Saturday, July 31, 2004

I ate horse last night...

You read that correctly. I didn't eat like a horse, but I actually ate horse.
Some people might not realize this, but the French and Swiss actually think there's nothing wrong with eating horse meat. That's right. You can buy it in our local grocery store.
Last night, our neighbors David and Coletta (who are moving back to the U.S. in a couple of weeks) invited a bunch of us to their private work club. David has worked for the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) for the past year, and the BIS has a private club not too far from here. It's really a nice club...pool, tennis courts, restaurant, etc. Well, we looked at the menu, and one of the things on the menu was a Stroganoff made with little bits of horse meat. My neighbor Andy and I were intrigued, so we ordered it. It wasn't bad. I wouldn't go out of my way to buy it at the grocery store or order it off of a menu again, but I wouldn't turn it down if it was offered to me either. Incidently, I recently read that one of the biggest suppliers of horsemeat in the world is....the U.S.A. I think it's actually illegal to serve it in America, but that doesn't stop them (actually Texas is the largest producer) from exporting it all over the world. So, I've eaten horse...sorry all of you animal rights people.

Friday, July 30, 2004

When was my sister born???

My parents just pointed out to me via e-mail that I had shown my sister's birthyear as 1964 in my profile.  Let me set the record straight - she was born in 1966.  Wow...that means she's going to be forty years old in a couple of years.
Yesterday, I went to the Reinach Swimming Pool with Andy, Sam, and Alie.  It was sunny and warm, and it was my first time at the pool this year.  I got a little sunburned, but I think I also pulled a muscle in my upper back throwing the kids around in the pool.  So, I guess that means no gym today.  Or, maybe I'll go (as Jo Ann suggested) and just hit the sauna and whirlpool. 
It looks like the nice weather is going to continue.  It's going to be a beautiful weekend here in Basel...sunny with a high temperature of about 32ºC/high 80sºF.  I guess I'll be sleeping with the fan blowing on my head. 
This Sunday is Swiss National Day.  It's kind of the Swiss equivalent of Independence Day in the U.S. or Canada Day in Canada...fireworks, BBQs, etc.  This is also the time of year when you can buy fireworks at the grocery store since they are legal here in Switzerland.  Some of them are massive (i.e. if they blow up in your're going to die!).  Last night, some jerk blew off one of these sticks of dynamite somewhere in our general vicinity at....3:00 A.M.!!!!  I woke up, Jo Ann woke up, but the pets continued their nocturnal comas.  Then Jo Ann started coughing and had to take allergy medicine.  For some reason, I haven't really been bothered by allergies this year, but Jo Ann has.  She's used up all of our Tylenol Fast Allergy Relief, and now she's going through the Tylenol Day-Time Allergy Relief.  Fortunately, one of her co-workers is in the U.S. right now...maybe she'll be able to bring some back for her.
This is going to be a  Jo Ann and Tim weekend.  We're not going to get together with'll just be us with the pets.  We'll make some good food, and enjoy our new patio furniture. 
I have to go....I'm watering John and Rammy's plants while they're away, and I better get to it before it gets hot!

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Our new teak patio set has arrived!

Our new teak patio set was delivered this morning, and it's NICE!  We now have a new table, eight chairs, and a nice little garden bench that takes up about one-third of our grassy area in the backyard.  Do you tip delivery men in Switzerland?  I wasn't really sure, but I did it anyway.  He seemed a bit surprised.  So, maybe it's not the norm.  Perhaps I shouldn't have... seeing that I did help him bring all of the stuff into the backyard.  Anyway, the new furniture is on the patio, the old furniture is now on our bedroom balcony, and the crappy old wicker stuff we had on the balcony is now going to the dump (or "tip" as my British ex-neighbor Paul calls it). 
The dump is only open on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday, so I'll head over there in a little while.  After the dump, I'll head over to have the car washed.  Then, I might go out and buy some firewood for the little patio fireplace.  I'm not going to stray too far away today because Dominique's stomach is messed up...yet again!
Dominique had a little accident in the house while I was moving the furniture around.  So, that means she had to take the pills for her "runs" which means she can't eat for 24 hours.  I'm sure this evening will be fairly unpleasant when she begs non-stop for food until the moment she falls asleep.  But I guess that's a small price to pay.
I was going to go to the gym today, but I'm a little sore from yesterday's workout.  Plus, given the baby's condition, it's probably better that I don't leave the house for 3+ hours.  I think my neighbor Dave is might be time to stop giving Dominique people food and just stick with the pet food.  I admit it, I'm a sucker for giving her table scraps.  Maybe her stomach just can't handle it anymore.  Although I notice she only has problems with her stomach during the summer, so maybe it started when we had the hot and humid weather last week.  I guess I'll just have to go to the gym tomorrow and Friday. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

...And Then There Were Four!

