Tuesday, August 31, 2004

How about a little CRAP with your Mies van der Rohe?

I cut this little blurb out of the International Herald Tribune a couple of weeks ago regarding an incident that happened in the Windy City, and I can't stop reading it:

A bus driver working for the ecologically minded Dave Matthews Band could face prosecution on charges of dumping the vehicle's load of human waste off a Chicago bridge and onto a tour boat, the police said. The waste splattered passengers on an architectural boat cruise the afternoon of Aug. 8, sending the boat back to its dock and some of the disgusted passengers to the hospital for tests.


Y'have anything smaller than that???

...or the German equivalent, is something I have never heard in Switzerland. Let me explain.
In America, there are often signs at stores, gas stations, etc. that state that you can't pay with large bills (usually bills larger than $50, but sometimes even larger than $20). For example, if you go into 7-Eleven and buy a Slurpee or a Big Gulp, you can't pay with a $100 bill. Well, this is not the case when you buy things in Switzerland.
In the past, I have actually apologized when I went to pay for something only to find that I didn't have any small bills. I quickly came to realize that businesses didn't consider this a problem at all. Today, I was reminded of this unique feature of Swiss life when I bought a hot dog at the Brezelkönig stand. The hot dog (which comes in a pretzel-bread bun with mustard, ketchup, banana-curry sauce, or tartar sauce...I like tartar sauce) costs 5 CHF (about $4 U.S.). When it came time to pay, I found that the smallest bill I had was a 200 CHF note (about $160 U.S.). I just gave it to the man, and he happily gave me 195 CHF in change. I have NEVER been asked in Switzerland if I had a smaller bill, and I'm beginning to think that I never will.
The hot dog was a nice lunch after my first German lesson of the new school year. Last night, I set my watch for 8:15 a.m., and I ended up waking up at 8:47 a.m. I have absolutely no memory of hearing the alarm. Luckily, I woke up when Dominique moved on the bed. I jumped out of bed, took a shower, had a quick breakfast, walked Dominique, and walked out of the house at 9:30 a.m. I made it to my school at 10:00 (my lesson was at 10:15), which gave me a chance to go around the corner and grab a quick grande tageskaffee zum mitnehmen mit platz für rahm (large coffee of the day to go with room for cream) at Starbucks. I actually said with cream, and I noticed that the lady was about to put whipped cream on my coffee. So, I said it in English, and she told me to say room for cream instead of with cream. Lesson learned. Although, the whipped cream probably would have been a nice touch. Maybe I'll go for that next time. By the way, a grande coffee of the day at Starbucks in Basel costs 4.80 CHF (about $3.85 U.S.). Is that a lot? What do they cost in America now?
After Starbucks, I stopped at a travel agent to pick up a travel brochure for a friend, and then I went to Douglass to buy some moisturizer (I know, kind of gay.) and a loofah mit (I know, even gayer!), and finally I did a little window shopping. I saw my much coveted Breitling watch, some clothes that looked good but were several sizes too small for me, and then I jumped on the tram and was whisked back to Reinach.

Monday, August 30, 2004

All we are is dust in the wind...

That's what I was singing in the early hours of Sunday morning, but more about that later....
On Saturday, we went to our first neighborhood Spielplatz Party. It was the third annual, but we missed the previous two because we were on vacation. It's basically a party that's arranged by the Swiss people who live in an apartment building a stone throw's away from us. They have a two-hour flea market for the kids, followed by a couple of hours of games (bocce ball, volleyball, and soccer), and then a pot-luck barbecue. We went for the games, and then we left for another party - the Severn 100th Birthday Party.
Jarl and Sharon somehow realized that the sum of their ages along with their children's ages equaled one-hundred years. So, they decided to hold a 100th birthday party. They had a very nice catered affair with enough meat for an army. I think I had a 2-3 lamb kebabs, a couple of pork chops, some shrimp, several bratwursts, and a potpourri of salads...and I'm not counting the Guiness, cigar, single-malt scotch, Jägermeister. I'm not joking...I ate about three days worth of food in a few hours, and I walked out of their house feeling like a Thanksgiving turkey. Jo Ann left a couple of hours before I did so that she could take care of the pets, but I ended up staying until 12:30 or 1:00 a.m. Andy and I rode home with our neighbors Mark and Sandra, and right before I was going to walk into the house, Andy talked me into going to check out if the Spielplatz Party was still going on. As it turned out, it was.
We sat down at the table with a few of the Swiss people, a guitar came out, and before I knew it I was singing Dust In The Wind by Kansas, Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd, and Winds of Change by the Scorpions. After an hour or so, Andy and I were told we should only speak in German, so we did (kind of). Andy left at about 2:30 a.m. because he was going to be playing tennis at 10:00. I stayed until about 3:30 a.m. when I began feeling a few raindrops on my head. By the end of the night, it had been decided that there would be another barbecue on November 6th when the Swiss people will decide who speaks better German - me or Andy. I better start studying since Andy has about a four-year head start on me.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

