dinner featuring steak and kidney pudding. It was my first time enjoying this British fave, and I have to say that I look forward to enjoying it again someday. It's kind of like chicken pot pie, but it's made with steak and kidneys (duh!) and the crust is made of suet. I know people from North America think of suet as something that you feed birds, but I'm thinking that the stuff that I was eating wasn't exactly the same thing. Jane showed it to me, and it comes in a bag and looks like little pellets. If I had to guess, I would say that it's kind of like Crisco shortening in pellet form. But whatever it is, it makes a damn fine steak and kidney pudding! Actually, the suet is what makes it a pudding....otherwise it would be steak and kidney pie. I left Dave and Jane's a little after 10:00 p.m., walked Dominique, sat in front of the T.V., and then suddenly noticed that it was 2:00 a.m. (Mrs. TBF being out of town causes me to return to my natural night-owl ways). I set my alarm for 8:30 a.m. so that I'd be able to make it to my 10:15 a.m. yoga class, and guess what? I slept through the alarm this morning and woke up at 10:12 a.m. I have to say that I had a good happy tummy sleep. It must have been the suet.
That's it for now. I have a pile of German homework to finish so that I'm ready for my lesson tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m.!

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Here's a thought....

The Bush Administration has lowered taxes and increased spending resulting in a massive deficit. Kerry is being portrayed by Bush as a tax and spend liberal. Here's a thought: How about balancing the budget by increasing taxes a little bit and spending a little bit less. I brought this up to one of my neighbors yesterday, and he told me that this approach can be dangerous for the economy. However, he didn't really give me a convincing reason why this is such a bad idea (he's a scientist, not an economist). I mean, I don't really relish the thought of paying higher taxes since the U.S. government doesn't really have that good of a track record in cutting the fat, but I tend to think in terms of personal finances. If your pay is suddenly reduced, do you go out an spend a ton of extra money? No. If your pay goes up significantly, sure you can start spending a ton of extra money but you're going to have to keep earning more and more so that you can keep feeding the monkey (especially if you have debt). What's that matter with earning more money and paying off your debt. Then, after you've paid off your debt you can start spending the money you were using to pay off your debt to buy some luxuries. As a far as I'm concerned, that just makes financial sense. Am I over-simplifying things, or am I just taking crazy pills or something?

Friday, October 15, 2004

It's time to talk some SMACK!!!

I just received my second e-mail from a Packer fan pointing out that Brett Favre's name is spelled with two "t"s instead of one (referencing an earlier blog entry). So, I misspelled Bert Fart's name...BIG DEAL! How about focusing on the fact that he's about two-thirds of the way down the hill, and the lowly Chicago Bears destroyed Bart and the equally-lowly Fudge Packers earlier this year? At least I admit that the Bears suck as much as, or even possibly more than, the Packers suck (although I do enjoy the fact that the newspapers list the teams with identical records alphabetically putting the Packers at the bottom of the division behind the Bears). Hey Green Bay Packer fans, you're in denial. Welcome to the bottom rung of the NFL. Now there's absolutely nothing worthwhile going on in Green Bay. You don't believe me? Check out the official Green Bay website. Sorry Gretchen, I'm not really this mean....just talkin' some smack!

To France and 8:00 a.m.!

I drove Mrs. TBF to Basel Airport this morning. She is flying to Chicago via London. As I said in yesterday's blog, she's going to spend the weekend with family in Chicago, and then she's going on to NJ next week for work. I dropped her off at about 7:00 a.m., and then I took a quick turn out of Basel Airport and headed to the French border. To my surprise, there were actually three French border crossing guards standing at the border smoking cigarettes. They motioned me to stop, said something to me in French which I didn't understand, and then I just said "Cinq à Sec" (the name of the dry cleaner I go to in France). This seemed to satisfy the guard since he motioned with his cigarette that I was free to enter the country (Or, he was offering me a cigarette. I'm not really sure which one.). I dropped off my clothes and picked up the clothes from last week and was in and out of Cinq à Sec in about three minutes. Let me just point out that dry cleaning in Switzerland is EXTREMELY expensive. And, when you drop off the clothes they tell you that it will be TWO WEEKS (I kid you not!)!!! If you would like "express" service, then it takes about four days and there is a surcharge. Cinq à Sec, on the other hand, is about half the price (except for shirts, which are only a little cheaper than in Switzerland for some reason), and the clothes are ready the NEXT DAY!!! And, it's on the way to the French grocery store I go to, so it's all good! By the way, is it wrong that I don't work, have time to iron, but still bring my shirts to a dry cleaner? Some of the neighbors have given me guff in the past, but I'm sorry - my shirts are big, and I REFUSE to iron them.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Don't you just love free stuff???

