Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Note To Self:

June 4-8, 2008 - GET THE HELL OUT OF BASEL!!!!

I just read the following in swissinfo earlier this afternoon:

Euro 08 faced with shortage of hotel beds

Thousands of fans are expected to come to the Euro 2008 football [soccer] championships being co-hosted by Switzerland and Austria - but not all of them may find a bed.

The four Swiss host cities - Basel, Zurich, Bern and Geneva - do not have enough hotel accommodation for such a huge influx of people and are searching for solutions. But they have already encountered problems.

An estimated five million visitors [the population of Switzerland is just over seven million] are expected to visit the championships - the third-largest sporting event in the world - next summer...

"We have too little capacity, and added to this there is a week's overlap [June 4-8] with the Art Basel contemporary art fair," Christoph Bosshardt, the Euro 2008 delegate for Basel, told swissinfo.

Basel is therefore planning to BUILD FAN CAMPS: CHEAP, PRIVATELY RUN CAMPING GROUNDS FOR AROUND 2,500 PEOPLE [caps mine]. But the plans...have already run into problems...

Bern [might] up its civil defence installations, such as bunkers, which are equipped with beds...

Both Basel and Bern have turned to their local populations for help with accommodation. Basel is looking for about 500 host families to take in fans... In Bern, people can sign up on the city's tournament website if they are willing to house fans...

Let's see now...

Hosting a bunch of drunk, soccer hooligans in our apartment? Where do I sign up?


Am I taking crazy pills, or should the lack of hotel rooms in Basel, Zurich, Bern, and Geneva been a consideration before Switzerland was elected as a co-host of Euro 2008.

Mark my words: we will be far, FAR away from Basel during the first ten days of June, 2008!

Oh, and King? Don't even think about trying to rent out our bedrooms!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Nice To Meet You...

I got a strange call early yesterday afternoon...

TBF (noticing an unfamiliar phone number on our call-waiting, and assuming it was a telemarketing call): Hello...this is [TBF]. Who's calling, please?

Mystery caller: Luedi (Prounounced: Lou-Eddy. The Swiss just say their last name when they call.).

TBF: Luedi...Luedi...ahhhh meine Nachbar ( neighbor!)!

Luedi: Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

TBF: Ja (I thought I just did!).

She pretty much launched into a mixture of high-German and Swiss-German, and when all was said and done I pretty much understood her to be calling for the following reason: a small airplane had crashed into an apartment building right after taking off from Basel Airport. This apparently had taken place only a few kilometers from our apartment and there was now a fire with a lot of smoke (oh...that's what the smoky smell was!). She wanted to know if I could close the door leading to the rooftop (the other residents can't access OUR rooftop), which I leave open to air out the building and allow King access to the roof, because opening the door to her apartment was causing a suction effect that pulled the smoky smell into her apartment.

At least, that's what I think she said...

(Later research confirmed that, indeed, a small plane had crashed after taking off from Basel Airport. My seldom-used German...ROCKS!!!)

I told her that I like to leave the door open occasionally in order to air out the building. She said that was fine, but "...could you just keep it closed until the fire is over?"

"Gerne," I said. "Ich schliesse die Tür jetzt."

And THAT was my first ever conversation in nearly 2.5 years of living here with our downstairs neighbor - Frau Luedi.

At first, I thought she was calling to complain about the noise from a little impromptu get-together we had with friends in "the Fishbowl" this past Sunday. I didn't think we, or the music, had been too loud. And, as it turned out, that wasn't an issue at all.

Nope...plane crash, fire, smoke being sucked in by draft.

We're very lucky, because a lot of people here have really big problems with their neighbors complaining about the slightest amount of noise. Not us! Nope, never even one complaint!

Yup...we're very lucky in that respect.

Oh...and also that...the plane didn't land on our building; that would really mess up my bouganvilla!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Let's Dance...

About five years ago, my mom and dad raved about grilling "dancing chickens." In case you've never heard about this method of grilling chicken, it basically amounts to inserting an open can of beer into the chicken's cavity, plonking it on the grill, and waiting about an hour for "the magic" to happen. Of course I didn't take their advice five years ago, and I have to admit that I should have because mom and dad knew what they were talking about.

Sorry about that, folks!

