Wednesday, June 30, 2004

I Had The BEST Pork For Dinner Last Night...

Last night I had something called Schwein Halssteak for dinner. If my German translation is correct, it means pork neck chop. It's like the ribeye steak of pork...boneless, marbled, superb. It was so good that I ate the entire 803 grams/1.75 lbs. at one sitting. I know, I'm a pig. But, it was so good that I ended up eating the last steak which I intended on making into a sandwich for lunch today. I've never seen this cut of pork before in the U.S., so maybe it's a Swiss thing. Also, it was pre-marinated and very garlicy. I've had premarinated stuff from Coop (our local grocery store) before, and Jo Ann's always told me the next day that I stink. So, now I only eat it when she's out of town.
Late last night, after my wonderful pork dinner, I threw a load of laundry into the dryer and discovered that it still wasn't working. If you remember, I had a repairman out here yesterday. After I determined that it definitely wasn't working, I recalled that the repairman did say things in German to me that I didn't understand, and he did type a lot of stuff into a lap top computer that he had with him (I guess that's standard equipment for appliance repairmen in Switzerland). So, I figured that what he had told me probably had something to do with him having to order a part. I called the appliance repair service today, and the lady told me something that sounded like "flyypa vindeli googen hassen KKRRRKKKCHCCCHKKKKKKKK flieeeesssssst." It was your typical totally undecipherable Swiss-German dialect which I describe as sounding like a person speaking English backwards while scraping ice off of their windshield. I'm not really sure what she said, but if I don't hear back from them in a couple of days I'm going to have one of my Swiss neighbors give them a call. I just ended up using my neighbors' dryer, so I'm all caught up with the laundry now.
It's another beautiful day here in Basel, and I think I'll go out and catch a few rays. Then, maybe a quick trip to Coop at Gartenstadt, dinner, and then I think Paul will be coming over to watch the Euro 2004 match tonight.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

It's A Beautiful Day in Basel, and Why Doesn't The U.S. Use The Metric System?!?!?

I went into town today (after waking up at 10:45 this morning)and picked up my watch right in the heart of downtown Basel - Marktplatz. The skies are blue, and it's about 27ºC/80ºF with low humidity today...just about perfect.
That brings up one of my pet peeves. Why is it that the U.S.A. is the only country in the world not using the metric system? I mean, Canada switched over in the early 70's. I have cousins in Canada who are a little younger than me, and they don't understand feet, pounds, ºF, etc. at all. The English do still use some of the imperial measures, but they understand metric far better than Americans. Although the English use stone (1 stone equals 14 pounds) which is absolutely, in my opinion, the dumbest thing I've ever heard of. For example, and English person will say they weigh "13 stone 2 pounds" instead of 184 pounds, or 83.6 kilos. What the hell is that?!?!?! It's bloody mad I tell you! I think the whole world should use one system....THE METRIC SYSTEM. It makes the most sense. Everything's based on units of 10, 100, or 1000...0º is freezing...100º is boiling...logical!
After picking up my watch, some Campbells Cream of Mushroom Soup at Globus (3.60 CHF, or $2.88 U.S. per can....extortion!!!) which is the only place you can find it around here, a hot dog at Brezelkönig, and some cash at the UBS bank machine, I headed home on the tram.
I take the tram a lot. It's one of the best things about living in Switzerland. The tram stop is about a 7-minute walk from our house, and it comes every seven or eight minutes and takes you to downtown Basel in about 20 minutes. You almost don't need to own a car here. As a matter of fact, a lot of people don't own cars. Last week, was a heavy driving week for me, and I only drove 110 km/about 70 miles the whole week. I doubt I've even driven 3,000 km (1860 miles) this year. Sometimes, I just get in the car and drive it to the car wash, go through the wash, and then drive it back home.
Anyway, I had to get back home to meet up with the repairman who was supposed to show up between 15:00 and 17:00 (that's 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.....don't even get me started on the advantages of using the 24-hour clock). Acting on a hunch, I decided that it would be best if I arrived at home early. And, my hunch was right...the repairman showed up at 14:35, while I was walking Dave and Jane's dogs - Sam and Toby. Actually, I was surprised when I called the repair service and they gave me a range of when the repairman would show up. Usually they give an exact time, and he shows up about one minute early. This time they gave me a two hour window, and the guy showed up twenty five minutes early.
So now it's approaching 17:00, and I have the whole evening ahead of me without really knowing what I'm going to do. Maybe I'll read a bit, listen to music, watch T.V...just relax with the pets. By the way, Dominique's gastrointestinal problem seems to have passed.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Just Waiting For Mrs. The Big Finn's Phone Call...