I just noticed that I haven't blogged for over a week. bad.
Perry, Renee, John, and Cathy just left yesterday morning, and they're now back in Chicago.  So it's back down to just us and the pets.  We did quite a bit while Perry and Renee were staying at our house, so the blogging kind of took a backseat.  I just want to point out, that I did weigh myself at the gym two days after my first weigh-in, and that I was already down to 112.1 kg./246.6 lbs.  So, it only took two days to lose the one kilo I gained during my three-week gym hiatus.  Today, I'm going to go to the gym right after dropping Steve, Louise, and the kids off at Basel Airport.  I'll make sure I weigh in again, although I'm not expecting too good results after a weekend of sausages, etc.
It was really hot and humid here last week.  We had temperatures in the low 30s and the humidity was up into the low 80%s.  That's not bad by Chicago standards, but I just want to remind you that people do not have air conditioning in Switzerland.  There is no escape from the heat.  So, the only way for me to be able to sleep is to have a fan blowing right on my head.  That causes me to wake up with my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth and my sinuses feeling as if they're filled with cement.  Not good.  Fortunately, this week looks like it's going to be pretty much sunny with lower humidity and temps in the mid 20s.  Ahhhhhhhhhh, sweet relief!
I have to leave for the airport in about an that's all for now.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The Big Finn weighed in at 113.1 kg. on July 19, 2004!

You read that correctly...113.1 kg./248.82 lbs.  I weighed myself in at the gym yesterday, and I was happy to see that I only gained 1 kg./2.2 lbs. during my 3-week gym hiatus.  I'm pretty happy with that weight since I generally just try to keep my weight under 250 lbs.  However, I think I'm getting pretty close to the limit.  So, as I said in yesterday's post - I'm going on a diet.
I started the diet yesterday, and it went pretty well.  I just ate less than I normally do.  Also, I had a surprisingly good workout yesterday, and I felt pretty good after the workout too.  Just to be safe, I did go in the sauna at my gym for about 20 minutes just to make sure the muscles loosened up.  I just want to point out to the non-European readers of my blog that the saunas here in Switzerland are always co-ed and nude.  I still think of it as a novelty when I walk into the sauna and there are nude men and women sitting there.  I guess that comes with having grown up in the U.S.A.  So, anyway...I'm just going to continue on with the eating less and exercising more routine for the next month, and we'll see what happens.  I'll post my progress on my blog.
This morning I brought out the hedge trimmer and went to work in Steve and Louise's backyard.  They had this big arborvitae-type bush that was bent over due to the massive clematis growing all over.  So, I just went to work on it around 8:30 a.m. and I finished up around 11:00 a.m.  The trimming is the easy part.  Carrying all of the clippings to the compost area is the real work.  I had to make 5-6 trips to the compost area to dump the clippings....that's my workout for the day!  Afterwards, I stopped at the home of my friend Akis and had a Coke Light (they don't call it Diet Coke here) and talked for about a half hour.  Then, I went home and I ate a small lunch.  Then, I booked our September vacation to Málaga, Spain. 
We're actually staying in a town called Estepona which is not too far from the Rock of Gibralter.  This is going to be a pool, beach, and spa type of vacation, but we'll probably manage to get in a little sightseeing (probably a day trip to Gibralter).  I used our Swiss Airlines miles for this trip (trying to use the miles before Swiss goes out of business), and it's a good thing too because the airport to hotel transfers are pretty expensive (the hotel is about 70 km./43 miles from the airport).  I'm really looking forward to this trip.  There's nothing like a vacation where your only plan is relaxation!

Sunday, July 18, 2004

The Makers of Slim-Fast...Stupid or Brilliant???