What was I waiting for? chance upon the "dancing chicken" holder for sale at Canadian Tire in Sudbury, Ontario when I was there last month of course!

Always on the lookout for ways to blow Mrs. TBF's hard-earned cash.'s not very much to look at. And, yes, you can get by without this high-tech piece of equipment. But...I'm a man DAMMIT, and I'm a sucker for gadgets and gizmos.! It was one of the things that was in my missing suitcase. Believe it or not, I had completely forgotten about it.

Oh...and don't think I don't know how jealous you are right now that you don't have one of these things. You're seething! Admit it!!!

So sure I was that this was going to be a great way of preparing chicken, that we even invited a couple of "guinea pigs" over for dinner - our friends Dave and Jane. Ok...OK! I barbecued some lamb rib chops too...just in case.

The dancing chicken is ready for the grill (...just look at proud Papa!).

Impress and amaze your friends!

An hour later, bask in the glory of the holy, crackly skin (King's favorite!) that envelopes the shrine of moist, delectable meat that just falls off the bone!

Look at that splayed hussy...taunting us

All gone! Will I ever prepare a whole chicken any other way???

VERDICT: Five bucks well spent!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Just Like Christmas...

I don't BEE-LIEVE what I'm seeing!

Could it be?

Is it...possible?

My suitcase is...


Three weeks to the day after my arrival from Chicago via London, my suitcase finally made it to Basel. However, I wasn't the only one...

I read in several articles about how BA had, at one point, anywhere from 20,000 - 25,000 bags just sitting unsorted either because of...a zillion different excuses. My bag actually went to Milan, where it was sorted (along with thousands of other bags), processed, and shipped to me in Basel...VIA FEDERAL EXPRESS ( much did that cost 'em?)!!!


I figured the bag would arrive at some point, and I never was too worried about, or inconvenienced by, its absence. Probably the thing I missed most was the little thing-a-ma-bob I wear on my front teeth that keeps me from clenching my teeth at night (NOTE TO SELF: Pack anti-clenching-thing-a-ma-bob in carry-on bag!); not having that kind of sucked! But, it seemed that Mrs. TBF (being a BA super-duper-double-secret-inner-circle-frequent-flier member) was much more annoyed by it than I was, and fully intends on voicing her concerns to the BA Executive

What-evah! Shit happens!

All I know is that my bag - locked, apparently never opened, and completely undamaged - is back in my clutches. And I have to say that opening it was a little like opening gifts on Christmas; there were things in there that I'd bought in Canada/Chicago about which I'd completely forgotten.

My friend Andy will be surprised to hear that my packing job (i.e., tequila bottle wrapped in bubble-wrap, inside a ziploc bag, stuffed inside a 7-Eleven Double Gulp cup), didn't set off any security alarms, and everything arrived in perfect shape. I even celebrated the bag's arrival last night with a little sip of the aforementioned tequila.

Tonight...we'll celebrate with something else from the "goodie" bag!

You'll love it! Just wait and see...

Friday Flashback: Seven Years, No Itch!

This past Tuesday marked seven years since Mrs. TBF arrived in Switzerland.

Time....keeps flowing like a the sea...TO THE SEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!

Our original intent was to move here for "two to three years." Obviously, the "two to three years" has stretched to another "two to three years"...and then some.

How much longer? Who knows? Perhaps...two to three more years. Or, what I usually tell people is that we'll continue to live outside the U.S. as long as George Bush is in office (I moved here one month before the 2000 election). How many days is that now?

Overall, I like living here. Every now and then I get an itch to move back to Chicago, but I'm fortunate to be able to travel to Chicago three to four times per year to see family and friends, and those trips serve up a pretty good scratchin'!

Mrs. TBF, on the other hand, has no itch. Sure, she misses family and friends, but she really likes living in Switzerland and has said on several occasions that she could live here for the rest of her life.

Only time will tell.

This past Wednesday evening, while enjoying a glass of wine on our balcony, Mrs. TBF reminded me that it was the seven-year anniversary of her starting at her current company; it's the longest she's ever worked at any one place.

I decided to do some searching through the archives, and I found this picture from the evening of July 18, 2003. Mrs. TBF was out enjoying a cold beverage on the back patio at our old apartment; probably telling me that it had been three years since she started at her current company.

Some things never change.

Or do they?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I've Been Singing...

Under my repeatedly for nearly a week now.

