Friday, November 26, 2004

Just another day...

Mrs. TBF wished me a happy Thanksgiving yesterday morning, and then I forgot about it. You see, it's not Thanksgiving here in's just an ordinary day. I forgot all about it again until I received an e-mail from my ex-next-door-neighbor Chris wishing me a happy Thanksgiving. So...a happy belated Thanksgiving to all of my family and friends in America.
This afternoon, after my kick boxing class, I'm going to pick up Mrs. TBF from work and we're going to head into France to pick up our turkey at Géant. She ordered an eight kilo (17.6 lbs.) bird. Actually, she had a co-worker who speaks French order it for us. Hopefully everything goes as planned. Otherwise I'll be doing charades in front of the butcher at the grocery store since I speak about ten words of French. We're going to be having our Thanksgiving dinner at Andy and Di's house this Saturday night for the third year in a row. I will barbecue the bird on my Weber, and I have to shuck a bunch of oysters. Mrs. TBF is preparing something too, but I'm not sure what exactly.
Yesterday, I had a man come to give us a moving estimate. He said we're going to need about 100 boxes. I'm going to do most of the packing myself, and then have the moving company move the boxes and the big stuff. It's going to involve using an outdoor elevator or crane at the new place, so I have a feeling it's not going to be cheap.
Moving in Switzerland is a real hassle compared to moving in America. In America, you just move. Here, you have to de-register at your town hall. Then, you have to re-register at the new town hall. Also, we have to have our ISDN phone box disconnected at our current house, and re-installed at our new house. The good news is that it means we'll keep our current phone number. The bad news, is that we have to pay some guy an exorbitant fee to do it for us. I was fortunate to find a man who does this service (and speaks English) this morning parked in front of a neighbor's house who's moving today, and I got one of his business cards. I also took the phone number off of the neighbor's moving van so I could call another moving company for a moving estimate. I called the office, tried speaking in German, realized that my knowledge of German moving terms was limited, asked for an English speaker, and spoke with three people before I found somebody who spoke perfect English. He's coming out next Wednesday morning at 8:00.
After getting the moving estimates, then I'll have to arrange the moving date. The people who are currently in our new apartment will be out by the first week of January, but our lease does not begin until February 1st. Since the apartment has to be repainted before we can move in, the trick is to try to get the management company to do it by the middle of January so we can rent the apartment back from the current tenants for the last two weeks of January. If I can do this, it will give us a lot of flexibility in moving. Plus, it'll be cheaper to move if we can do it on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. If not, the move will have to take place on the last day of the month. It'll be more expensive, and it will be a total hassle.
Stay tuned. Don't touch that dial.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

My two-week hiatus is over!