anpassen = adapt, adjust; entdecken = discover; teilen = divide, share...

I've finally started making my karteikarten (flash cards). Carmen, my German language teacher, began hounding me last spring about making flash cards to improve my vocabulary. So since my lessons begin again next Tuesday, I figured it was about time to go out and buy some index cards. Now, when I see a German word I don't know (believe me...there are many), I just write it down on a card, look up the word in the dictionary, and write the English word on the backside of the card. I could probably do about five-hundred cards per day, but let's not get crazy...I'm going to try (probieren) to do about five per day. Now I'll be able to honestly tell Carmen that I've be doing my index cards during the summer break. By next Tuesday I should have about thirty cards, but I'll put them on top of my stack of 200 cards. Carmen doesn't have to know that only a few of the cards have writing on them. Hopefully (hoffentlich) she won't ask to see the whole deck. Otherwise, I'll be in trouble (Schwierigkeit).
My Thursday has been pretty typical of most Thursdays. I drove Jo Ann to work, and then I went shopping in France. After I came home to unload the groceries, I drove over to the local, big, overly-priced, liquor store Traumland (dreamland) to buy some Rose's Lime Juice. (By the way, did you know that Rose's Lime Juice is manufactured by Mott's? That's right. The same Mott's that not only makes North America's best selling apple juice and apple sauce, but also Hawaiian Punch, Yoo-hoo, and ReaLemon/ReaLime!) After Traumland, I went to OBI to buy a few more mums for the garden. I figured that since the weather's been so fall-like, I might as well plant some fall flowers. Now, I'm sitting here with my hands on the computer keyboard instead of on the vacuum cleaner (Staubsauger) like they're supposed to be. I better go take care of my Putzfrau (cleaning lady) duties.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Ich bin zurückgekommen!!!

Or...I have returned! That's what I said when I walked into my German language school to sign up for my fall German lessons. I'm going to resume my weekly 90-minute lessons starting at 10:15 a.m. next Tuesday morning. Carmen will still be my teacher, and we'll pick up where we left off at the beginning of June...chapter 23. I'll go up to chapter 36, and THEN I'M DONE!!!! I'm actually looking forward to the lessons starting again. My German language skills have definitely deteriorated during my summer hiatus.
The first order of business this morning was to go to the Reinach town hall and register Dominique's microchip number (which I managed to do in my very poor German). Our town requires that all dogs have microchips inserted, and they must be reported to the town hall. I received a letter about this "requirement" last year, but our veterinarian - Dr. Buser - told me that it was optional, not required. So, although Dominique was microchipped when she was a puppy, and I could have reported the number...I didn't. Dr. Buser did, however, scan Dominique and he wrote the number down for me in her pet passport. About a week ago, a letter came from the town hall basically telling me that I was required to report the microchip number to the town officials by September 30th, and at the bottom of the letter it showed the police had been copied in on the letter....Oh,Oh! So, there I was this morning at 10:30 at the town hall. As it turned out, all the lady did was make a photocopy of the pet passport, and that was it.
After the microchip incident, I took the tram to my German school. After a brief stop at the school, I did a little shopping. I went to Globus (which is kind of the Nordstrom of Switzerland), where I bought a few odds and ends at the gourmet food shop (nice!), and I bought a digital scale in the housewares section. I also wanted to buy some of my skin care lotion (I'm into skin care, what can I say?), but I didn't because the good people at Lab Series seem to want to constantly change the name of their products. So, I'm going to have to go back with the empty tube of Super Lift Off and determine if "Super Duper Nirvana Inducing Bio Morphing Transfixing Lift Off" is the same thing as what I just ran out of. I noticed that they have something called "Age Defying Gel", but it seemed to be the same as "Night Rescue Gel". Man, I'm so confused...maybe I'll just give up and stop fighting off Mother Nature.