Am I the only one?

Yes, I'm driving Mrs. TBF crazy. However, she did NOT forget her this morning which was a good thing because... began pouring right before she got off the tram by her office.

Sore Muscles And Swollen Members...

I'm hurting...

I worked-out this past Monday for the first time in nearly a month. Why? Because my gym closes every year for the first two weeks of July for cleaning and repairs. And I don't know why I do this, but I always end up going somewhere during the last weekend of June. Every year!!!

NOTE TO SELF: Your gym is closed every single year during the first two weeks of July. Travel during the first two weeks of July next year (or any future year), and not during the last week of June...or, for that matter, the third week of July.

What happens? I end up not working out for nearly a month, and then I'm hurting the first week back.


Yesterday I was standing at the Heuwaage tram stop (hurting...after working out for the second time this week), and I happened to glance over at a poster advertising the upcoming, two-day, Royal Arena festival in the nearby town of Biel. Needing to kill some time until my tram arrived, I looked over the lineup of bands, and I came across a band with one of the greatest band names I've ever heard: Swollen Members. I saw on the poster that they are a Canadian band, and I figured that they might be worth seeing just because of their great name alone. Unfortunately, the festival takes place August 17-18, and Mrs. TBF and I will be in, of all places, Canada at my cousin's wedding.

Imagine! A Canadian band comes to Basel, and us two pseudo-Baslers end up being in Canada. What are the odds?

Nevertheless, I made a mental note to go home and do a little research on Swollen Members since I had never heard of them before.

I just went to their website and watched a couple of their videos, and...DA-AAAAAAMN!

Let's just say that...I'm not too disappointed about missing their upcoming show in Biel. How about if YOU go and just let me know how they were?

...still a great name, though!

Grab Bag...

Hot Time In The City -
It's been hot around here for the past week or so; and...I like it (I can't believe I just said that!)! Of course, it's not the stifling heat combined with humidity that one experiences in Chicago, but it is DEFINITELY heat. For example: it was 34˚C/93˚F in the shade (up on the rooftop) with only 39% humidity. When a slight breeze would blow, it was actually tolerable. Compare this to a few weeks ago when I was in Chicago, and it was in the 90s with the humidity around 90%. My forehead would bead-up thirty seconds after walking out of my sister's house (God bless American air conditioning!).
Air conditioning isn't very common in Switzerland. My question is: What are the Swiss going to do if Global Warming continues to make summers hotter and hotter? None of the buildings are set up for air conditioning. Never thought about that one, did you???

Cat On A Hot Tile Roof -
King loves the roof. We often leave the apartment door and the door leading out to the rooftop open so that he can go up and down as he pleases. Last weekend, he found a new place to relax: under our Japanese maple. I think the hot tiles do his old bones good.

Roasted Peppers -Need some roasted peppers? Well then...the Weber is the only way to go. Just grill them over very hot coals until they're completely blackened, then put them in a covered bowl. After they've cooled, peel 'em and seed 'em. Awesome!

Can Stand The Heat...But Still Got Out Of The Kitchen -

Normally, Mrs. TBF likes to cook up a storm during the weekend. I handle the cooking duties during the week, but Mrs. TBF pretty much takes over the kitchen come Saturday. Last weekend was, for the most part, and exception. First we went to John and Rammy's house on Friday evening for dinner in the "garden of Rammy's dreams". Then, on Saturday night, we went to Douglas and Liz's (pictured at our house, along with Alan, this past Canada Day) house for burgers. They have a combo grill/smoker (should have taken a picture!), and now I want one too! I guess I'll just have to wait until the day comes that we move back to America.

Making A Killing -
Why does soda pop cost so much in Europe? I just don't understand it. Here's an example: A .75 liter Coke costs something like $2.50 at the Burger King in Basel. When I was last in Chicago, I went to a 7-Eleven and bought a Double Gulp (which I think is about 1.9 liters) and it cost something like $1.50. Why does Coke cost twice as much here? It drives me nuts!
Tip: The Double Gulp cup is nice for long car trips because it doubles as a pee receptacle after you've finished your drink; great for long driving need to stop!

Oh...and by the way...

I'm still waiting for BA to deliver my suitcase (it's been three weeks as of today!). However, FedEx tried to deliver something to me yesterday, and I think it's going to be my long lost bag. FedEx is coming back today; I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday Flashback: Sky Blue Sky

Oh...I freakin' give up already!

