Saturday, February 25, 2006

Finland 4 - Russia 0!

Finland kicked Russia's ass in Olympic hockey last night and will now play against the gay Swedes for the gold medal.

Jo Mama!

Jo is back in Basel for the fifth time! Who is Jo? Jo (a.k.a Jo Mama) is Mrs. TBF's mom, and I picked her up at Zurich Airport on Thursday morning which required me to get up at the insane time of 6:00 a.m.! Every time I pick her up at the airport, she always tells me that she'll take the train to Basel from the airport "THE NEXT TIME"! However, whenever "THE NEXT TIME" is coming up and I bring up "the train", all I hear over the phone is the sound of nervous fretting. So, I end up making the trek from Basel to Zurich Airport - speeding cameras be damned! Then, when I actually see Jo lugging a huge suitcase, I'm glad I picked her up instead of making her take the train. "Hey Jo, what the Hell d'ya have in this suitcase...ROCKS?", I ask. Her response is her trademarked, "Noooooooooooooooooooooo!". One of my favorite games during her visits is how many times per hour I can get her to blurt out one of her "Noooooooooooooooo!" protests. She's been here for over 48 hours now, and I've already lost count.
When we arrived back at the apartment, I saw one of the reasons why she needed such a big suitcase. Isn't getting older a bitch? My God...look at all those pills. Jo: The pharmaceutical industry would like to personally thank YOU for its exponential growth over the past few years.
On Friday, we had to drive over to Géant for some natural pharmaceuticals. You always know when Jo is in town because the Jus de Pruneaux is prominently displayed in our refrigerator.
I just read this post to Jo...."NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Human Storage Locker...

Paris/Saturday, February 18, 2006...
In a momentary lapse of reason, I actually volunteered to hold Mrs. TBF's stuff at Le Bon Marché while she shopped for clothes. Contrary to what I thought would happen, Mrs. TBF ended up not being gone for too long. Sadly for her, she was "shut out", didn't see anything that she liked, and came back empty-handed.
Then we walked to the mens department, and I ended up buying a jacket and pair of pants (happy to report that I now have a 36" waist) in no time flat. Hey...I'm a guy, which means that I try to buy things as quickly as possible in order to reduce the amount of time actually spent in a store.
Later, we made our way to Printemps which was holding a big sale. It was awful! Wall to wall people. I had to go pee, and while searching for the bathroom I ended up walking through the "Hell on Earth" that is the women's shoe department in the midst of a sale - ghastly! After returning from the bathroom, Mrs. TBF (sensing my pending crabbiness) instructed me to "...sit here while I go look around for a few minutes." The second picture is what I looked like...ONE HOUR LATER! Once again, she was shut out.
We walked over to a bistro, had a drink, took the Metro back to George V, and then walked across the street to the Lacoste store. Mrs. TBF ended up finding a sweater, and I ended up buying a sweater AND a shirt.
The day began with Mrs. TBF wanting to do some shopping. I didn't really plan on buying any clothes. The final tally: TBF - jacket, pants, sweater, shirt...Mrs. TBF - sweater and two pairs of socks
How did that happen?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Exciting Travel News!

Our latest trend in travelling is that we skip the hotel breakfast and just opt for room service coffee instead. Isn't 35 Euros per person for a hotel "American breakfast" just a little bit steep? Don't get me wrong, the breakfast at the Lancaster is very good, but it is pretty much just bacon, eggs, and toast...isn't it? Instead of the hotel breakfast, we enjoy our coffee while I read my newspaper, and then we go out for lunch. An added bonus: after re-examining our hotel bill at home, I noticed that they never charged us for the room service - trés bon!!!
Somewhere between my newspaper and going out for lunch, Mrs. TBF discovered a problem with her belt. I didn't even know that she knows how to sew!!! Really! The things you discover after 18+ years of marriage.
What else is she hiding from me?

Let The Gluttony Begin!

It's nice to be remembered.