It's after midnight, and I'm just sitting around waiting for Jo Ann to call me from New Jersey.
I ended up giving Dominique the medicine for her "problem", and it seems to have worked wonders. I did give in and give her some food, but about half as much as usual.
I saw my neighbor Paul in his back yard, and I invited him over for a couple of beers. Usually I don't drink during the week, but I consider this to be a sort of holiday week because my gym is closed, so...what the heck. We had a couple of beers and just talked for a little while. He and the family are moving back to the U.K. next month after living in Basel for over four years. He's a fellow job-free man, but he has two kids to take care of. So, he doesn't exactly have the same carefree existence as The Big Finn.
I guess the big "event" for tomorrow (or I guess actually later today) is that I will head into downtown Basel to pick up my Tissot watch that had to be repaired. It's only 3½ years old, and it already needed a major overhaul. Everybody always talks about "Swiss Quality", but so far I've found that it's pretty much a sham. We have a very expensive Swiss coffee maker that broke a few months after the two-year warranty expired (requiring a few hundred dollars in repairs), and now my Swiss watch has broken. And it's not like I've worn the thing every day for the last 3½ years. So, tomorrow I'll pay 250 CHF/$200 U.S. for the repair of my Swiss "quality" watch. Perhaps I should just stick with my $30 Timex Ironman watch that's been running for years without any problems.

Dominique Has Diarrhea...

It's the start of a new week, and Dominique has diarrhea. I noticed it starting yesterday afternoon, but today it actually progressed to the very rare stage of her pooping in the house. Fortunately it wasn't too big of a mess. I was able to clean it up with a couple of paper towels, and then I brought her outside for the real explosion. I've gave her some medicine at 17:00, and the worst part is that I can't feed her now for 24 hours!! That's definitely going to be worse than the diarrhea. She's going to be begging for food every waking minute until tomorrow evening at 17:00.
The weekend started out on Friday night with a BBQ at David and Coletta's house. They're from Maryland, and they live three doors down from us. They moved here last August for a 1-year term which means that they'll be heading back to the U.S.A. pretty soon. It was a nice evening, and good food, drink, and fun was had by all.
On Saturday, Jo Ann played some tennis in the morning, and I just did some odds and ends around the house. In the evening, the Diethelms came over for a Juhannus celebration. I thought that Juhannus was the Finnish celebration for the longest day of the year, but Anne (she's Finnish) informed me that it's actually the name-day for the Finnish name - Juhanni. Certain days of the year correspond to different Finnish names in Finland (yes, there is a Timo day). So, Juhannus is actually the name-day for Juhanni, but it always comes around the summer solstice. Therefore, I think it's pretty much evolved into a summer solstice celebration too. Anne, Roger, and the kids brought over a bunch of food to go along with the stuff that Jo Ann and I made, and I really ended up eating a lot. After dinner, we lit a fire in our little patio fireplace. Of course the Finns actually light gigantic bonfires, but I didn't think the neighbors would be too excited about that. The best part for me was that I was able to speak Finnish with Anne and the kids. My Finnish has been getting pretty rusty, and I needed a little practice. I think that these German lessons I've been taking have affected the way I pronounce my Finnish words - which is not a good thing.
Yesterday (Sunday), Jo Ann left for NJ. She took the 12:46 train to Zurich Airport, and then she flew to NJ via London. She called me around 4 a.m. to let me know that she had arrived safely. Other than that, I didn't really do too much during the day. I smoked a cigar, and I had a beer with one of my neighbors (Steve)...that was pretty much it.
Today, I was woken up at the ungodly hour of 08:15 when Chris (my ex-next-door-neighbor) called me with a question. The rest of the day has been spent pretty much doing little odds and ends, making a few phone calls, doing laundry (but using our neighbor's dryer because ours is's being fixed tomorrow), and going to M Parc (our local shopping center...if you can call it that) for a few things. Oh, and also bringing Dominique out every hour or so to make sure she doesn't have an accident in the house.
Now that I mention it, she's just jumped off of the sofa. So, I guess I better bring her out again.