I've been back from Chicago for five days now, and I've been taking a bit of a rest from blogging. It usually takes me a few days to get over my jet lag, so I've been kind of in a daze for the past few days.
The trip went well. A few memories from my trip:
-Hey flight attendants from United Airlines flying from Frankfurt to Chicago...I know you've had to take a pay cut, but how about an occasional smile? Oh, and a "thank you" wouldn't hurt either.
-Saturday...I saw my niece - Kiera - play soccer. Then, we all went to Chili's where I had an Awesome Blossom and a bacon burger. Later that evening, Perry, Renee, and I went to see Muse at the Riviera Theatre on Saturday, November 13th. I saw a man receive three stick-on passes after he told a bouncer that he was with "Team Epic". So, I waited about 30 seconds and then told the same bouncer that I was with "Team Epic" and that I needed three passes. He gave them to me, and we were seated in a special reserved seating area at the front of the balcony with a great view of the stage and a waitress who took our drink orders. I wonder what "Team Epic" is!?!?! And let me just say that MUSE ROCKS!!! I was so amped after the concert that when a bum on the street told me he "needed money for a place to stay for the night"...I gave him $5! And, I told him that I didn't even mind if he spent it on beer!
-On Sunday, Perry, Renee, and I went to Costco. COSTCO RULES!!! First of all, it was a real novelty shopping on a Sunday. Secondly, it was nice seeing 20 lb. slabs of ribs, 50-roll packs of toilet paper, gallon cans of ketchup, etc. for sale. The meat department nearly made me weep. Later that evening, Perry deep-fried a couple of turkeys....DAMN GOOD BIRD!!!!
-Monday...some shopping (bought some Michael Vick signature Nike cross-trainers at Sportmart...I'll bet that there aren't too many of those in Switzerland...especially size 13!), went to the dentist, and had a dinner (at 4:15 p.m.!!!!) at Old Country Buffet with my parents, my Aunt Lauha, my sister, and her kids. It's amazing what kids eat. My nieces and nephew basically stuck to Jello, French fries, corn, and ice cream!
-Tuesday...rented a car (Black Cadillac Sedan DeVille...felt like my dad!), had two Whoppers for $3 at Burger King for lunch, did some power shopping (some Tommy Bahama shirts and Kangol hats), and then went into the city to Dave and Shannon's house for dinner where I saw their 2-month old daughter - Stella - for the first time.
-Wednesday...met with our financial advisor, lunch and more shopping (including another trip to Costco where I bought lots-o-beef, and a trip to Home Depot where I bought some cement for my dad) with my mom and sister, went to the Apple store for the PC to Apple switch class where I did not become convinced that Apple is the way to go (it's too bad because I was ready to buy an Apple on the spot...although I haven't ruled it out yet), bought an iPod, dinner with the family at Diana's house.
-Thursday...returned my rental car, went to Finn and Diana's ice skating lesson, helped my dad carry a shower base from the garage to the bathroom he's remodeling at my sister's house, ate some Costco steaks for dinner with my mom, dad, Diana, Colm, the kids, and Jo (my mother-in-law).
-Friday....said goodbye to Jo (I stay at her house when I'm in Chicago) when she dropped me off at Diana's house, went out for breakfast with Diana, Mom, Dad, and Finn at Egg Harbor where I had the special with a side-order of my much beloved corned-beef-hash, said goodbye to the family, the car picked me up to take me to the airport at 11:00, and then I was gone.
Let's just say that I returned to Switzerland with well over my CHF 300 (approx. $250) limit, including: a bottle of tequila, four Tommy Bahama shirts, two Kangol hats, several DVDs (All In The Family Season 1, Mr. Show, SCTV, Farenheit 911, Super Size Me, etc.), cold and allergy medicine, an iPod, cross-trainers, books, etc., etc. Upon arriving at Basel Airport, the customs guy actually put my carry-on through the x-ray machine...but he didn't say anything.
Ahhhh, home sweet home!

Friday, November 12, 2004

Thanks United Airlines...

...for NOTHING!
I woke up at 4:30 a.m. this morning so that I could catch the 6:55 a.m. flight from Basel's Euroairport to Frankfurt for my connection to Chicago. Mrs. TBF and I walked up to the check-in counter at 6:07 a.m. (you have to check-in 40 minutes before your flight in Basel), and the man told me I was too late. "How could that be?", I asked. As it turns out, the Lufthansa flight from Basel to Frankfurt was changed from 6:55 a.m. to 6:25 a.m. I booked the ticket through United, and they never informed me of the time change. Fortunately, there is a later flight to Frankfurt, so I'll be able to make my flight to Chicago. I was going to have a several hour layover in Frankfurt. Instead, Mrs. TBF and I went back home, and I'll just have a shorter layover in Frankfurt. I was able to check in and get all boarding passes, so I'm all set for my trip. We bought the ticket and used miles to upgrade to business class (I refuse to fly coach that kind of diva-like?), and I didn't lose my business class seat to Chicago even though I had to be re-booked....which is good!
Of course I know that one should always confirm their flight before flying, but when you do, they just tell you that they would call you if there were any changes. So, what's the point? United didn't call me. I'm sure if I complain, they'll just tell me that Lufthansa should have notified me (my flight to Frankfurt is on Lufthansa). I guess, all's well that ends well.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

What should I pack for Chicago???

I just checked the weather forecast, and I saw that it's going to be in the 40s and fairly sunny in Chicago over the next ten days. I want to pack light, but my clothes are so big that even when I try to pack light I end up needing a big suitcase. I guess I'll just have to print my packing list and go from there.
My neighbor Andy thinks it's mildly insane that I have a packing list in my computer with everything I've packed on past trips. I think it's organization at its finest. Chicago's always a tough pack, however, because I do have access to washers and dryers and I do end up buying a lot of stuff. So, I don't need to bring a lot of stuff with me, but I do need to have room for bringing stuff back (i.e. the farting George Bush and Santa Claus dolls I ordered at Fartmart).


