Thursday, April 28, 2005


I subscribe to a daily "On This Day" e-mail in order to quench my thirst for useless trivia. One of the things listed for today involved our alma mater - Northwestern University. Here's one of the useless bits of trivia I picked up today that is now "...adding another strand to the old Duder's head.":

April 28, 1994 - Northwestern University announced the discovery of the gene that controls the "Biological Clock" (Circadian Rhythm).

When I saw the words "Circadian Rhythym", I was immediately reminded of another day in history - March 6, 2002 - to be exact. This little snippet of stupid banter comes from our "Quote Book."
We began keeping a book of quotes when we moved to Switzerland in 2000. Basically, the purpose of the book was to write down quotes by us and our neighbors that were blurted out after drinking a few beers on the patio. Typically, somebody would spout out some words of wisdom (at least they seemed wise at the time), and then somebody else would say: "...get the book!" There is only one rule: One quote per person per 24 hour period. So, my quote from March 6, 2002?

"I've never consciously fought the Circadian Rhythm."
- TBF 06.03.02 21:49

I have no idea why I said it, but somebody else at our patio table obviously thought it to be worthy of "the book."
Now, as I'm looking back over the book, I notice that most of the quotes are either verging on the edge of insanity ("Hey, I'm a seed - a watermelon seed." - James F. August 1, 2001), or too vulgar for a family oriented blog such as mine (TBF: "Hey John...I think Paul needs mouth-to-mouth resucsitation [sic]." Paul: ...choking & pointing at Mariah Carey on T.V... "I need [Canada's national animal] -to- mouth resuscitation!!!). This last quote being one of the more tame.
The Quote Book's been a bit idle lately. I think it's time I dusted it off and put it in an accessible place. Who knows what future words of wisdom will grace the book's pages.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Mrs. TBF's brush with celebrity...

I just spoke with Mrs. TBF, and she ran into a celebrity at her hotel in Singapore. It was none other than....Anthony Bourdain.
Unless you watch the TV Food Network or UK Food Network, you might have never heard of him. But, as it turns out, we watch his show - "A Cook's Tour" - all the time. If you haven't seen his show, I recommend that you watch it. It's really informative and entertaining at the same time. Not only do we watch his show, but Mrs. TBF is actually currently reading Tony's (I feel that we're on a first-name basis now) book - "Kitchen Confidential." Man....are we cooking geeks, or what?
She said she saw him coming out of the bar at the hotel and she looked at him and said something like, "....oh my God...I watch your show all the time." He spoke with her for a few seconds, probably recognized a total cooking geek when he saw one, shook her hand, and (in my opinion) probably RAN FOR HIS LIFE!!! Just joking about the "RAN FOR HIS LIFE" part. I don't really want to experience a frying pan upside my head when Mrs. TBF gets home on Friday.
I'm now laughing to myself as I think back about my earlier conversation with Mrs. TBF. It went something like this.

Mrs. TBF: "Guess which celebrity I saw in my hotel lobby this evening. It's somebody you really like!"

TBF: "Jon Anderson from Yes."

Mrs. TBF: "No!!! ...not a musician!"

TBF: [Damn!!! I guess that counts out Geddy Lee!] Jeff Bridges???"

Mrs. TBF: "Not an actor."

TBF: "President Bush?"

Mrs. TBF: "No!! [chuckling].

This banter went on for eons, and then she finally gave me enough clues so that I was able to guess Anthony Bourdain (sorry...Tony). Now, when I think back about it, it's kind of funny that the top three celebrities that come to my mind are: Jon Anderson, Jeff Bridges, and President Bush.
I mean, Tony's no slouch...but he's no Jon Anderson.

I am the God of Hellfire!!!