I just called Dyson in Zürich to order a replacement part for our vacuum cleaner. I had this one part break about two years ago, and it has broken again. When I called Dyson, she apparently looked at her Caller-ID and immediately had all of my information right in front of her. I told her that I had ordered the same part a couple of years ago, and she asked me if it was the "telescoping wand" before I even had a chance to tell her. Then, she told me that there would be NO CHARGE because it was the second time I had to order the part. Had I known that this would be the case, I would have ordered the part when it broke a year ago instead of holding it together with duct tape. A few weeks ago, my neighbor - Diagnostic Dave - even tried repairing it with some industrial strength epoxy (it held for about four minutes).
By the way, vacuum cleaner in German is Staubsauger. The word Staub is actually dust in English. That means that Rusty Staub - the former Montreal Expo and New York Met - was actually Rusty Dust.
Even worse than that, if you translate my last name from Finnish to English, it becomes Log Hill. You know what my last name would be in German???? Klotzhügel!!! Ah, no thanks!

I've been sick...

I woke up on Monday morning with a sore throat. I ended up going to my yoga class on Monday morning, but I could tell that I was starting to feel worse. Now the sore throat is gone, but I've developed a bad cold. I had to skip going to the gym on Tuesday and Wednesday, and I'll probably skip it today too.
Tomorrow morning, meine Frau leaves for America. She's going to visit her family in Chicago over the weekend, and then she heads for New Jersey (I think) for business. She'll be back next Friday. Hopefully she won't come down with my cold for her trip.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The French definitely got it goin' on!!!

We're back from our little weekend jaunt to Paris. We were only there (together) for two nights, but we managed to cram in quite a bit of sightseeing.
We're not really museum people, but we actually took in three museums over the course of the weekend - the Picasso Museum (excellent!), the Dali Museum (excellent and disturbing at the same time!), and the Pompidou Center (modern, abstract, disturbing art at its finest!).
We also enjoyed some fine dining. On Friday night, we ate at a little bistro called Le Severo which was featured in the International Herald Tribune. The food menu isn't that large, but the wine list features over 200 different types of wine. It was small (only seats 24 people), and the staff consisted of the owner and the chef. Neither one spoke English, but we managed with pointing, rudimentary French, and sign language. I enjoyed steak tartare avec pommes frites, and Mrs. TBF enjoyed a bleu steak (soooo French...I swear they sear it for about 10 seconds per side, and the center is basically purple). The food was washed down with some nice wine. When I think back about it, Friday was about as perfect a day as I can imagine - Paris, Picasso, sauna, cigar, steak tartare, and marital relations all in one day...superb!
On Saturday, after a nice breakfast at the hotel we took the Metro to Montmartre to check out Sacré-Coeur, some artists' booths, and the Dali Museum. We were also suprised to find an excellent farmers' market selling great moldy cheeses, sausages, wine, etc. After Montmartre, we went back to the hotel. I was tired, so I decided to take a nap. Mrs. TBF took this opportunity to do "a little shopping". About two hours or so later, I woke up when I heard our room's doorbell ringing. In came Mrs. TBF toting a bag full of lingerie and a big Louis Vuitton shopping bag with a new handbag inside! I think I'll avoid taking naps in the future.
On Saturday night, we had another sauna, enjoyed a bottle of champagne in our room, and then we went downstairs for dinner. I had frog legs for a my starter, and pig ears for the main course. That's right...pig ears!!! It was kind of like eating a cross between bacon and a fatty pork chop. It was really good! However, I think it's going to take awhile to unclog the arteries, so I think maybe having them about once in my lifetime is about all my heart can handle.
On Sunday, we checked out of our hotel, and then we went to the Pompidou Center to take in more art. Between the Louvre, Orsay, and Pompidou Center, I don't think any other city in the world comes close to Paris when it comes to art! After having our fill of art, we took a taxi to Charles de Gaulle, and then it was back to Basel.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

What's with all the construction?