Monday, August 23, 2004

A man named Joan.

Mrs. TBF and I went to the Foundation Beyeler yesterday to see the Calder - Miró exhibit. It was a pretty cool exhibit, which I guess is pretty much the norm for exhibits at the Beyeler. This exhibit "...sheds light on interests shared in common by the two artists, from circus and play as forms of pure poetic expression to art in the public space." In my opinion, this is just a fancy schmancy way of saying that these two guys liked hanging out together, and their art inspired each other. Miró mostly did paintings, and Calder did wire sculptures (mobiles and stabiles), which ended up looking very similar to each other's work. For anybody who makes a trip to Basel, I'd have to say that the Beyeler would definitely be worth your while (the number 6 tram stops right in front of it). Along with having excellent special exhibits, they also have a pretty amazing permanent collection - especially for such a small museum. My guess is that they probably have about 30 Picassos, along with Monet, Klee, Van Gogh, etc., etc. Plus the fact the the place is pretty small is perfect if you have a VERY short attention span like yours truly.
Let's see, what else did we do this weekend...? On Saturday evening, Christian and Nimashini came over for a BBQ. I barbecued some pork and lamb ribs, along with some polenta squares. We had some stuffed mushrooms, a Jamie Oliver salad, and a great (and very easy) chocolate dessert made with Bushmills Irish Whiskey. It was a veritable gorgefest. We had a good time only hampered (for Nimashini) by the fact that she had some kind of allergic reaction to our cat, and she ended up with one bloodshot eye.
On Sunday morning, Jo Ann played tennis with Rammy, we went to the Beyeler, we barbecued a couple of steaks for dinner, and then we watched the Olympics. Is it my imagination, or have there been a lot of empty seats at these games? Anyway, I particularly enjoyed watching the gymnasts on the rings. Those biceps give me something to work toward at the gym!

Saturday, August 21, 2004

We woke up this morning at the crack of....11:00 a.m.!

That's right...11:00 a.m., and we're proud of it! Jo Ann, Di, Sam, Alie, and I (Andy's in the U.S.A. on business) had a great dinner at John, Rammy, and Oliver's house last night. Martinis and a starter were followed by five courses and multiple wines. The kids assembled a pucka' dessert (as Jamie Oliver would say), and then we finally left at about 2:00 a.m. I was running on empty. As a matter of fact, I think I was more tired than the kids were. I walked Dominiqe at about 2:30, and we finally made it to bed at about 3:00 a.m. So, I guess sleeping until 11:00 a.m. is OK.
This evening, Christian and Nimashini are coming over for dinner. I'm going to barbecue some pork and lamb ribs. It's kind of overcast outside. Hopefully I won't have to BBQ in the rain.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Stan Toporek...where are you?