Today is the first beautiful, warm, blue-sky, day in I don't know how long. I was going to be a lazy arse and spend about three minutes finding a nice photo of Mrs. TBF and I from the archives with a blue sky in the background, post it, and then head outside to enjoy the day. And...guess what? It took me an hour to find a photo of the two of us together, with a blue sky in the background, that...I HADN'T PREVIOUSLY POSTED ON THE BLOG!


Here's the stinkin' photo photo from this past Christmas Day in Rome!

Hope you all have a nice weekend.

It's time to go get my tan on!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

This Just In From Finland...

There is nothing to report here, people. Just move on...

I haven't been keeping up with the news in Finland lately, so I thought I'd change things this morning by checking the Helsingin Sanomat - International Edition. Imagine my surprise when I found out that it is closed...FOR THE WHOLE MONTH OF JULY!! When I clicked on the link, I eventually came to this picture which had the caption: Time to take a break and go to sauna and to the lake.

Ahhhh...we Finns sure love to walk around naked! I have to say that I've never seen any bare bottoms on any other newspaper's website.

Of course, the Suomeksi (in Finnish) version is still up and running. But, who has time to read all those long Finnish words? Certainly not me! Sample:

Äänestä parasta asuntomessukylppäriä tai lähetä kuva omasta kylpyhuoneestasi.

Which means (I think) - Nominate the best apartment bathrooms or send a picture of your own bathroom (not really sure what asuntomessu means).

Just typing all those umlauts has me exhausted...

Time to take a break and go to kitchen where breakfast I'll make...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Cowabunga, Dude!!!

Did you ever wonder what you'd look like as a cartoon character? No? Well, neither did I. However, I just happened upon the Simpsons Movie website, and I saw that one can create their own avatar. Seeing that I had completed all the tasks on my "things to do" list, I figured I'd kill some time by recreating the TBFs as the Simpson's neighbors in Springfield for this - our 700th post on The Big Finn's Big Blog!

Here we are...

It wasn't easy. I couldn't quite capture Mrs. TBF's hair (the curlier choice was way too big), and I couldn't find a soul patch or earrings for myself. Nevertheless, I did manage to create somewhat of a likeness. I would have done one for King too, but there wasn't the option of creating animal avatars.

He's really pissed off...

Happens Every Year Around This Time...

It's funny how nobody talks about Global Warming when it's rainy and 15˚C/60˚F day after day in July like it has been for the past week. I guess that's why the term "Climate Change" was created.

Sheesh! You just can't win a debate with these people!


I noticed that the weather is supposed to turn from cool and rainy to hot and sunny by Friday, which, by the way, pretty much happens every year around this time so you shouldn't be surprised. This got me to thinkin'... What's the weather been like around this time over the past few years. So, I decided to have a look at past blog entries around this date from years past.

Here goes...

2006: About a year ago, I accompanied Mrs. TBF on one of her business trips to the Geneva/Lausanne area. After reading the post, I recalled that it was hotter 'n Hell when I was hoofing it up and down the hills of Lausanne. It was about 33˚C for a high which is about how it will be this weekend. Global Warming? Maybe. Climate Change? No.

2005: The key words from my post of July 11, 2005 are, "...we decided that a 20˚C blustery day on July 11th was better spent indoors." Global Warming? No. Climate Change? No.

2004: On July 9, 2004, I wrote that "'s been cool and rainy for most of the week. We've had a few fleeting moments of sun, but I'd have to say that it's been about 90% dreary this past week." Global Warming? No. Climate Change? No.

2003: I didn't have the blog back in 2003, but I did make reference to it in the same 2004 post that I just mentioned. I said: "Last year [2003] at this time it was about 35˚C and dry as a bone. The doomsdayers were making it seem like the human race had about 3-5 years left due to global warming." Global Warming? Yes. Climate Change? No...since it's going to be hot this weekend like it usually is in July.

When one looks at the past few years, I'd have to give early-July 2007 the following rating: Global Warming? No. Climate Change? No.

So there you have it, folks! As far as Switzerland is concerned, and after conducting my highly-scientific research over the past five years, I'm going with the following overall rating: Global Warming? Probably, but I'm still not convinced that it's entirely caused by human activity. Climate Change? No.