Over the past few months, I've noticed that the Basel area has become inundated with road construction. I'm not liking it!
This morning, I drove Mrs. TBF to Basel Airport for her flight to Paris. When we made it to a roundabout that's right by the airport, we saw that it was blocked off. There was no warning or anything - just a dead end. I had to circumnavigate, and I eventually made it to the airport at 6:58 a.m. for her 7:30 a.m. flight. She left a message at 7:04 a.m. to tell me that she was checked in and standing at the gate (I guess that's the advantage of Basel Airport being kind of on the small side). She just called (9:05 a.m.) from the baggage claim in Paris to let me know she arrived.
Tomorrow, I'm going to fly out to Paris to meet up with her for a little weekend trip. We've been to Paris a couple of times, but there's still so much we haven't seen. We have a couple of things planned, but nothing etched in stone. All I know for certain is that we are staying at Hotel Lancaster and eating dinner on Friday evening at a bistro called Le Severo that I read about in a restaurant review in the International Herald Tribune. It sounds like it's right up my alley (meat, meat, and more meat!), and I'm really looking forward to it. I'll report on the weekend adventure later.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Four years in Switzerland...and counting!

Just a quick note to point out that it was four years ago today that Dominique, King, and I arrived in Switzerland. Mrs. TBF had already been here for about 2½ months, but I stayed behind to sell the house and take care of loose ends. As a matter of fact, I think it was four years ago at this moment that we were all driving from Zurich Aiport to our home in Reinach. I was totally exhausted. When we made it home, we let King out of his crate and he made a bee-line for the litter box, I walked Dominique so that she could check out the Swiss pee-mail (Mrs. TBF coined that term. Damn! It's so should have been mine!!!), and then Dominique and I collapsed on a futon mattress on the floor (our furniture did not arrive until three days later). Mrs. TBF either went back to the office for a little while, or to the grocery store (or both) - it's all quite hazy now. Later that day we ate some sausages off of paper plates on a cardboard box that was in the middle of our empty living room. Ahhhhh, memories!

Are pimped rides allowed in Switzerland?

It's been Pimp My Ride week on MTV this week, and I told Mrs. TBF this morning that I want my ride (I can legally say my ride. It was her car in America, but when I registered the car in Switzerland, they put the registration in my name only. So, now it's my car!) pimped too. If you haven't seen the show, I highly recommend that you check it out. Rap star - Xzibit - selects people who have just the nastiest cars around. Then he takes these cars to a shop where they are totally rehabbed. I mean, they get $20,000+ overhauls. I can't stop watching it. The makeovers are impressive, but what I really enjoy is hearing the expressions that "the kids" are using these days to express their appreciation after their whips are totally blinged-out. Hey DOG, check it out! Snap!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

I am one big happy football fan!

I just read yesterday that Northwestern upset #7 ranked Ohio State this past Saturday afternoon. Along with the Bears having whipped the Packers a few weeks ago, my football season is officially complete. I don't care if either team wins another game. Neither team is really that good, but it's satisfying to know that the Buckeye and Packer fans are seething over this (I know you are!). Especially the Packer fans, like my old neighbor John (a transplanted Wisconsinite). He lived here for two years, and all I ever heard about was how great Bret Favre is and how the Packers had dominated the Bears for the past so-many years. Well, now the Packers suck just like the Bears, and Bret Favre is fading fast. Put that in your cheesehead hat, whatever it is you want to do with it. Now that our SKY satellite is hooked up again, I'll be watching the developments every Sunday night at 7 and 10 p.m.
This talk about John and the Packers just made me think about a story John told me one time that demonstrates his obsession with Bret Favre. One time he was at a bar in Green Bay with some buddies, and all of a sudden he noticed that Bret Favre and his wife (I said: "Are you sure it was his wife?", and John told me I was a blasphemer) were having lunch at a table over in the corner. "Out of respect for Bret", John decided not to hassle his hero. However, when Mr. & Mrs. Favre were finished and left, John noticed that Bret had left some of his French fries on the plate. So what did John do? He went over to the table, sat in Favre's still-warm seat, and....ate some of the leftover fries! He even thought (hopefully) he might have eaten a couple of half-eaten ones. When John told me this story, I was pretty amused (although I told him that I thought he needed psychological counseling).
Even though I grew up in Chicago, I wouldn't say that I'm the biggest Chicago Bears fan. However, it was pounded into my brain over those thirty-seven years I spent in HATE the Packers. Nothing would set John off more than me saying something like: "I think the Packers will win this weekend, but Favre's going to have a career-ending injury." Or, "this is going to be Favre's last year as a Packer. They'll probably try to trade him to the Bears...and the Bears won't want him." John wouldn't admit it, but I could feel the internal seething as he attempted to formulate some kind of comment about the Bears to get back at me.
Now, John, Jane, and the kids are in North Carolina. John's watching the Packers on DirecTV on his NFL Sunday Ticket package, and....the Packers suck!!! Bret Favre is a has-been!!! This will probably be Favre's last season!!!! And, the Bears beat the Packers!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Yesterday was a damn good day!