Friday, June 25, 2004

I Bought a Kick-Ass Hedge Trimmer...

I know it's not really that exciting for most people, but buying a new hedge trimmer that can cut up to a 1"-thick branch is pretty exciting stuff for a gardening geek like me. Yesterday started out with my neighbor Dave (he took a vacation day) and I driving Jo Ann to work. We then went to Géant in St. Louis, France to do a little grocery shopping. After dropping off our groceries at home, we went to IKEA (I needed some proper herring for silli salatti), and then we went to OBI. The real reason for our trip was to buy lawn mower oil for my new/used lawn mower. But, I couldn't pass up the Bosch hedge trimmer with "530w of POWER"!!!
I came home and cleaned house, and then I went out and helped Dave trim bushes for about an hour. Let me tell you, the Bosch makes for quick work when trimming bushes. Afterwards, Dave and I had a couple of beers on the patio to celebrate the purchase. Then Gill came over and joined us for a beer. In speaking with Gill, I was reminded that the Swiss schools finish up today (Friday, June 25th). So, I think that our neighbor will soon be turning into a ghost town. Even though I've lived here for over 3½ years, it still seems amazing to me that the Swiss will take a 3-4 week vacation. They pack up their cars, and then the whole family leaves for the mountains, or France, or wherever. The neighborhood becomes very quiet, and I actually look forward to it every year. It's not that I don't like my Swiss neighbors - I do. It's just that it's a nice change of pace.
Today, I have to do a few chores around the house, go to the gym, and then we go to Coletta and David's (three doors down) for a BBQ this evening at 18:30. So, it'll be kind of nice not having to cook this evening.
Yesterday, my computer monitor was doing goofy things. But, it appears that it was only a temporary glitch. My Yahoo! Web Hosting account is having some problems which is why I haven't updated the website for a while. Hopefully they'll return my e-mail message soon and let me know what the problem is. Also, our SKY sattelite is still giving us only the basic channels and the North American Sports Network. It's been that way for almost a month now, and I'm starting to get pretty fed up with the fact that our contact in the U.K. doesn't appear to be doing anything about it. I'll try to reach him again today. Luckily, we've been able to watch baseball and Euro 2004. However, I miss my M*A*S*H reruns and Kerrang (music video channel). Jo Ann misses the UK Food Network.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

patio furniture was ordered, and now it has to be re-ordered...