I was waiting for my yoga class to begin today, and in comes a substitute instructor. The regular yoga instructor conducts the class in high German which means I probably understand about 70% of what she says. Every now and then she blurts out something to me in English, I look around the room, and I see that I'm doing something different than the rest of the class. Anyway...the substitute instructor conducted the class in Swiss-German. Comprehension percentage dropped from about 70% to about 20%.
Zum Beispiel (for example):
Inhale in high German is einatmen. Exhale in high German is ausatmen.
In Swiss-German they are (and I'm writing these phonetically): ee-shnoofe and o-shnoofe
I mean....COME ON!!! They're not even close.
I managed, however, to make it through the class by keeping a close eye on the instructor and the rest of the class. At the end of the class, during the relaxation section, he went to each person and performed some kind of bizarre pressure point thing. I'm not really sure what he did on the other people, but on me he pushed down on my shoulders with incredible force, then he pulled my hands one at a time while sliding his other hand down my arm from the shoulder to the hand, and finally he did some crazy thing which I can only describe as pretending my spine was a keyboard and playing it like a piano. It was strange, but I did actually feel pretty refreshed after he did it. I hope he didn't mind that my shirt was SOAKED with sweat since I had used the eliptical trainer before the class.
After the class was over, I told him in German that I enjoyed the class. He started speaking to me in English. As it turns out, the guy has lived in Switzerland for many years, but he's originally from Cleveland.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

I made a baby cry, and I helped a man with his belt... that's accomplishing something.
Since I was kind of rushed (as usual) to make it to my 10:00 German lesson, I didn't have time to finish my breakfast at home. So, I took a banana along to eat on the tram. I took a seat in the lower tram car where the baby strollers are, and I sat right next to a stroller with a little 18 month (guessing...I have no idea really) boy who became fixated on my banana. He reached out for it, and I just shook my head no. He became more insistent, and his mom told him to let me eat my banana in peace. He became even more insistent, so I told him (in my best German) that it was mine and that he couldn't have it. This resulted in ear-piercing screaming which means that my German was good enough for the kid to understand. Either that, or I mistakenly told him without realizing it that I was going to kill him or something. Fortunately for the other twenty or so people on the tram, the lady and demon-child got off at the next stop.
Fast-forward about five hours later. I was at the gym, finished with my workout, and I was about to leave. Suddenly this really old man asked me if I could help him with his belt. At least that's what I think he said (he spoke in the Basel dialect and I'm lucky if I understand 15%). If not, too bad, because I helped him fasten his rather nice Bally belt. His hands were trembling, and I could see that whatever workout he had just completed had pretty much sapped him of most of his energy. I tightened his belt, he told me that it wasn't tight enough (again...that's what I think he said), I tightened it about three more notches, this seemed to satisfy him, he thanked me, and I was on my way. I have to give the guy credit. I mean, he had to be in his early 80s and he's at the gym working out.
What's your excuse?

Monday, November 08, 2004

I'm sore!