Well, actually, I just assembled our Swiss patio grill/fireplace on our rooftop garden. It's this big concrete monstrosity that weighs about 400 kilos/880 pounds, that we had moved from our old place to our new place in January. Fortunately, it comes apart into about 15 pieces. The Swiss use these things to grill food, but we have always just used it as a patio fireplace because I don't really want the thing to get all greasy.
The thing is a real bitch to assemble. Some the pieces have to weigh a good 50 kilos, and the concrete is rough. Also, some of the screws were a bit rusted and didn't want to go in. Thank God for WD-40! I must admit that the old muscles are a bit sore today, and my hands are a bit scuffed up. Plus, the manicure I got last week in Chicago is totally trashed (...right now my dad is shaking his head wondering where he went wrong!).
I'm not really sure if we're allowed to use this thing on our rooftop or not. But, it's assembled, and I'm planning on using it. I've asked a few Swiss people whether or not this thing is legal on rooftops or not, and nobody can/wants to really tell me for sure. I asked the building superintendent, and she said gave me kind of a "semi-postive" thumbs up. So, that's good enough for me. Really, the only people I'm worried about are the people who live in the 15-storey building directly across the river from us. What I'm worried about is that they'll see fire on the top of our building and call the fire department. But I guess I'll just have to worry about that when/if the time comes.
In the meantime, when it warms up just a little bit more (and the rain stops), we'll be lighting a fire. I'm hoping for this Friday night.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

An amazing thing happens...

...when you bring knives in to be sharpened - they're sharp when you pick them up. And by sharp...I mean REALLY SHARP!!
I brought our knives in to be sharpened for the first time since we bought them almost ten years ago. I think it's recommended to have good kitchen knives sharpened by a professional at least once per year. So, I guess we were a little overdue. Yesterday, I picked them up at the little knife store that's right by my gym (it's really convenient how everything is located right by my gym), and.....damn!!!! Before: they could barely slice a tomato. Now: I can drop a tomato onto the blade and it's sliced right in half.
Now, the only trick is to avoid a repeat of February 14, 1989 when Mrs. TBF arrived at our home in Elmhurst, IL after a 4-hour commute (due to a snowstorm) from work to find me standing in the kitchen, holding a blood-soaked dishtowel around my thumb which I was holding above heart-level to try to stop the river of blood that was flowing from the gash that I incurred when I was trying to get fancy slicing up an onion. I had seen a cooking show where this Asian chef was slicing an onion sideways, and I thought I'd do the same. I took a very sharp knife, grabbed the onion, hacked at the onion sideways, and the blade went right through the onion straight into my thumb. I remember it bleeding for hours, and oozing for a couple of days.
About a week later, I went to the doctor for a physical and showed him the thumb. He told me that I definitely should have had stitches (damn I felt tough!), but that it was too late now. Actually, I probably would have gone to the hospital crying like a sissy when it happened, but I figured that it would take hours in the snowstorm, so why bother?
Besides, if I had had stitches, I probably wouldn't have the cool scar on my thumb to serve as a reminder of the time I tried to get fancy with a sharp knife. And...the slicing into the thumb debacle would have just been postponed by sixteen years. And...I would have had the hassle of going to a Swiss hospital to have it stitched up. And...the Swiss doctors (as they do) would probably have insisted that I spend at least three nights in the hospital for observation.
I guess I'll just try to be careful with the knives!

Monday, April 25, 2005

Short, but sweet!