Do you disagree with me? Fine! First, turn off your TV and stop watching the news for twelve hours per day. All that does is freak you out. Then, put your money where your mouth is! Go buy some carbon offset certificates.

Go ahead...I triple-dog-dare-ya! (Now you have to do it!)

Just Wondering...

I just returned from a quick shopping trip at the next-door-neighbor Migros grocery store (chewing gum and toilet paper), and I happened to notice that they sell chicken stomachs in the freezer section. After a quick Google search, all I could come up with preparation-wise was grilling them on skewers with hearts, livers and other chicken parts.

Does anybody out there know a culinary use for chicken stomachs? Stock? Gravy? Some secret Swiss recipe?

Just wondering...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Six Weird Things...

...while getting ready to sleep or while sleeping.

I was tagged by Michael. Gosh, I don't think I've ever been tagged before, so I thought it only right that I actually give it a little thought it goes:

1. I actually drink coffee before I go to bed; usually one regular cup of coffee followed by one cup of decaf. The caffeine doesn't bother me at all, and the warm liquid puts me to sleep.

2. I'm a skincare addict. First, I wash my face with some overpriced "Cream Cleanser With Dead Sea Minerals" stuff I bought at the skincare place I go to (at least once) for a treatment every single time I go to Chicago. After that, I apply this equally-overpriced vitamin goop all over my face. After that dries, I put on my moisturizer. I guess it's no wonder that Mrs. TBF is often asleep by the time I get to bed.

3. Gotta look after King too... He has a water cup on our headboard that's just for him. Every couple of days or so I rinse and refill the cup before it gets too nasty.

4. Then comes the year-round hand moisturizing. First, I put on whatever hand moisturizer I happen to be using at the time. Then, after that's been absorbed, I open up my ginormous tub of Eucerin and pull out a golf ball sized glob that takes me about five minutes to work-in. As I'm working it into my hands, the slurping sound usually wakes Mrs. TBF up and then she says something like "Nooooooooooo! Eucerin hands!!!!" During the winter, I also apply Vaseline to my feet and then put on socks. No...not Vaseline Intensive Care! I'm talkin' the real petroleum jelly stuff. I have the worst feet in the history of mankind; narrow, bony, cracked heels, calloused, and super SUPER dry.

5. After my moisturizing regimen, I jump into bed and immediately "spoon" Mrs. TBF and attempt to begin groping her. A very short, but spirited, scuffle ensues (aren't I romantic?), and then I settle for just the "spooning" part ("...Just as long as you don't touch my bare skin with those Eucerin hands!"). At this point, I'll tell Mrs. TBF that I'm not the least bit tired, and...then I'll fall asleep within approximately thirty seconds. At some point, Mrs. TBF wakes me up when telling me that my arm (that's draped over her) is crushing her.

6. I'm not really a get-up-during-the-night-to-pee person; I think my family gene-pool has blessed me with a good prostate and a large bladder. Besides, even if I do have to pee, it's just not worth the hassle of having to get King to move from his sleeping spot ever-conveniently located between my legs (we call him the crotch rocket!). Plus, on the rare occasion that I do have to get up, King will end up following me into the bathroom and proceeds to rub his teeth (we call it "toofing") on my shin bones for no apparent reason but to annoy me.

7. BONUS "THING": Weekly washing of bed linens in scalding hot water to attempt to remove greasy skincare products from my pillowcase, sheet, and duvét cover.

Good night!

Traveling On British Airways... the near future? Please keep your eyes open for my suitcase because I STILL DON'T HAVE IT!! Yup...I arrived in Basel on June 28th (nearly two weeks ago!), and IT'S STILL MISSING!!!

It might be at Heathrow...or Chicago, but I can't be sure.

It's black.

Does that help?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Finnish R-r-r-r-relatives...

...visit Switzer-r-r-r-land!

My relatives from Finland were here last weekend for a three-night stay. It was a short (but activity-packed) visit, and a great opportunity for me to practice my Finnish which gets a little rusty when unused for long periods of time. I'm happy to report that my "lazy" tongue is once again in prime, Finnish "r" rolling form.