I just read in this weekend's International Herald Tribune that Whoopi Goldberg was dropped as the spokesperson for Slim-Fast for using George Bush's (whom they refer to as "W") surname as a "sexual reference."  Either the Slim-Fast people are the dumbest people in the world (why would you think Whoopi Goldberg would not put her foot in her mouth?), or they're the smartest people in the world (why would you think Whoopi Goldberg would not put her foot in her mouth?).  After all, she kind of has a track record of doing things that appear to be judgements of error but might actually be planned publicity stunts (remember the incident with Ted Danson?).  I'm kind of leaning toward Slim-Fast marketing genius.  You know the old saying...there's no such thing as bad publicity!  You drop Whoopi like a hot potato, she probably stops getting paid due to some kind of clause in the contract, and Slim-Fast gets loads of free publicity...I'm reading about it in Switzerland for God's sake.  Regardless, I think it's a dumb product anyway.  Just cut back on the amount you eat and exercise more.  How complicated is that?  To prove my point, I'm going to go on a diet for one month starting today.  I'm going to eat whatever I want but try to cut  my food consumption by a third, exercise more, eat slowly and chew my food better, drink more water, and not drink alcoholic beverages from Monday - Thursday.  I'm going to head to the gym in a couple of hours, and I'll weigh myself in.  Then, I'll weigh myself in one month.  We'll see how I do.

Saturday, July 17, 2004


We're back in Basel after spending the last week in Brussels and Bruges - or Brugge as it's called in Dutch.  I couldn't mention anything about this before, but Perry and Renee were there with us.  The reason I couldn't mention it was because our friends John and Cathy arrived in Zurich today (a surprise trip for John's 50th birthday...he didn't know where he was going until check-in at O'Hare Airport), and John didn't know that Perry and Renee were going to be here too.  He thought they were on vacation in Hawaii.  So...John and Cathy arrived in Zurich this morning, and the four of us were there to greet them.  John was totally shocked when he saw us all standing outside of customs. 
Today - Perry, Renee, John, and Cathy are going to spend the day/night in Zurich, and then they'll be taking the train to Milan tomorrow for a few days.  They're all DaVinci Code fans, so they're going to see DaVinci's The Last Supper which is in Milan.
As for our recent trip.  Let me just recommend Belgium as an excellent vacation destination.  Brussels is always fun - lots of great Belgian beer, chocolate, over 2,000 restaurants in Brussels alone, good shopping, nice museums - just an overall relaxing time.  I could definitely live in Brussels.  Brugge (it's in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium...I have no idea why English speakers call it Bruges) is absolutely beautiful.  We stayed at a hotel called the Tuilereën, and it was very nice.  There were a lot of great sights to see in the town, we took a canal boat cruise, climbed to the top of Belfort (the belfry in the middle of town), ate traditional Belgian dishes (I ate non-sushi eel for the first time), ate French fries with a glob of mayonnaise on top, saw the shrine were they keep a vial of Christ's (supposedly) blood.  Also, Brugge is only about an hour away by train from Brussels Central Station.  Take my advice - fly to Brussels, spend 2-3 nights there, take the train to Brugge, spend 2-3 nights (it gets crowded during the weekend) there too.  You'll love it!!!
Now it's back to the normal life.  We have a bunch of laundry to do (our new dryer came while we were in Brussels...thanks to Dave for taking delivery), and then tonight we're going to have a "Saveur Dinner" (I'll let you know how that turns out) with Andy and Di.  On Monday, it's back to the gym after a three week absence.  I don't think I really gained much weight during my hiatus, but I'm sure it's going to take a couple of weeks to get back into shape. 
Don't forget to check out my website.  I'll post pictures from our vacation sometime over the next couple of days.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

We're In Brussels...

We arrived in Brussels yesterday, and we'll be here until tomorrow afternoon. Then, we're going to Bruges for a couple of nights. It's been cool and rainy, but we've still been having a good time. Today we went to an art exhibit for a Belgian abstract artist named Engel-Pak...excellent.
I can't really write too much today. I'm using Jo Ann's lap top, and it has a German keyboard which is driving me crazy. The zs and ys are reversed, etc. I'll see if I can write more later. Tonight, we're going to a restaurant named L'Ogenblik. We've been there before. Hopefully, it's as good as we remember.
Royal Windsor Hotel-Brussels

Friday, July 09, 2004

Funny How Nobody Is Talking About Global Warming Now...

The weather in Basel has totally sucked this week. It'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. Last year at this time it was about 35ºC 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. Even this spring everybody was ranting and raving about global warming. But isn't it funny that when you have a week or two of cool weather, the fear of global warming totally disappears? Do I think global warming is an issue? Yes. Do I think that it is something we should be gravely concerned about? No. As with 99.9% of the problems that have faced mankind through the years, technology will prevail. I mean, come on...when's the last time one of your friends or neighbors died from the Black Death? It might take a while, but sooner or later we'll figure out some way to use technology to reverse the effects of global warming. Hopefully it's sooner than later. I read an article somewhere that some doomsdayers predict that by about 2012 Holland will be completely flooded and that Belgium's coast will be constantly rocked by hurricanes. I guess only time will tell. But I for one am not looking into retirement property in Hammerfest, Norway so that I can spend my winters in balmy comfort. I'll take Hawai'i any day!!!