I went to the Kick Power Intro course at my gym on Friday afternoon, and I had my butt kicked. What a tough workout. After about five minutes, I began to worry that I couldn't make it through the whole class. I did...but it was really hard. I think it'll be some time before I'm ready for the non-intro class.
I tried to lift weights after the class, and that lasted for about ten minutes. The soreness was starting to set in, so I just stretched and then went and sat in the sauna for fifteen minutes. By Friday evening, I was getting pretty stiff. The soreness lasted throughout the weekend, and I'm still a little stiff this morning. Hopefully, I'll be able to make it through my yoga class this morning.
On Friday night, we just stayed at home and relaxed. Saturday was spent in town shopping, and then we went to Ronny and Geraldine's house around 7:45 for a nice dinner. Yesterday morning, we had to get up at 6:00 a.m. because Dominique had to go outside in a real hurry. I made the mistake of feeding her some stinky French cheese on Saturday evening, and I don't think it agreed with her. We went back to bed at 8:00 and slept until 11:00. At 1:30, we went over to Christian and Nimashini's house for a nice late lunch, and we were home by about 5:30. We pretty much just relaxed for the rest of the evening...watched a little football, ate a little pizza, Dave and Jane came over for some coffee...that's about it.
This morning, Mrs. TBF had to take the 6:46 a.m. train to Zürich Airport so she could catch a flight to Prague. She'll be there until Thursday evening. She made her train with one minute to spare, and that was only because traffic was lighter than usual. It's amazing how different we are when it comes to trains, planes, etc. Mrs. TBF feels that if the train leaves at 6:46, you need to be on the train by 6:45 and 59 seconds. I, on the other hand, would rather get there at 6:30 and just relax with a cup of coffee without the stress. I'm flying out of Basel Airport to Chicago this Friday morning, and Mrs. TBF is driving me to the airport. I'm not sure what time my flight leaves, but whatever time it is, I'll have to tell her that it's twenty minutes earlier than it actually is. Otherwise, I'll be doing the dreaded sprint through the airport.

Friday, November 05, 2004

"The land of great water pressure...It's good to be back!"

That's what I just heard Mrs. TBF say as she was coming out of the shower. She just came back from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur this morning. She called me at 7:00 a.m. when she got on the train at Zürich Airport to let me know that she would arrive in Basel at 8:15. I hung up the phone, and I immediately fell into another coma. Fortunately, I woke up at 7:35, threw on some clothes, took Dominique out, powered down a cup of coffee, and made it to the train station at about 8:20....just when Mrs. TBF and our neighbor Steve (returning from a trip to India) were beginning to wonder where I was.
I went to bed at about 1:00 a.m. this morning, so I only managed to get about 6½ hours of sleep. Mrs. TBF just told me that she slept for TEN HOURS on the plane. It looks like I have some catching up to do.

What are the chances???

Muse is one of my favorite bands. Last night, on a whim, I decided to check out their website. And, what did I find? I found out that they're going to be playing in Chicago at the Riviera Theatre on Saturday, November 13th...while I'm in Chicago. What are the chances of that happening?!?!? I dragged Mrs. TBF with me to see them in Wettingen, Switzerland last November, and now I have a chance to go see them again one year later. If I have to go alone, I'll do so. However, I'd prefer to go with somebody. So, if anybody I know in Chicago wants to go see a totally kick-ass band a week from tomorrow...let me know!
I also saw that the Finnish "Love Metal" band called HIM is also playing at the Riviera the following Saturday. Unfortunately, my return flight to Switzerland leaves Chicago on Friday the 19th. I'll miss them by one day! Perskkatti!!!!!. Although seeing both bands in one week would probably be too much for a TBF in his 40s to handle.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Strange sightings at the gym...

I forgot to mention that I saw three strange things in the locker room at my gym yesterday.
First, when I arrived, I saw a man grab ONE paper towel from the dispenser and proceed to stand on it while he was getting dressed after his workout. He would stand on the paper towel balancing on one foot, put one leg into his pants, switch feet, etc., etc. He actually fell off the paper towel at one point and really seemed ticked off about the fact that his bare foot touched the locker room floor. I'd say this is a little bit obsessive. The Swiss are really into not producing excess garbage. This had to be his motive combined with an unfounded fear of getting athletes foot. I say unfounded because the cleaning lady comes in and cleans the locker room floor about every thirty minutes. I'd say that fungus has about a .0001% chance of surviving on that floor for more than a couple of seconds. Good God...just use an extra paper towel, or better yet, just stand on the floor with your bare feet.
Second crazy thing...
I saw a man using one of the blow dryers to blow dry his feet. He sat on the bench with his naked butt touching the wood and his bare feet touching the floor, and he sat there for about two minutes blow drying his feet. Does this strike anybody else as a bit strange? I understand why he wants to dry his feet well, but one guy is standing on a paper towel because he doesn't want his bare foot to touch the floor, and another guy has his naked butt on the bench and bare feet on the floor. Maybe they could have a conversation and agree on some kind of compromise.
After my workout as I was getting dressed, I noticed this young guy primping his hair for about five minutes. I am not exaggerating. This guy was teasing his streaked hair for no less than five minutes. His hair kind of made him look like he belonged in Jefferson Starship circa 1985. He kept pulling at it, and putting a little more gel in it, and turning his head from side to side while looking in the mirror, all the while not changing the look of his hair in any way whatsoever. It really made me glad that I shave my head - it's definitely easier and much less time consuming. I kind of watched him out of the corner of my eye, and I would have watched him longer to see what the end result was going to be, but I noticed that I was dressed and I had no real reason to be sitting there anymore. I didn't want him to realize I was watching him since I recently read in FHM magazine that Switzerland is the gayest country in Europe, and I didn't want him to get the wrong idea. So, I had no choice but to leave. Now that I think about it, I should have waited in the cafe to see how much longer he stayed in that locker room.
Well, there you have it - yesterday's trilogy of weird. I'd have to say that it was an appropriate precursor for another weird Swiss male phenomenon that usually begins around this time of year: the full-body, five-minute application of body lotion after the workout and shower. But, perhaps, I'll save that for another time.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004 guy didn't win!