I went to Möbel Roth yesterday and ordered our teak patio furniture set. I thought it was all taken care of, and then I received a call around 17:00 saying that the table is no longer in stock. I was given the choice of taking the outdoor/weathered table at a reduced price, another similar table that is double the price, or another table that is slightly different that is actually a little cheaper. I'm going back today around 10:30 to figure out what to do. Actually, it's kind of funny. One thing I've found in Switzerland is that stores do not really carry any kind of inventory. I mean, who couldn't run a profitable business if they didn't have to carry a lick of inventory. Also, stores don't really offer rain checks. If something's on sale and then they run out of it, that's it - you're out of luck! Finally, large stores order a certain amount of stock, and then that's it. For example, last year when the weather was approaching 40ºC, OBI - the German/Swiss version of Home Depot - was telling people that they were all out of fans (no air conditioning in Switzerland) and that no more would be ordered this year. Imagine that!!! You want to buy something, and the store won't make any effort to satisfy the customer. I think back to my working days as a "sales professional" and I think about how much easier my job would have been if I could have taken this approach.
The weather's been kind of crappy for the past few days - cool with passing showers. However, it looks like it's going to improve for the weekend - which is good. Anne (Finnish) and Roger (Swiss) are coming over for a small Juhanus celebration. Juhanus is a Finnish mid-summer celebration where you traditionally light a bonfire, and I'm not sure really what you eat. I think it might be makkara (Finnish sausage), but I'm not sure. Anyway, I'm planning on grilling some sausages, making silli salatti, and then I'll consult with Anne as to what else we should have. We'll light a fire in our patio fireplace, and maybe have a nip or two.
Today, after going to sort out the patio furniture, I'll go to the gym, walk Dave and Jane's dogs, and then I'm making Niçoise Salad (or Nik-o-see as my neighbor Andy said in Monte Carlo when ordering it at a restaurant after a few beers). It doesn't sound like much, but if I go to the gym by tram it takes about three hours door to door. It takes a half hour to get to the gym, two hours to work out, and a half hour to get back. Then, I walk the dogs which takes about a half hour. By then, it's approaching 17:00, I relax for about a half hour, and then I start making dinner (which reminds me, I have to take the tuna out of the freezer).
Other than that, not too much is going on right now. Jo Ann and I kind of figured out the travel schedule for the rest of the year. Jo Ann leaves for NJ on business this Sunday, and she returns on Thursday around noon. We'll be in Brussels/Bruges for a 4-day vacaton in mid-July. We might take an overnight trip to Lugano (southern Switzerland) in early August, and a trip to Nyon and Montreux in late August. Then, in mid-September, we'll probably go to Rome for a long weekend. This will be followed by Jo Ann going to NJ the next week on business, and then Arkansas (of all places) the week after that on business. In October, Jo Ann has a conference in Paris, and I'll probably tag along at the tail end of it. In November, Jo Ann has a business trip to Kuala Lampur, and the following week I think she's going to be in Prague. I'm thinking of going to Chicago around November 12-19, and then I think we'll probably end up going to Vienna for a long weekend around the first weekend in December. It's still not absolutely final, but the plans appear to be firming up a bit - which is good.
That's it for now. Take the tuna out of the freezer...TAKE THE TUNA OUT OF THE FREEZER!!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

My First Earthquake!!!

We had an earthquake just after 01:00 this morning. Jo Ann had been out with some work colleagues, and she didn't get home until after midnight. So, we got to bed kind of late. Just when I was falling asleep, this rumbling sound woke me up. The rumbling got louder and louder, and then this little metal window sculpture which is on our patio door began to rattle. Then, it was over. I think it only lasted for about 2-3 seconds. As far as pets being able to predict earthquakes - not ours. Dominique was snoring away throughout the ordeal, and I have no idea where King was.
This morning, Jo Ann woke me up right when she was leaving for work. Usually Dominique and I walk with her to the tram in the morning, but sometimes she lets us sleep in. She called at 09:00 to wake me up, and she told me that she found out that the earthquake was 3.8 on the Richter Scale, and the epicenter was only a few kilometers away in Pratteln. So, there you have it - my first earthquake experience. I think there have actually been a couple of earthquakes since we moved here, but this was the first one I ever felt.
Now, it's about 10:30. Dominique and I just had our morning walk, and I've had a couple of cups of coffee. I'm ready to begin my day. I have to go to the furniture store and put in the final order for our patio furniture (they close for lunch from noon to 13:00 which is pretty common around here), do a quick house cleaning, and then make some dinner. Jo Ann is home for dinner tonight and tomorrow night, and then she has another dinner out on Thursday. She was actually supposed to be in Ljubljana, Slovenia tonight, but she had to cancel the trip because she's too busy at work.
Yesterday ended up being a fairly lazy day for me. I had lunch, walked Dave and Jane's dogs (Toby and Sam)which I do three times a week, worked out at the gym, watered the garden, ate some leftover curry for dinner, read magazines while watching England defeat Croatia 4-2 in Euro 2004.
-Reinach, Switzerland

Monday, June 21, 2004

It Was a Pretty Uneventful Weekend...