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

There's Nothing Like Shopping In France When You Can't Speak French!

This morning, I made my weekly grocery shopping trip to Gèant in St. Louis, France. Once per week, I drive Mrs. The Big Finn to work, go to Gèant, stop at the French dry cleaner, and then it's back home to Reinach. I like grocery shopping in France. For one thing, it's a lot cheaper than Switzerland. Secondly, they have a MUCH larger variety of stuff than either Coop or Migros - the main Swiss grocery stores. Another thing I like - and probably the best thing of all - is that I don't speak French. You might think that this would be a hindrance (sometimes it is), but for the most part it ends up being relaxing. The reason is - since I don't understand anything anybody is saying around me, I have NO distractions. I used to feel this way in Switzerland, but now my German has become good enough that I can kind of understand what people are saying, and I find that I'm always trying to eavesdrop on conversations. I can no longer read a book or a newspaper on the tram. I'm too distracted. France? No problem! While waiting in the check-out line at Gèant, I've had people speak to me for probably thirty seconds (in French) before I realized that they were even speaking to me. By then, it's too late to respond anyway, so they probably think I'm just some large, rude Frenchman. At the dry cleaner, I'm always asked something in French when I drop off the clothes and I just give them a confused look...NO PROBLEM. I actually found out after about two years of doing this (from a Swiss Airlines flight attendant who was behind me in line) that they are asking me if there are any stains that need to be pre-treated. Now, I know enough to just say "Oui" and point, or I just say "Non, merci." It's amazing how little speaking I actually do some days. Mrs. TBF often asks me if I spoke with anybody during the day, and the answer often is: "Only to Dominique (our dog) and King (our cat)".
I'm into week two of my gym being closed for summer vacation, and I'm enjoying it. I like working out, but it's pretty nice being a total schlub for a couple of weeks per year. I don't fell like I've gained weight, but I definitely feel like laziness is setting in. That cross-trainer is going to be a bitch when I get back from vacation next week...making a total of three weeks without exercise.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

My New Next-Door-Neighbors Are Canadian, And They Moved In On Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day. Unless you're Canadian like me, or live in Canada, you probably don't know that July 1st is Canada Day. And, imagine the cooincidence - our new neighbors are from Canada, and they moved in today! How about that? I picked up on it right away. In the first minute of speaking with my new neighbor - Eli - I heard him say "abooot" instead of about, and he said "eh" 3-4 times...dead giveaway.
Going back to yesterday and the dryer saga, one of the last orders of business for my now ex-next-door-neighbor James was to call the appliance repair company for me. James is the rare breed of native English speaker (he's an Aussie) who has actually learned to speak Swiss-German rather well while living here. I told him about the dryer dilemma, and he volunteered to call the repair service for me. When he hung up, he told me that I'm getting a new dryer in 1-2 weeks - and that's a good thing. Luckily for us, one of the units is empty and the caretaker gave me the key to the apartment so that I can use the dryer until my new one arrives. According to James, I'm going to have to pay for the dryer and then send the bill to the landlord for reimbursement. In America, there would be about a 0% chance of me doing that. Here in Switzerland, I don't really have a problem with it. People aren't really out to screw you. For example, one time I accidentally double-paid the rent. I realized it after about a week, and I contacted the management company. The double-payment was wired into our bank account the same day. How's that for service?
Today, I picked Jo Ann up at Basel Airport. She flew back from New Jersey via London, and she arrived in Basel a little after noon. She worked from home during the afternoon, and I did some grocery shopping, we had some dinner, and then we watched (I watched and Jo Ann watched through her eyelids on the sofa) the Greece vs. Czech Republich Euro 2004 semi-final (which Greece won). It's going to be Portugal vs. Greece in the final on Sunday. Who would have predicted that one before the tournament. For that matter, who would have predicted before the tournament that I would even care. I have to say, soccer is OK. I was almost able to watch the whole game. But, as my luck would have it, during the extra time (with the score 0-0), Dominque showed that she had to go out. So, I took her for a walk. When I was about 15 feet from the door on the way back in, I heard a bunch of screaming throughout the neighborhood. Greece scored the winning goal, AND I MISSED IT!!!! At least I saw the replay. As it turned out, Dominique didn't really need to go out afterall. She kind of just walked around and sniffed. I'm going to make sure I take her out for a walk right before the final on Sunday evening.