I picked some basil and mint from our garden early this morning for some basil/mint pesto I needed to make for tomorrow's dinner (Mrs. TBF is using it to stuff some mushrooms). While I was in the garden, I started thinking about the person I feel ignited my interest in gardening - Mr. Stan Toporek.
Mr. Toporek was my 8th-grade science teacher at Jack London Jr. High School in Wheeling, Illinois during the 1975/76 school year. I would have to say that he was probably my favorite teacher of all time. I remember him putting hydrochloric acid into a beaker filled with sugar to demonstrate what would happen if we accidently ingested some HCL (Totally cool!!!! I guess, unless you actually do it!) I also remember an excellent course on meteorology. However, the thing that stands out most, is this course we had on plants/gardening.
Mr. Toporek grew this tomato plant indoors that had to be ten-feet tall. He also arranged for all of the science students to have these 4'x4' plots of land on the vacant lot next to the school where we had our own little vegetable gardens. We had to turn the soil (I had just had knee surgery, so my dad turned it for me one Saturday morning), plant the seeds, and harvest our little radishes, lettuce, etc. I think this is where I became hooked on gardening. And, I've had various gardens for most years (except for maybe when I was in college) since then.
I just looked at my 8th-grade year book, and he signed it: "Best wishes to a fine young man. Mr. Toporek" From the picture, it looks like he was probably about 25 years old back in 1975 (although at the time all the students probably felt like their teachers were all in their 40s), which would put him in his mid 50s now. So, Stan Toporek, if you ever read this blog entry - Tim H. says thanks! Drop me line, I'd love to hear from you. You can reach me at my website.
After making the pesto, I stuffed some martini olives with roquefort cheese. We're going over to John, Rammy, and Oliver's house for dinner with Di and the kids (Andy's in Las Vegas on business), and I'm going to bring some martini fixins'. When I unwrapped the roquefort that I bought at Coop a couple of days ago, I noticed that the receipt stated - Es bediente Sie: Frau Incognito (served by Mrs. Incognito) Frau Incognito?!?!? Do you think that's her real name? Come to think of it, I remember being served by a man!!! Anyway, the next time you're making yourself a martini (gin of course...none of this vodka nonsense), get some big pitted stuffing olives and stuff them with some roquefort cheese. Just mash up some roquefort cheese with a few drops of olive brine, and carefully stuff the cheese into the olive with the blunt end of a chopstick. Put the olives on a martini toothpick, drop it in your drink, and voila! Superb!!!

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Hey Diagnostic Dave...are you proud of me?

Our neighbor Dave, or Diagnostic Dave as a lot of us call him, is the guy in the 'hood who we go to when we have any sort of technical questions/problems. Often, somebody will ask me how to do something, and then I'll just refer that person on to Diagnostic Dave. Well, I just want to point out that I went to interGGA this afternoon, exchanged my malfunctioning cable modem for a new one, installed the software, AND ACTUALLY GOT IT TO WORK without the assistance of "D-Squared"!!!! Dave...I'll return your cable modem to you tonight. Thanks for letting me use it (I guess I really didn't take care of it without D-Squared's help afterall.).

Look out! I have tiny blue balls!!!

I ran out of my Right Guard Gel Deodorant from the U.S. last week, and I replaced it with the only gel deo I could find at the store. It's made by Gillette, and after I bought it I saw that it's touted as having POWER CAPS. These, apparently, are tiny blue balls that are inside the gel that are supposed to fight odor. Well, my first thought when I bought this deo last week was "...what kind of idiot would be swayed into buying this product because of the POWER CAPS?" Well, the answer is - A LOT of idiots. Yesterday, I used the last of the deodorant in my gym bag. So, I went to Géant today to buy more deo (among other things), and guess what I faced? It was an aisle fully stocked with a multitude of deodorants. Fully stocked, that is, except for one. That's right...POWER CAPS. I was able to get the last one, and that's only because it was all the way in the back of the shelf and I was probably the only person who could reach it. I might have to start hoarding it!
Wouldn't you know it? Yesterday, after going on and on on my blog about how summer was gone and fall was now here, I actually stepped outside. And what did I find? It was sunny and about 30ºC. I put on some shorts and a t-shirt, and then I went and cut the grass. As I might have said before, I cut a couple of the neighbors' lawns too. It's such a waste to bring the lawn mower out just to spend 30 seconds cutting our tiny lawn. So, I cut two other lawns that are close by just to make bringing the mower out worthwhile. Not surprisingly, the neighbors don't seem to mind. I did it for them once, and then I just kind of kept on doing it. They've actually brought me a couple of bottles of wine - which was nice - but I told them not to bother with the wine. I mean, it used to take me forty-five minutes to cut our lawn outside of Chicago with a rider mower. So, spending fifteen minutes cutting three lawns is hardly a hassle.
After yesterday's nice weather, today is dreary and rainy again. So, I'm going to take a drive through the rain to my internet service provider in Pratteln and exchange my cable modem. I still have Dave's modem hooked up, but I'm going to return it to him today. Therefore, I need to get mine replaced. Now that I mention it, I better take off. It's about 1:10 p.m., and they open up at 1:30 p.m. after their lunch break.
Bis bald...