We had one of those weekends where we didn't really do too much.
On Friday, Jo Ann came home from work fairly early, and we had some dinner. I made some pasta with pesto sauce (pesto from the freezer made with basil from the garden), and endives. The endives were excellent. It's a recipe that Dave and Jane often use which is just basically endives baked with lardons, bay leaves, and garlic oil....easy, and very tasty. Now that I think of it, I don't know if I every ate endives before I moved to Switzerland. After dinner, we kind of just relaxed, and we went to bed fairly early.
On Saturday, I woke up early (08:24) because some kids were playing outside making a ridiculous amount of noise for that early on a Saturday morning. I saw who two of the boys were, and they're ON MY LIST! We think our neighbor, Sammy, was one of the kids. But, when he was confronted later that morning, he denied it. Next time, I will have digital evidence!!! I guess I really shouldn't complain too much. Afterall, I think there's been a lot of noise coming from our backyard on occasion when we've had a fire on the patio. I guess the main things we actually did on Saturday were that we went to Möbel Roth and picked out a new teak patio furniture set, went to Coop and bought some groceries, and then we had Simon (Jo Ann's boss) over for dinner. I went to pick Simon up, because he gave me his lawn mower (he doesn't have a lawn anymore) and I had to pick it up. Rosemarie and the kids are in Cyprus for two weeks, so Jo Ann figured that we should feed Simon. We ended up having a curry, and then we watched the Euro 2004 match (that's soccer for everybody in America and Canada) between Holland and the Czech Republic. The Czechs actually came back from a 2-0 deficit and won the game 3-2. One thing I have to say...
Growing up in America, I pretty much shared the opinion of most people from North America that soccer is a boring sport. However, since I started watching Euro 2004, I've decided that it's not actually that bad. I'm not going to go out and buy season tickets for FC Basel or anything, but I can now actually stand to watch a game. Sure, there's not enough scoring (which could be resolved if they eliminated calling offsides), but it does have its moments of excitement.
Yesterday, Jo Ann wasn't feeling too well. She's been battling a cold/allergies for the past week, and she was coughing a lot. So, we just stayed at home. We were going to go to the Art Basel show at the Messeplatz, but we blew it off and just had a lazy day. I smoked a cigar in the backyard (while Jo Ann told me I stunk, as usual), Jo Ann did some stuff for work, she made a pizza for dinner, and then we watched the Euro 2004 match between Spain and Portugal (1-0...exciting stuff!!!).
I had a tough time falling asleep last night. Maybe it was because I drank a cup of coffee around 21:30, and also because I had engaged in very little physical activity throughout the day. So, I listened to Absolution (by Muse) on my headphones...twice. And, I think I finally fell asleep around 02:00.
This morning Dominique and I walked Jo Ann to the tram around 07:45. It's time to get going...This is the last week my gym is open before the two-week summer holiday. Imagine that people in North gym actually shuts down for two weeks in the summer. They say it's so that they can clean it and do normal maintenance, but I think it's so that everybody can take vacation at the same time.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

The Big Finn begins his blog on June 17, 2004...

Good afternoon...
I'm setting up a blog today, and I'm going to attempt to chronicle the life of The Big Finn.
Since I'm only 41, and have been retired for going on 1,400 days now, people often ask me: "What do you do all day?" Well, this blog/diary is going to be my attempt to keep you all posted on the minutiae of The Big Finn's life.
-Reinach, Switzerland June 17, 2004