We took a taxi from Charles de Gaulle to the Hotel Lancaster. This was our fifth time staying at this great hotel. When our taxi pulled up, the doorman came and opened the door to the taxi, looked at us, and said: "ahhh...Monsier, Madame...welcome back!". We walked in toward the front desk, the receptionist greeted us, and the concierge confirmed that we were still dining at Spoon, Food, & Wine at 21:00 so that he could reconfirm our reservation. We were shown up to our room ("...we have upgraded you because you are repeat guests..."), unpacked, and hit the ground running...
...right down to the hotel bar. We didn't have that much time before dinner, so we just decided to have a relaxing cocktail (champagne for Mrs. TBF and Tanqueray Martini for yours truly, along with the "trough of snacks") before walking a few minutes down the Champs-Elysées to the restaurant for dinner. Let the gluttony begin!
I'm not going to go into details of everything we ate, but I'll just say that the spare ribs that I had on Friday night at "Spoon" were unbelievably great. They were the culinary and gastronomic highlight of the weekend for me. We ordered the "Chef's Surprise" menu, and Mrs. TBF told the waiter that they couldn't possibly have picked anything better for my meat course. It was a great dinner because they brought each of us different things, and we were able to try twice as many dishes by sampling each other's food. The service was excellent...and friendly. Don't believe the myths that are perpetuated in America that the French are rude. We have found exactly the opposite to be true. Damn! I MUST find spare ribs in Basel to prepare on the grill this summer.

On Saturday, we went out to a little bistro right down the street from our hotel and had an excellent lunch. Anticipating that I was about to become rather stuffed, I lifted the camera over my head while I still could to take this table shot. I can't really remember the name...."something Beujolais", but it was just the kind of bistro we like for lunch - filled with local characters, the proprietors don't really speak English, and pretty much everything served with pommes frites. It was just the fuel we needed for a day full of shopping. More about the shopping later, but suffice it to say that the belly-fuel was needed...
On Saturday night, we had another great meal at a place called Au Moulin A Vent. It was recommended in our "Top 10 Paris" book, and it was another find! Both the food and the atmosphere were excellent! It was one of those places that has little tables side by side so they end up connecting into one big table. In order for Mrs. TBF to sit on the bench, the table had to be pulled out of the row. We ended up sitting next to two sets of French grandparents with their 8-year old grandson and the former owner of the restaurant. One set of grandparents spoke perfect English, and we ended up talking for a LONG time. They gave us other restaurant recommendations, told us about their trip to Chicago, etc., etc. We just had a great time!
On Sunday, we made the very touristy trek to Pere Lachaise Cemetary to see Jim Morrison's grave. Since it was only about ten minutes away from the cemetary, we ended up going to a little Algerian restaurant called Les 4 Freres that was recommended to us by Dictator Princess. I can't really remember what the stuff was called that I ate, but it was good. Some kind of soup, some couscous, some chicken...good belly fuel. And, it was needed for the chilly walk through the rain to, and through, the cemetary (...more later). While we were in Les 4 Freres, I told Mrs. TBF that I felt like I was eating in a restaurant in some neighborhood in Chicago. People of mixed ethnicities crowded into a small restaurant eating good, inexpensive (22 Euros), wholesome food. Finally, as if our stomachs could be stretched out even more, we went for our Sunday dinner at Senderens.
Alain Senderens had a 3-star Michelin restaurant called Lucas Carton. Then, he decided that he didn't need the pressure and decided to chuck it all away and reopen a new restaurant under the name Senderens. The idea was to serve the same quality food, but at more affordable prices. In other words, 100 Euros per person instead of 400 (YIKES!) Euros per person. It ended up being another great meal and a great conclusion to our weekend of "strapping on the feedbag"! We opted for a courses that were matched up to a specific "wine". I say "wine" because my salmon course was matched with Scotch whiskey. The highlight for me was my veal and langostine tartare. Of course, when I ordered it, the waiter felt obligated to say: "Monsieur...c'est roh." Which resulted in me saying: "Yes...I know it's raw." Why do they feel compelled to mention that it's raw? Is it common for people not to know that tartare (as in steak tartare) implies that it will be raw?
So there you have it - our weekend of pure gluttony. I'm not getting on the scale until Friday, and I'm now going to have a Weight Watcher's yogurt, a slice of toast with a slice Weight Watcher's cheese, 250 ml. of Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Light, a few vitamins, and a banana - 6 points. Then, I'm going to the gym where I figure I'll only need to use the elliptical trainer for about twelve hours or so to burn off all the calories I consumed this weekend.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

It's Nice To Be Able To Say...

...that it only took 4.5 hours to go from walking out of the front door of our apartment to standing next to the "workbench" in our hotel room in Paris feeding Mrs. TBF some complimentary nougat.

Life is good!

Monday, February 20, 2006

We're BAAAAA-aaaaack!