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

I'm back...d'ya miss me?

I've been having computer problems. First I couldn't update my website for days because Yahoo! Webhosting was shut down for maintenance (...some kind of reimbursement for the lost week maybe???). Then, I couldn't get online at all. As it turns out, my cable modem ist kaput! I hooked up my neighbor Dave's modem....and, voila! So, now I have to call the service provider, hopefully find somebody who speaks English or understands my broken English, and figure out how to get a new modem. I've been renting mine for 9.50 CHF per month. I wonder how much they cost...maybe it's time to just buy one.
So, what's happened since I last posted. We went to the Em Bebbi Sy Jazz festival in Basel last Friday night, and we saw our friend Jooce's band - Boss Blues. They were great, as usual. They even added a couple of news songs to their repertoire. On Saturday, we had kind of a pot luck BBQ over at Andy and Di's with John & Rammy and Coletta & David...and all of the kids. It was kind of the last hurrah before C & D left for America (they left this past Monday). On Sunday, Jo Ann played tennis in the morning, and then we kind of relaxed in the afternoon. At least I think we did. I don't really remember what we did on Sunday afternoon. This week has been the usual stuff of gym, grocery store, making pesto (just made some basil/pistachio pesto this morning). The only new thing added to the fray has been the Olympics.
We watch the Olympics on our "technically illegal" U.K. Sky satellite. It's kind of cool watching it on BBC. You actually see a lot of different events. I don't know if it's changed in America since we left four years ago, but the BBC doesn't just focus on events that the Brits are in. They show tons of different stuff. As a matter of fact, it's interactive and you can actually pull down a menu and choose from four different things to watch. I actually watched Olympic trap shooting yesterday. It was won by somebody from the U.A.E. I don't think they'd ever show that on NBC, or whichever network has the Olympics this year in America. It's been great watching badminton, table tennis, and field hockey (which the Brits just call hockey) along with gymnastics, swimming, diving, etc. Also, the absence of those "straight from depths of Hell" up-close-and-personal snippets are a God-send!
Well, after a crappy day yesterday, the sun is shining today. So, I think I'll maybe cut the grass after it's dry, and then I'll head to the gym. My weight has pretty much stablized in the 111 kg. range, but my pants are a lot looser. I guess that means I've been doing the fat to muscle transformation. I've definitely cut down on the amount I eat...which is good.
One final thing...what the heck happened? Two weeks ago it was 30º - 35º, and the height of summer. Suddenly, it's cool and fall is in the air. Jo Ann was amazed yesterday that I was wearing long pants....ON AUGUST 17TH!!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Summer 1984 - Summer 2004: Twenty years of pesto for The Big Finn!

My herb garden is at its peak right now. I'd say I have enough herbs to make about twenty-five batches of pesto. So far, I've just stuck with classic basil pesto and cilantro pesto. However, today I'm going to venture into the unknown...I'm going to make some basil-oregano pesto. We have this pesto cookbook, and it has about thirty different recipes. So, I figured that I'd try some of the different types this year. Afterall, anybody can buy basil pesto at the store. Why not expand one's horizons to pistachio, tarragon, or basil-mint pesto. And to think, before I met my Italian/American wife, I don't think I had ever tasted pesto in my life. I just don't think it's a staple of the Finnish household. I'd have to say that I had my first taste of pesto sauce during the summer of 1984 when Mrs. TBF and I began dating. That would make this summer The Big Finn's 20th pesto anniversary.
We had a good soaking rain last night, and that's good for the garden. Gardening is a breeze this year after last year's heat wave/draught. We've had sufficient rain, and it hasn't been unbearably hot this year. Also, I smuggled in some Burpee seeds from America. I don't like the basil and parsley seeds they sell here. It might have been a function of last year's heat, but they just didn't produce well. More importantly, they didn't taste as good as the plants that grow from my beloved Burpee seeds.
I'm going to have some lunch after my daily pesto session, and then I'm going to head to the gym. It feels a bit cooler today, so maybe the B.O. (or Boris Orloff as my ex-next-door-neighbor Paul used to call it) at the gym won't be quite so pungent today as it was on Monday. I've stepped up the bicep workout. Mrs. TBF actually told me last week that my forearms looked huge, but she kind of implied that my biceps weren't looking as good as they could. So, after looking at my biceps about 100 times in the mirror during the weekend, I did a massive bicep workout on Monday. I felt it yesterday, but I think I've recovered enough to go at it again this afternoon. This will be workout number two in quest of David Robinson biceps!