I woke up at 9:25 this morning, and after feeding King, making myself a cup of coffee, and walking Dominique, I switched on Fox's Unfair and Unbalanced News and found no mention of my guy - Ralph Nader. So, I had to switch to CNN to find out that he was in third place with only 1% of the vote. Oh well, I guess there's always 2008! He'll probably be running against Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton.
When I'd tell people I was for Nader, I'm sure everybody (at least those who knew who he was) thought I was kidding. But, I wasn't. If I were allowed to vote (Canadian citizen...not a convicted felon), I would have voted for Nader. I looked at a comparison of the candidates on the top ten election issues, and I agreed with Nader on 8, Kerry on 5, and Bush on 1. Plus I agree with Nader that the two party oligopoly must end! And furthermore, am I the only person who thinks that the electoral college is stupid? Somebody please educate me as to why this is still a good thing in the 21st century!
I guess it's not a total loss. Four more years of Bush is a positive thing for the pharmaceutical industry, and that's a good thing for Mrs. TBF and a lot of our friends. Bush just signed a tax cut that lowers taxes for "richer expats" as the International Herald Tribune called us, and I'm sure there will be more tax cuts that benefit higher income earners far more than the middle class. The value of the U.S. dollar will probably continue to plummet, and that means that our wire transfers will buy even more U.S. dollars (currently 46% more than when we moved here in October, 2000).
So, I'm going to look at everything through rose-colored glasses and have a positive mental attitude. Gotta go...I have to make a wire transfer to the U.S. so I have some of those cheap U.S. dollars waiting for me in my account when I arrive in Chicago in nine days!
I guess it was a good day afterall. Thanks for asking!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

It's all good!

At least it was today. I managed to wake up in time for my 10:00 a.m. German lesson. It's funny to think that 1,500+ days ago I was waking up at 5:30 a.m. so that I could make it to the office for 7:30 a.m. Now, making it to a 10:00 a.m. German lesson that's 5 km. away is a challenge. Anyway, I had a good German lesson! Carmen (my teacher) was upbeat as usual, and I left the lesson with a feeling that I had "done good!"
After the lesson, I took the tram from my German school to my gym...even though it's less than a five minute walk. I mean, come on, I needed to save my energy for my workout. And...a good workout it was! Today was my full workout with weights plus thirty minutes on the eliptical trainer. After working up a good sweat, I went downstairs to the spa and had a good , relaxing sauna.
After the gym, I walked over to the train station and picked up a Laugensandwich mit Lachs und Selleriesalat. It was damn good! I took the tram to the grocery store, picked up a couple of things, came home, had a good walk with Dominique, and then took a good twenty-minute nap.
Mrs. TBF called from Kuala Lumpur to tell me that she had had a good flight from Singapore, and that she was about to settle down to a good night's sleep (KL is a good seven hours ahead of Switzerland).
I (along with Dominique and King) enjoyed a good dinner of penne with cilantro pesto and chicken, gave Dominique a good handful of after-dinner treats, and now I'm enjoying a good cup of coffee while writing in my blog.
Pretty soon, we'll be settling down for a good night's sleep. The first thing I'll do when I wake up in the morning is turn on CNN to find out who won the U.S. presidential election.
I hope the results are good!