We spent the afternoon of their (my Aunt Liisa, my cousin Jaana and her son Pyry, and Jaana's husband Juha) arrival touring Basel. On Friday morning, after a good-sized breakfast, the five of us (Mrs. TBF had to work) drove up to one of my favorite towns in the Alsace - Riquewihr. Of course, we weren't really super hungry since we had finished eating breakfast only a couple of hours earlier, but that didn't stop us from wolfing down a mammoth lunch. Oh...and not too many hours after lunch, we managed to wolf down a barbecued turkey and some duck breasts.

Ahhhhh...behold the power of the Finnish appetite!!!

On Saturday, we five Finns drove down to Luzern (after another filling breakfast) and took the lifts up to the top of Pilatus. Mrs. TBF would have come along, but it was necessary to stay behind and do some grocery shopping.

Pilatus is always a nice day-trip. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day everywhere...except for at the very peak of Pilatus - which was chilly and shrouded in clouds. However, the fun was in the "they" say. We did manage a couple of good pictures at the summit during momentary breaks in the clouds, and then it was time to head back down and...back to Basel where Mrs. TBF had prepared yet another gut-buster of a meal.

Yes, the rolling-Rs are back, and Mrs. TBF actually mastered pronouncing Pyry's name by Sunday afternoon.

All in all, it was a r-r-r-really g-r-r-r-reat weekend!


Now that I look at the pictures:

Why is it that Juha (the only non-blood-relative of the group) is the one who most resembles me?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Going Back To Where It All Began...

The main reason for my recent trip to Chicago was so that my sister and I could drive up together to my parents' home in Sudbury, Ontario. It's about 665 miles one-way, and it usually takes around 12-13 hours.

For those of you who don't know...

I was born in Sudbury, Ontario, but my parents and I moved to Chicago when I was just over one year old. When my parents retired in 1993, they returned to Sudbury.

We've found that the best way to do the drive is to leave Chicago VERY early in the morning. So, that's what we did. We woke up at about 3:00 a.m. and were on the road at just before 4:00 a.m. Of course, we had to make one stop before we left: the Barrington, IL Dunkin' Donuts. Here we were at 3:49 a.m. with our XL coffees. My sister takes hers black (yuck!), and I like mine with cream and two Sweet 'n' Lows (yum!). Ever wonder what kind of people go to a Dunkin' Donuts between three and four in the morning?!

We used to make the Chicago-Sudbury drive every summer to visit relatives. Sure, the drive is long, but it's actually pretty enjoyable because it brings back memories of many, MANY childhood vacations. We made it through Milwaukee by 5:30 a.m. (avoiding rush hour), and Green Bay by 7:20 a.m. After Green Bay, we headed on up through the U.P. (upper peninsula of Michigan) where this picture was taken during a moment of boredom while driving through Hiawatha National Forest.

We crossed the border into Canada at Sault Ste. Marie, and then we stopped for a quick and greasy KFC lunch. From S.S.M., it's 3.5 hours through Ontario to my parents' house; no maps, no GPS. As a matter of fact, we could pretty much do the drive in our sleep, which is a good thing because my sister actually drove slightly off the road at one point in Ontario while falling asleep at the wheel with a belly full o'chicken! I was taking a nap at the same time. YIKES!! That woke both of us a hurry!

We arrived in Sudbury on Friday evening, and we left around mid-day on Monday because my sister didn't want to inflict more torture on my brother-in-law by having to have him take care of their four kids alone for more than a long weekend. After the long drive up there, we pretty much just wanted to take things easy and spend time with the folks and some of the relatives. I'm happy to report that my mom is doing really well after returning home from the hospital. As a matter of fact, to look at her you wouldn't even be able to tell that she was sick at all. While we were there, we all realized that it was the first time in about twenty years that just the four of us (without spouses/kids) had slept together under the same roof. Here we were, just the four of us, driving in the car together for the first time since the late 80s.

After a nice BBQ steak dinner (Canadian beef from Costco rules!!) on Saturday night, my sister and I went for a walk to try to burn off some calories. We wound around the area where my parents live, and at one point I snapped this picture of the Inco Superstack back-lit by the setting sun. In case you don't know, Sudbury is a mining town. I wouldn't call it ugly (it's much nicer looking than it was thirty years ago), but it's also not the prettiest city I've ever seen.

It's amazing how a nice sunset can even make a smelting operation look good.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Et Justice Pour Tous...