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Someone stinks...and it ain't me!!!

My word of the day: deodorant. As in - how about using some? I smell B.O. in and around Basel on a regular basis, but when the temperature and humidity go up....WHOA!!! I was at the gym yesterday, and some of people in my gym just had some real nasty STANK! The stank did not discriminate between men and women or young and old. But, if I had to pick the demographic which was activating my gag reflex the most, it would be...old women. Whew!!! The most common B.O. smell over all demographics would have to be the "cat pee" smell. This would have to be followed by the "onions rotting in sunshine for two days" smell. These two smells have a commanding lead over just plain "rancid sweat"...an oldy, but goody. Smelly people...take my advice - go to the grocery store, buy some deodorant, and USE IT. Once a month would be a good start.
And since I mentioned grocery stores...Is it unreasonable to expect people to have their money ready when they are in the check out line at a grocery store? I have seen this phenomenon many times (older women, yet again, are usually the prime culprits): the groceries go down the conveyor belt, the cashier is scanning the items, the prices (including a cummulative price) flash on a little screen, the cashier announces the grand total, and....the customer looks blankly at the cashier as if totally surprised that he/she has to pay for these items. It happened yesterday. The guy in front of me bought one thing - a bag of some kind of meat from the butcher counter. The cashier said the total - 54.65 CHF, or something like that - and then the guy just stood there for about five seconds. He acted surprised that he actually had to pay this amount, and then he reached for his wallet, produced his Supercard (kind of like a Fresh Values card at good old Dominick's in Chicago), and then proceeded to pay for his purchase with two twenty franc notes, and about 14.65 made up of about FIFTY coins. It took about five minutes!!! Some more advice from The Big Finn: HAVE YOUR MONEY READY BEFORE THE CASHIER FINISHES SCANNING YOUR GROCERIES...IF YOU WANT THE GROCERIES, YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO PAY FOR THEM. THIS SHOULDN'T SURPRISE YOU. IT'S ALWAYS BEEN THIS WAY. IF YOU DON'T WANT TO PAY FOR GROCERIES, DON'T GO TO THE GROCERY STORE AND STAND IN FRONT OF ME IN LINE!!!
Now that I got that off my chest...King had a successful visit to Dr. Buser's office weighing in at 6.1 kgs./13.4 lbs. He actually went into is crate without too much hassle, he rode to the office without too much complaining, and he received his one vaccination without so much as one meow. He does, however, have a minor ear infection, and I have to put some kind of Novartis (King's supporting Mommy's company) ear drops into his ears once a day for a week or so. I brought him back home, and he went right to his big green pillow to take a nap.
That's it for now...I'm going to go do a little grocery shopping in France (I have to find out how to say "have your money ready" in French), and then I'm going to pick up Jo Ann at work.
Bis später...

Monday, August 09, 2004

The Swiss kids are back in school today!