We're back home after a great (but short) weekend in Amsterdam. The weekend was made all the shorter by the fact that our Swiss flight left about 2½ hours late on Saturday afternoon, and we didn't make it to Amsterdam until about 6 p.m., thus reaffirming Mrs. TBF's opinion that Swiss Airlines sucks! All we had time for on Saturday evening was a one-hour canal cruise and dinner at our hotel - both of which were excellent. Our room rate included a multi-course dinner. I always hesitate to take these offers because I always think that it's going to be a rip-off. However, this was not the case at the Hotel de l'Europe. It was an excellent "surprise" multi-course dinner, there was a different wine with every course, it took about three hours, and we were stuffed. I would highly recommend the hotel because the service and location were excellent. Enough for the free advertising......!
We had perfect weather for sightseeing on Sunday. It was sunny and about 18ºC. We went to the Van Gogh museum, but we only spent about 45 minutes inside. It was just too nice to spend too much time in a museum. After the museum, we walked. We saw the usual touristy sights, shopped a bit, and pretty much just enjoyed seeing all of the "in-your face" sin that Amsterdam has to offer. We didn't really have a plan. Just a little shopping, stopped for a drink here and there, etc., etc. Something that I found really strange was the number of Finns that were in Amsterdam. I heard people speaking Finnish throughout the day. I mean, I must have heard Finnish being spoken in my vicinity more than ten times during the day. Then, back at the hotel, a desk clerk saw my last name and began speaking Finnish to me. It was strange.
On the advice of our Top Ten Amsterdam book, we went out for dinner at an Indonesian restaurant (there are a lot of Indonesians in The Netherlands) called Tujuh Maret which was about a 15 minute walk from our hotel. I'm happy to report, that this restaurant continued our streak of never having had a bad meal in Europe. We ordered the "Indonesian Rice Table" which was basically two different types of rice with about two dozen little dishes containing different types of toppings ranging from mild to spicy. They were all good, but the spicy toppings did bring on a full-blown Big Finn sweatfest (a common, but not-too-pretty, sight). I can now speak from experience - Indonesian food is spicier than Swiss food! We walked back to our hotel after dinner last night, packed, went to sleep, woke up this morning, had breakfast, checked-out of the hotel, took a taxi back to the airport, and we were back in Basel before noon.
I'll have to stop now. King is very annoyed that we left him alone this weekend (although I'm sure he likes it when Uncle Dave takes care of him). He's been rubbing against my shin for the past fifteen minutes, so I think I should pay a little attention to the old guy.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Cigars, tennis, and palm trees...

I've been unpacking little by little today, and I came across a ziploc bag containing two cigar humidor sponges (each one enough for a 50-cigar humidor) and three Drymistats (each one enough for a 25-cigar humidor). I'm not sure when (if ever) I'll have 175 cigars in my humidor, but I'm damn ready in case that day ever comes.
Two other strange purchases that I unpacked today: seven tubes of tennis balls (Mrs. TBF says they're double the price in Switzerland) and Nair face cream (since I couldn't find Nair For Men).
For the past few years, the ever-increasing density of ear hair has served as a harbinger of my impending middle-age. A few months ago I noticed an ad for Nair For Men in FHM magazine, and I thought that maybe I should look into it. To tell you the truth, I actually forgot about it until I went out to lunch with a couple of ex-coworkers - Dave and Ed. When I saw Ed, I noticed what appeared to be two medium-sized palm trees growing from his earlobes (give him a break...he's in his 60s), and I was instantly reminded of the need to buy a hair-removal product. After lunch, I stopped at Dominicks and bought some Nair. Later, I told my sister what I had bought, and she said, "...I kind of noticed you had an ear hair thing going on!" I guess I needed it worse than I thought.
I can't believe Mrs. TBF hasn't said anything about it in the past. I guess it just goes to show you that love is truly blind!

Did you miss me?

I just flew in from Chicago yesterday and MAN ARE MY ARMS TIRED!!! Well, at least the nieces like that joke... My flight left Chicago almost three-hours late due to electrical problems. That's always a comforting announcement when you're sitting in a plane on the tarmac....NOT!!! The pilot had to bring the plane back to the gate to be worked on. Then, during the flight, the intercom kept cutting out during the announcements, and I couldn't watch Matrix Revolutions because the screen had some kind of intereference (I guess they didn't solve all the electrical problems). Fortunately, I was able to watch "Spanglish" which I have to say was a pretty funny movie. In fact, I watched it twice and I have to give it The Big Finn Seal of Approval. I thought Téa Leoni was really good, but I thought Cloris Leachman was GREAT!!! That makes three good movies on my last three overseas flights. I watched "Anchorman" when I returned from Chicago last November (I laughed so hard on the plane that I had tears rolling down my cheeks and people were staring at me), and I watched "Meet the Fokkers" on the way to Chicago last week (it's one of those rare sequels that's better than the original!).
Anyway, I amazingly made my connection in Frankfurt with a couple of minutes to spare, and I was back in sunny Basel at 1:30 p.m. Actually, my luggage didn't make the connection, and that was probably a good thing seeing that I had bought a bunch of new clothes, shoes, etc. and I didn't have to walk through customs with a bunch of luggage. Instead, I just walked through the nothing to declare lane with my new 17" Powerbook in my backpack, and a small carry-on. I just checked my credit card online, and let's just say that the amount of stuff I brought back into Switzerland was "a bit" over the 300 CHF duty-free limit. We'll just leave it at that.
So, I had a good time in Chicago. I won't bore you with the details, but it was nice eating giant portions at the restaurants, seeing a huge assortment of clothes in my size at the various department stores, and of course seeing family and friends. I even saw my friend Carl whom I haven't seen since 1993.
Tomorrow I'll be back at Basel Airport. Mrs. TBF and I are going to Amsterdam for the weekend. So, I have to finish unpacking and then pack stuff for this weekend. We get back on Monday, and then Mrs. TBF leaves on Tuesday for Singapore.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Looking very Pope-like!