Have you heard of this French band called Justice? I read about them in Blender magazine under the heading "The CD We're Totally Gay For" (one of my favorite monthly snippets in the magazine). Here's what Blender had to say about Justice:

Paris DJ squad makes the world's best ABBA-inspired, heavy-metal jock jams

"No need to ask my name to figure out how cool I am!" sings a guest vocalist on the frenzied debut LP from this electronic-disco duo, whose name is pronounced zhust-EECE. Backed by Ed Banger, France's hipster-hedonist It label, Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Augé employ everything from ominous Christian iconography to slick future sounds to prop up their aura of over-arching coolness: Sonically, they like to spike Chic-on-speed funk with monstrous, distorted synths that pulverize as much as they propel. Crucially, though, Justice's hard-partying robo-crunch is laced with a willful silliness: "Waters of Nazareth" is Fatboy Slim sent through a trash compactor, while a children's choir delivers cheerleader chirps on "D.A.N.C.E." Nothing is too anthemic for them, nothing too dumb: Think Andrew W.K. with a Gauloise dangling from his mouth, just so."

ABBA-inspired, heavy metal jock jams??? I read that review and walked (I would actually describe it as giddy scurrying!) straight off the plane to the HMV store at Heathrow (right after having my scrotum frisked in security and getting re-ticketed on the later flight to Basel, of course), found the CD on the rack against the wall, grabbed it with my well-moisturized-from-the-flight hands, and stared at it lovingly. Then, the anti-impulse devil appeared on my left shoulder and advised me to "...listen to it first." I put the CD down, tore the review out of the Blender magazine, and stuffed the review into my shirt pocket so that I could do a little investigative work. Besides the CD was something like nine pounds at Heathrow, and I figured I could get it cheaper at iTunes.

So, after getting settled in at home, I checked out a couple of their tunes at iTunes, and I'm happy to report that...

THEY SUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Perhaps I'm just getting out of touch with what the kids are digging these days, but it was (in my middle-aged opinion) the most annoying electronica-disco-bullshit I've heard in a long, LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNG time! I have to admit that I'm not the biggest electronica fan, but I just couldn't listen to it. Maybe the rest of the CD is better, but I'm not willing - at least this time - to subject myself to any more of zhust-EECE! I even played it for Mrs. TBF, and she was like, WTF???

Check 'em out for yourselves on their myspace page.

How The Other Half Lives...

One post below this one, you can read about my recent travel woes. Here's the short recap: flight mate who would not shut up...missed connection...six-hour wait at Heathrow...bag did not make it to Basel...still waiting for my bag FIVE DAYS LATER!!!

When I was at the BA desk getting a boarding pass for the later flight to Basel, the BA employee gave me a 10-pound voucher that I could use to buy food anywhere at Heathrow. I wasn't really expecting it, and it was a rather pleasant surprise. I ended up getting a massive cappucino, a couple of sandwiches, and a little tin of breath mints at the Costa coffee shop. The delay wasn't really that bad, and I thought it was a nice gesture. That was, until I got home and saw a letter from British Airways addressed to Mrs. TBF. Here's what was written on the letter:

Dear Mrs [TBF}

I am sorry about the entertainment system on your flight.

It is an important part of the British Airways service to help you relax and enjoy your time aboard, and you have every right to expect the entertainment equipment to work smoothly. I have informed our maintenance manager and I know he will follow it up with his team.

By way of an apology, I have arranged for your Executive Club account to be credited with 15000 BA Miles.

I hope that this did not spoil your flight and that you will fly British Airways again next time.

Yours sincerely

Kathika M[-------]
Customer Relations

For the record: Mrs. TBF didn't even complain about her entertainment system not working. It was during the safety announcements (that Mrs. TBF was apparently not paying attention to) that a flight attendant noticed that her screen was not working. Mrs. TBF was reading and listening to her iPod and had really no intention of even using the entertainment system. The flight attendant tried rebooting the entire system two times to no avail. She apologized profusely, and then apparently reported the incident to Executive Club who saw to it that Mrs. TBF receive extra BA miles for her "trouble".

Let's see now...

I had to deal with a flight delay that resulted in me missing my connection, FILLIS!, standing in line at Heathrow to be rebooked onto a later flight to Basel, six hours of waiting at Heathrow, and I'm still waiting for my bag to arrive five days later. For my troubles? 10 pounds!