It's August 9th, and today is the first day back at school for the Swiss kids. I think the English speakers begin school at the ISB (International School Basel) in two weeks. The Swiss kids actually have a fairly short summer break, but they get two-week breaks here and there throughout the year which makes up for the short summer break.
This past weekend was a good one. We had our Tour de Reinach (TDR3), and that went very well. It started off with a bit of rain for the first stage, but then the weather cleared for the remainder of the evening. We hosted the final stage, and served champagne, kir royales, blinis with caviar, and shrimp cocktail. Although excellent food and drink was enjoyed at every stage, I'd have to say that my favorite appetizers of the evening were the tiny hamburgers that Steve and Louise served. Louise made these tiny buns from scratch, and she made tiny hamburger patties for them...excellent! The fun lasted until about 1:00 a.m., and then we all kind of just faded out. Gill wore the yellow jersey for a while...as did Karen (although she claims she didn't deserve it). At the last stage, nobody ended up wearing the jersey because everybody was pretty well-behaved. There was no obvious champion like last year, so we don't really know who would be this year's TDR3 champion. I guess it would have to be Gill since she wore the yellow leader's jersey for the better part of two stages.
Yesterday we went to Christian and Nimashini's apartment for a BBQ. They live in a 6th-floor rooftop apartment in Klein Basel (a couple hundred meters north of the Rhein River). Their apartment is really great. It has a nice view, it's private, and it has a nice breeze (when there actually is one). The breeze was really welcome, because it was pretty hot yesterday. We had a few drinks, enjoyed some barbecued pork and sausages, and just plain relaxed. We were there for abour six hours, and then we finally decided around 8:30 p.m. that we should probably go home and feed the pets. I think Dominique must have slept the entire time we were gone, because she ended up being pretty restless throughout the night. Or, maybe she was a bit warm...I'm not sure.
Today, I've done a few things around our house. In a little while, I'm going to stop at the grocery store, go work out at the gym, and then I'll go straight from the gym to pick Jo Ann up at work. Jo Ann made me feel sufficiently sorry for her that I agreed to pick her up from work this evening. I guess the tram is actually pretty hot these days. I'm going to pick her up at 6:30 p.m., which is actually much earlier than I normally get to see her. So, I guess it's worth it.
Tomorrow, I have to bring King to the vet for his annual vaccination. He hates being put into his travel crate, so the next time I blog I'll probably have scratched up forearms.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Tomorrow is the 3rd Annual Tour de Reinach.

That's right. Tomorrow - August 7, 2004 - is the third annual Tour de Reinach. For those of you who are new to my blog/website, TDR is a progressive cocktail/appetizer party that is modeled after the Tour de France. This year we have four houses hosting "stages." Each stage provides a different drink/cocktail and some appetizers (we don't disclose what we are serving during the stages because it's more fun if it's a surprise). We spend about an hour or so at each stage, and then we move on to the next stage. At the end of each stage, the participants vote on who appears to have had the most to drink, and the leader then wears the yellow leader's jersey during the next stage. I am proud to say that my neighbor Steve F. wore the yellow jersey from begining to end last year. So, he will get to choose the wearer of the leader's jersey at the end of this year's first stage. Actually, at one point last year he protested that he shouldn't have to wear the jersey any more, and then about two seconds later he fell backwards into a bush. This year's hosts are as follows:

7:00 - 8:15 = Jooce and Judy
8:15 - 9:30 = Steve (2003 TDR champion) and Gill
9:30 - 10:45 = Steve and Louise
10:45 - ? = Jo Ann and Tim

I think we'll end up having about twenty people - including a lot of new faces - at this year's TDR. I'm still waiting to hear from several people as to whether or not they are coming (isn't RSVP a universal abbreviation?), so it might be more than twenty people.
Today, I have to do a little grocery shopping for TDR to pick up a few odds and ends, go to the gym, go to pet supply store to buy the beasts some food, and maybe stop by John and Rammy's to water their beautiful garden. It's raining lightly right now, so I might not have to water anything today. But, I'll stop by their house anyway (is anyway one word or two?). Their garden is REALLY nice. It's been a pleasure taking care of it. It makes me miss having a big yard as opposed to the postage stamp of a garden we have now.
On Sunday, we're going over to Christian and Nimashini's "penthouse" apartment for a BBQ. So, I'll probably report on TDR and C & N's on Monday.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

We have new Irish next-door neighbors...