Dig it! Posted by Hello
Sorry. I couldn't figure out how to put these pictures together in one post...
Here's a picture of Renee - my sister-in-law.
I've always kind of chuckled when Renee has insisted in the past that she's related to Pope John Paul II. I just figured that lunacy came with being Polish. But, when I take a close look at this picture...I definitely notice a resemblance.
Please note that Renee is also wearing a Yellow Freight hat. Funny... Just yesterday, I spoke with another friend of mine who lives in Florida - Bret - and he told me that he just pulled a Yellow Freight golf ball out of his golf bag the other day.
Now I'm trying to remember...Did I ever actually give any of these sales promotions to customers?

Let the fun begin!

Dig it! Posted by Hello
Here's a picture of Perry. He's my brother-in-law, and he lives in Mt. Prospect, Illinois. Perry and Renee's house is about to receive an "extreme makeover" to say the least. I'm very amused to see that Perry and Renee are wearing Yellow Freight hats. I worked for Yellow as a sales rep from 1986-1993. At any given moment, I probably had about 50 of these hats which I gave to customers (and occasionally to friends and family members). I am proud to say that I do not even have one Yellow Freight hat in my house today.
If Perry and Renee still have Yellow Freight hats that I gave to them at least twelve years ago, then I would venture a guess that they have a lot of packing to do before they vacate their house!

Everybody should just speak English!

It certainly would make things a lot easier for me. I saw this article on Yahoo today. It seems that English is definitely on the rise in Switzerland. When I was at Berlitz yesterday signing us up for French lessons, I asked the lady in charge which language was studied by the most students at the school. I was expecting her to say German, but she said English. Apparently a lot of Swiss people go to Berlitz to study English so that they can get better jobs at international companies. I'm actually surprised that only 21.7% of Swiss people use English in their workplace. I guess it's probably because a large percentage of the people working in these places AREN'T SWISS! Plus, if the survey reported the percentage of Swiss people who actually SPEAK English instead of just speaking it at their work place, it would probably be something like 80%. This, of course, includes all of the Swiss people who say they speak "a little bit" of English.
Here's a typical conversation with a Swiss salesperson in a store:

TBF: Sprechen Sie Englisch?
Swissy: A little bit!
TBF: How much does this cost?
Swissy: That's an interesting philosophical question. Perhaps you should examine the juxtaposition of your conflict rather than extrapolating various nuances of an obliquious nature.
TBF: Huh?

Sometimes when I ask "...sprechen Sie Englisch?", they answer: "Of course!"

At this point, I run for my life.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Hey, Mrs. TBF - SURPRISE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mrs. TBF is currently somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean on her way to New York. So, she has no idea that....I SIGNED US UP FOR FRENCH LESSONS TODAY! We've been talking about it, but we hadn't really come to a definite decision as to when. I changed all that.
After working out at the gym, I walked across the street to Berlitz (which is conveniently located right above Paddy Reilly's Irish Pub) and signed us up for 24 WEEKS of 90-MINUTE LESSONS...TWO TIMES PER WEEK!!! Actually, Berlitz is pretty flexible. We can work around Madame TBF's busy travel schedule, and we have a year to use all of the lessons.
I'm excited about it! I have considered it my duty to learn German since we live in a German speaking area. However, I always looked at it as a chore. Even though I enjoyed the actual lessons and conversation classes, I never really had that much interest in it (sorry...Christian, Esther, entire staff at SKK, and every German speaker I have ever met!).
And, to tell you the absolute truth....we're Francophiles. We like to travel in France, I grocery shop in France every week, we like French food, I like French beer (sorry Christian), and I even like the French people (gasp!!!).
So there you have it! At the end of this month, we're going to begin parlez vous Francais-ing! I'm going to learn what the hell these things mean - é, â, à, ê - and how you pronounce them. Sacre bleu......I guess I'll even know what this thing - ç - means before too long.
First things first...I have self-tests sitting on our dining room table so they know where we should begin. I had one year of high school French vs. Mrs. TBF's several years of French (including university-level French Literature In French). I looked at the test, and I think I understand about 1% of it. It's possible that I may have to take a few lessons on my own to reach her level. I'll keep you posted.