Actually, it started off kind of bad because I had to try to finish some last-minute German homework before my lesson. I couldn't quite get it all done (because I felt compelled to take a shower before leaving the house), so I had to go to my lesson without everything completed. However, Carmen - my teacher - actually seemed impressed (surprised?) with the amount of homework I had actually done. The lesson went well. My favorite quote was when she told me (in German of course) that she doesn't know how I do it (huh?!?!?), but my German actually improves significantly every week. I'm done with the second level of books, and now I'm officially in the home stretch of intermediate German. So the lesson was good, and I left my German school feeling pretty damn good about myself.
After my lesson, I went to pick up the watch that Mrs. TBF bought me for my birthday. We picked out a beautiful Breitling watch at Spinnler & Schweizer - one of Basel's many fine watch stores - this past weekend. The name of the store always reminds me of the "Spinner Olsen" joke my dad tells me, but I'll leave that one for a future blog entry. And yesterday, I went back to the store to pay for it (they give you quite a sizeable discount if you pay in cash). I told the lady who helped me (Frau Pflugi) that it was a birthday gift for me from my wife, so she gift wrapped it for me. Wasn't that nice of her? Then, she gave me a gratis Breitling baseball cap which was completely unexpected. Free handouts are so incredibly rare in Switzerland that it made the watch shopping experience all the more enjoyable. I don't know what possessed me to do this, but I told Frau Pflugi the story about how when I was a kid in Little League, my father had to slit my baseball cap and sew a piece of fabric into it to make it big enough to fit my gigantic head. Frau Pflugi gave the slightest hint of a chuckle (the equivalent to choking with laughter in North America), seemed a little bit uncomfortable with my small talk, and then I left Spinner Olsen...I mean, Spinnler & Schweizer with a warm, fuzzy feeling about having had worked my schtick on Frau Pflugi.
Now, you might think that that would be all that one could handle for one day. But NO!!! When I made it back home, I found that our full SKY satellite subscription had been reactivated!!!!!!!! We haven't had the full SKY package since May due to the fact that they somehow manage to catch people who have SKY outside of the U.K. (which is technically illegal). But, Phil (the guy from the U.K. who installed the system for us) managed to get our subscription back. So now we can, once again, enjoy our M*A*S*H reruns, the U.K. Food Network, Kerrang (heavy-metal/hard-rock music videos), laugh at Fox News' incredibly biased right-wing propaganda, etc. We were up until 11:30 p.m. watching T.V. Although I'm sure it won't be long until I'm once again complaining that there's nothing to watch.
So thanks, Phil. I take back all the m---------ers and as--oles I called you over the past few months. You're my hero! At least until the next time the satellite goes out.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

"How did it feel...."

" take a shower again?" That's what Mrs. TBF asked me on Monday evening. Now, mind you, this is not typical for TBF, but it was pointed out to me by Mrs. TBF that I did not shower or bathe for....4 DAYS!!! I rarely shower at home, because I always shower at the gym after my workout (usually four times per week). When you're a retired guy like me, you can usually skip some forms of personal hygiene without offending too many people. However, last week I decided at the last minute to skip my Friday workout due to lingering muscle pain from Thursday's Power Yoga class. And, before you knew it, it was Monday. Part of the problem was that we spent a quiet weekend at home, and we didn't really go out that much. So, there wasn't really a need to take a shower before going out to dinner, or to somebody's house. It was cool all weekend, and I didn't do any yardwork - so I never really built up a sweat. I don't know...bathing/showering just wasn't a priority. I did, however, take part in minor hygiene functions such as brushing my teeth, slapping on some deo, washing my face, etc. But, no bathing or showering...zilch, zippo, nada!!! And still no stank! What these people at my gym do to bring about such a wretched odor - I have no clue.
I'm kind of proud of my achievement actually. It's a new personal best...kind of caveman-like. Although I doubt Mrs. TBF shares my feelings.