I met our new Irish next-door neighbors - Peter and Veronica - today. I actually spoke with Peter a couple of times before, but I didn't meet Veronica until today. They have two kids, and a dog named Toby.
Dominique and Toby kind of snapped and barked at each other when they first met. But, they seemed to be getting along a little better a few minutes later. They'll be OK.
I did a good house cleaning this morning, and then I picked Jo Ann up at work at 11:30. We drove into France and bought some groceries together (we get double the import allowance when we go together). This Saturday is the Tour de Reinach party, so we had to stock up on food and drinks. After dropping Jo Ann off at the office, I drove over to John and Rammy's house to water their garden. When I arrived, some Swiss lady was coming out of their house (she was either robbing it, cleaning it, or taking in the mail...I'm not really sure which one), and I spoke to her for a few minutes. She didn't speak English, so I struggled through a German conversation. She said it had rained at the house last night, so most of the stuff didn't need to be watered (at least that's what I think she said). After she left, I watered a few things that looked a little dry. However, most of the plants did look like they were fine, so I was only there for about 15 minutes. I came home, unloaded the groceries, walked Sam and Toby, walked Dominique, did some laundry, and here I am. Pretty exciting, huh? I actually accomplished most of the things on my things-to-do-list, so I'm pretty pleased with myself. Yes, I actually make list everyday.
Time to go feed the beasts...more about Tour de Reinach next time.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Where do the main U.S. presidential candidates stand on key issues?

I like Michael Moore's website. One particularly good tidbit I found was a link to a BBC News page which profiles where the main candidates stand on 10 key issues. I'd say this is a pretty helpful public service being provided by the BBC News U.K. Edition. It seems pretty impartial to me, which is good considering that I read the other day that about 90% of Europeans support Kerry over Bush for President.
As for what's going on today. I'm going to leave for the gym in a few minutes. I hate working out before 14:00, but I have to pick Steve, Louise, and the kids up at Basel Airport at 14:20...so I have no choice. We had some much needed rain last night (which cooled things off considerably), and that means I don't have to go water John and Rammy's garden (they're off galavanting in the South of France). That's about it for today other than walking Dave and Jane's dogs after I return from the airport. Tonight, it's going to be trout for dinner on the new patio furniture that is currently highlighted on my website. See ya.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

If you're a Catholic woman, are you just a little bit mad at your church right now?

I just read in the International Herald Tribune today that the Pope approved a document for release that blamed feminist thought for fostering "oposition between women and men" and blurring the lines between the sexes. This, in turn, has called into question the "natural" two-parent structure of the family and has made "homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality." The document urged women to reaffirm their distinctiveness as caretakers by nurturing their "capacity for others," placing the onus on the "irreplaceable role" of women within the family. According to the Tribune..."Some critics - of which there have been many - wonder whether it should have been written at all." Is it any wonder why Catholic schools and churches in places like Chicago continue to close? How are you going to lure new members - or keep existing members (many of which are working women) - when you're so busy sticking your foot into your mouth.
On a lighter note, I have really been enjoying listening to my favorite radio station - WLUP 97.9 FM Chicago - online. They weren't simulcasting on the www for the longest time due to the dispute with some union that the voice-over talent should be paid royalties for the commercials that run online. They solved the problem by just playing some kind of music soundtrack during the commercials. Union loses, I win. I am once again in classic rock heaven while online. You just can't get any Rush, Van Halen, Kansas, Boston, etc. in Switzerland.

Monday, August 02, 2004

I think fireworks SUCK!

Yesterday was Swiss National Day here in Switzerland (duh!), and it was a weekend of random explosions throughout the day and into the night. As I said before, we heard what sounded like a stick of dynamite blowing up at 3:00 a.m. a few nights ago. That was just a precursor to hours and hours of store-bought fireworks going off this past Saturday and yesterday.
Am I just getting old? I think fireworks are dumb. The professional fireworks displays held by cities and towns all over the world are OK, but buying and blowing up store-bought firecrackers is just a plain waste of time and money. Even as a kid, I wasn't that into it. I had friends who would show off their massive hauls of fireworks that they brought back from hillbilly havens like Kentucky, I'd watch them blow off a few, and then I'd just lose interest. This morning, Dominique and I walked with Mrs. TBF to the tram to see her off to work, and the International School of Basel's playground was littered with firecracker trash, beer bottles, etc. Good combination...beer and explosives! Fortunately, I think our aging pets are getting hard of hearing because they didn't seem as bothered by the explosions as much as they were in years past. Hopefully Switzerland will follow the lead of civilized places like Illinois and ban the sale of fireworks in stores. I occasionally heard an ambulance going by with its siren blaring, and I couldn't help but find a demonic modicum of joy in the fact that some drunken knucklehead probably was going to be spending the rest of his/her life sans a finger or two.