Mrs. TBF was "inconvenienced" by a faulty entertainment system that she had no intention of even using (and probably wouldn't have even noticed wasn't working), and she receives 15,000 BA miles!

If I end up filing a claim for my missing suitcase, BA will pay!

Oh, yes...BA WILL PAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Flying Woes...

I arrived, after considerable delay, back in Basel this past Thursday. My flight was delayed leaving Chicago by a couple of hours due to thunderstorms that moved through the O'Hare area in the late afternoon/early evening; nuttin' you can do about da wedder! That was written with a Chicago case you were wondering.

The flight was OK. There was a glimmer of hope at the last second that I was going to be bumped into business class when the flight attendant asked me (as the plane was backing out of the gate):

Flight attendant: tall are you?

TBF: Wha'? Who? Me? Um...six foot five.

Flight attendant: I'll see what I can do for you (winking!).

About a minute later, he motioned from several rows ahead for me to follow him, so I grabbed my bag from the overhead bin and followed him toward the front of the plane.

Imagine my disappointment when he pointed to an empty seat that was in the center section of the front row of coach. Technically, it was a better seat because there was no seat in front of it (just a wall), but the wall made it impossible for me to stretch my legs. With my bad knees, being able to stretch my legs is an absolute must!

I turned around and told the flight attendant that I didn't want to appear ungrateful, but I couldn't sit in the seat because of...leg room...bad knees, etc., etc. So, I left my carry-on in the overhead bin above that seat, and I went back to my original seat (which I had picked myself on the BA website the day before) right after the seatbelt light went off after taking off.

That's when I met "Fillis" (named misspelled deliberately)...


Don't get me wrong. She was a very, VERY nice lady. She was pleasant, she didn't take up a lot of room, she didn't smell, but...MAN...COULD SHE TALK!!! NON-STOP!!! FOR HOURS!!!

I couldn't stop her...

I had on Bose noise-reduction headphones, and I'd be listening to my iPod when I'd suddenly notice that she was talking to me. I'd take off my headphones and point out to her that I couldn't hear her because of the headphones, and she said...

"That's OK. When you notice that I'm talking to you...just take off your headphones."

Why me....WHY ME????

Fillis was on her way to Tanzania with her church to help the poor...she had just been in the Galapagos islands with her husband who doesn't have diabetes but has a condition where sores don't heal quickly (sounds like diabetes to me!)...she lives in Oklahoma City...on...and on...AND ON!!! The only way to stop her was to eventually tell her that I was going to put my headphones back on...AND GO TO SLEEP.

I managed to sleep for two or three hours until breakfast was served, and then she began talking to me all over again. About thirty minutes before landing, I told her that I needed to get up to go to the bathroom. I (without her noticing) grabbed my magazines and Ziploc bag of hand cream and other liquids, went to the bathroom, and then I proceeded to walk through the back the other side of the plane...TO THE SEAT IN THE FRONT ROW OF COACH THAT WAS STILL VACANT.

That was the end of my acquaintance with Fillis. She's probably still wondering what happened to me.

I got off the plane quickly, went to the BA desk to get a new boarding pass because the delay in Chicago had caused me to miss my connection to Basel, and then proceeded to the Holideck lounge (I had very slyly found out from Fillis that she had no lounge privileges!) where I sat for nearly six hours...enjoying not having anybody talking to me. the way...

I sat next to Bryan Adams when I was in the lounge, and I was so worn out by Fillis that I didn't even bother to join the couple who were enjoying their "brush with fame" by talking his ears off a la Fillis. I have to say that Bryan Adams seemed like a really nice, genuine guy. He didn't seem to mind the intrusive British couple at all, and I overheard him tell them that although he is Canadian, he now lives in England.

Ahhhhh...that's why you now have...A FAUX BRITISH ACCENT! Yes, really a nice guy, but a British accent??? WHAT THE HELL???

I wanted to ask him if he had really had an affair with Princess Di, but...I didn't want to turn into the male Fillis. Oh well...maybe some other time.

I finally made it to Basel at 5:30 p.m. instead of 11:15 a.m. Yes, I had finally made it to Basel, bag didn't.

It's now nearly five days since I arrived in Basel. I still don't have my bag.