Did I read this correctly???

I just read that the Chicago Bulls are the playoffs for the first time since the end of the Jordan era. To tell you the truth, I haven't really been following them too closely. I had no idea what their coaches name is until I read it today.
Every now and then I would just check the standings to see if they had won ten games yet for the entire season. This year, I'd check from time to time and I actually saw that they had a chance to make the playoffs. And, now they have!

My morning Mantra...

I drove Mrs. TBF to Basel's EuroAirport this morning, and we left the house at 6:05 a.m. for her 7:00 a.m. flight. On the rare occasion that I have to drive this early in the morning, there is only one thing that goes through my mind - "Must...stay...on...road!" Those are the words that I kept repeating to myself during our fifteen minute drive to the airport. And, I'm happy to report...I did!
I must say that it's incredibly convenient living less than ten kilometers from the airport. We pulled out of our parking garage at 6:05 a.m., I dropped Mrs. TBF off at the departure area at 6:20 a.m., and I was pulling back into our parking garage at 6:35 a.m.
Mrs. TBF is off to New York for a meeting. She'll be there until Wednesday evening, and she'll be back in Basel on Thursday afternoon. Then, I'll be leaving for Chicago on Friday morning. My flight on Friday leaves at....get this...6:05 a.m.!!!! I hope I remember to...."stay....on...road!"
Mrs. TBF is flying to NYC via London on British Airways. That is her new carrier of choice. She hates Swiss and doesn't really feel like always having to take the train to fly out of Zürich. She's worried about United, and she pretty much has to connect in Frankfurt to use them. So, she's started flying from EuroAirport on BA and connecting in London.
Our growing concern over United's future resulted in Mrs. TBF cashing in most of her United miles to fly me to Chicago this Friday. She used something like 180,000 miles to fly me in Business Class (I'm a total diva when it comes to flying. I demand to fly Business Class overseas!!!!) to Chicago. The only problem is that I have to take the early flight to Frankfurt so that I'm assured of making the connection time to Chicago. That means I'll have to wake up at about 4:30 a.m. this Friday morning (9:30 p.m. Chicago time). I'm sure I'll be a wreck by the time I arrive in Chicago. Fortunately, I'll be picked up at the airport and I won't have to worry about "....staying...on...road!"

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Sind wir auch mit Pfiff?

Mrs. TBF and I went out to eat this past Friday night at Au Premier which is on the floor just above Zum Braunen Mutz at Barfüsserplatz in Basel. After having a quick drink with Jeanette and Simon, Mrs. TBF and I walked over to Yoshi Sushi with the intention of having a nice sushi dinner. When we arrived there, there was a sign on the door which said "Ausverkauft" which means that they were sold out. Can you believe it? It wasn't that late - probably 9:00 p.m. or so and they were sold out.
So, we kept walking. We came upon Zum Braunen Mutz which is a popular Basel beerhall. It's a great place to go if you want to eat sausage, drink beer, and fart non-stop for the twelve hours immediately following your dinner. Fortunately, the intense smell of cigarette smoke that permeates your clothes, skin, bone marrow, DNA, etc. will cover up any unpleasant smell of flatulence.
As we stood outside of ZBM, we noticed the menu for the upstairs restaurant (Au Premier). We had heard that there was another restaurant upstairs, but we had never been there before. We decided to give it a try. And? We're glad we did.
Au Premier is a nice, quiet, white tablecloth kind of restaurant with a good food and wine selection. We had a really nice dinner, and we really enjoyed the food (although Mrs. TBF thought it was too brightly lit). I had a sweetbread entreé (that's appetizer for everyone who's reading this in the U.S. I have no idea why Americans call the main course the entreé basically means the entrance to the meal...the starter, if you will.). Then I had the Palette de Poissons (kind of a fish sampler platter). I can't really remember what Mrs. TBF ate. Although, I do recall her eating fish. We washed this all down with a nice bottle of Sancerre (that's maybe why I can't remember what she ate), and then had a nice dessert.
On my way out of the restaurant, I picked up a card and I noticed that the slogan on the card read: "Die Brasserie mit Pfiff". I have seen this "mit Pfiff" before, and I could never really figure out what it meant. To me, it meant "with fife." So, feeling a bit buzzed, I charged back into the restaurant, found our waiter who spoke English, and asked him what "mit Pfiff" means. He said it means "with fife." "Yeah...but...what does that actually mean?" I asked him. He couldn't translate it to English, so we went to ask another person. She couldn't translate it either, so the three of us went to somebody who they said spoke the best English of anybody in the restaurant (he might have been the owner...I'm not sure.). They asked him in Swiss German what "mit Pfiff" is in English, he looked at me and said: "It means...with pep." Mystery solved!!!
Now, every time I do something, I tell Mrs. TBF that I'm doing it "mit Pfiff." This morning, I made coffee "mit Pfiff", fed King "mit Pfiff", emptied the dishwasher "mit Pfiff", etc. (mit Pfiff).
I think she's beginning to get annoyed...."mit Pfiff"!!!!

The Big Finn vs. FOTOAUTOMAT - It's a draw!

Two out of four ain't bad! Posted by Hello

I just came across this strip of photos under a pile of papers on my desk. They were taken at a passport photo booth in Basel not too far from my gym on March 11, 2005.

Mrs. TBF and I applied for new Swiss drivers licenses, and we needed to send in passport photos with our applications. I decided to go to this photo booth that is about a two-minute walk from my gym. First of all, let me say that whoever owns this photo booth is MAKING A FORTUNE. Whenever I walk by it, there are about 5-10 teenage girls and boys laughing, having their pictures taken, and just having the best time. I guess Basel must be lacking in entertainment for teenagers.
Anyway...I was very fortunate that when I needed to use the services of this photo booth, there was nobody else there. I put in my two francs, and started to read the German instructions. As you can see from the first picture, I was still reading the instructions with a somewhat troubled expression on my face and I wasn't ready for the blinding flash of light indicating that I had just been photographed. Then, just as I was reading that the camera took four SEPARATE pictures....FLASH!!!! Doh!!!!! Fortunately, the synapses in my brain engaged quickly enough for me to be ready for the third and fourth pictures. Unfortunately, the top of my head was cut off and the pictures were unusable for my license. Plus, I found out later that the photo size was wrong anyway. So, I just went to another booth the next day and took another photo.
Seeing that I didn't want to waste a couple of francs. I figured I'd post the pictures on my blog so that I'd get some return for my two francs.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

I can't believe it!

"Sole Survivor" by Asia is playing on Plant Rock right now. I just wrote about it earlier this morning. What a coincidence! Veleicht muss ich ein Lotto Ticket kaufen!!!


Thanks to everybody who sent messages after Dominique died. A couple of days after we put her down, we took another old pet into our house - my mother-in-law Jo.
Jo was here for three weeks, and she just returned to Chicago yesterday. It was nice having our old pet here for a few weeks, but now it's just me, Mrs. TBF, and King (our cat). King is relishing his role as the sole survivor of pets. Which brings up an interesting thing that happened after we put Dominique to sleep.
During Dominique's last weekend, I played the song "Sole Survivor" by Asia, and I told Mrs. TBF that this was going to be King's new theme song. After we returned from Dominique's last visit to the vet, I put on Planet Rock for a little distraction. A few minutes later, Mrs. TBF walked into the room and said: "You won't believe what's playing on Planet Rock!" You guessed was "Sole Survivor" by Asia. What were the chances? It's not like this is a song you hear very often on the radio. King must have called in a request.