Mme. TBF and I were in Paris this weekend. We managed to consume a week's worth of calories in about 48 hours, shopped 'til we dropped, and even worked in a bit of sightseeing.
Somebody has to pay for all this gallivanting, which means that Mme. TBF is already back at work, and I am supposedly at home unpacking, washing clothes, cleaning the house, doing French homework (Lord knows I NEED to do it!), and giving King the attention he craves!
Multitasking beckons which means that blogging will have to wait for the moment...more tomorrow.
Bon courage!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Why Say No?

When it feels so much better to just say YES!

Let's just say that I've noticed that I have this slight "problem". I've come to the realization that I'm a NO person. No matter what you ask me, my first instinct is to say NO.
I'm not really sure where this negative mien came from. It's possible it came from the many years I spent in sales. Customers would demand the world, and I then I, in turn, would take the completely opposite position (usually NO) as my starting point in the negotiation. Don't get me wrong. I don't think I'm a negative person. Just the contrary. I think I have a fairly positive outlook on life. It's just that I guess I prefer to say no, think things through, and then convince myself that YES is the way to go. Perhaps I'm a bit cautious. But, no more. I've decided to change. You see, I've decided to become Nouveau TBF.
Nouveau TBF is changing from NO to YES. Or, should I say YES with a caveat that the answer could become NO (so don't e-mail me asking for money!). I guess what I'm saying is that I'm going to switch from NO to YES with an asterisk. Let's not go crazy here, I'm not going to just say YES to everything. However, I am going to change my approach to how I approach things in general. Does that make sense? NO? Well...tough! I'm gonna do it that way anyway!
So, the first real test came about ten days ago. Mrs. TBF and I received an e-mail from our friend Rammy regarding Quiz Night at the ISB (International School Basel). Quiz Night is an annual fundraiser at the ISB which involves pitting your table against other tables in a trivia competition. I knew that Mrs. TBF would be in Chicago on Quiz Night, but I went ahead and e-mailed Rammy back to let her know that...YES!...I would attend. "Wow...that wasn't too hard, now was it?"...I thought.
Then, Rammy e-mailed back stating that she thought our theme (huh?) should be Helvetica (Latin? for Switzerland) Hippies and that we could all go dressed as hippies and that everybody could bring a dish. I began to feel the "N" word fighting to take over my brain. Mrs. TBF was in Zürich at the time of the e-mail. I called her for support, and she told me to just go..."You'll have fun!".
So I took Mrs. TBF's advice, made a crabmeat cheeseball (sorry...a secret family recipe which I will never divulge!) and a couple of frittatas (you bring your own food to Quiz Night and buy the drinks), put on a tie-dye shirt and a some borrowed things, and ended up having a real "groovy" time.

It turns out that it's a much bigger deal than I thought it was. There were a lot of people there, and many people (including our group) got really dressed up for it. Now that I look at the picture closely...MAN! There were a lot of "dead soldiers" on that table. I, fortunately, DID say NO to having too much to drink, and I drove a few of us back to John and Rammy's house for a nightcap.

Because I figured that I'd end up turning into a sweaty mess, I opted for a bandana instead of a long hair wig. However, later in the evening, I said YES to trying on Rita's wig. Here's a picture of me looking kind of like Brad Delp of the band Boston circa 1975.
Hey...saying yes, it turns out, can be fun!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Am I A Romantic, Or What?

Let me tell ya, I know romance. Afterall, who else but TBF would schedule a meeting with KPMG to have their taxes done...on VALENTINE'S DAY?
Mrs. TBF arrived a couple of minutes before the acccountant wearing a nice red sweater and a heart pendant. OK....OK...give me some least I was wearing a red t-shirt. After the accountant left our apartment, Mrs. TBF continued working from home.

"What's for dinner tonight?", Mrs. TBF queried from the office.
"Chicken...", I replied.
"Oh......" (silence) chicken isn't the most romantic Valentine's dinner in the world. least I was wearing a red t-shirt!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Home Sweet Home...

It's good to be home. I arrived in Basel at 4:25 PM yesterday and TBF was waiting at Euro-airport for me just outside. Thanks very much to the nice man who works for Roche who put my bags up and took them down on the last leg - LHR to BSL ( for all you travel geeks out there who know the airport codes) - I was pretty tired by then! are a few events from my trip last week.
Parsippany, NJ - all went well including the journey on Wednesday evening from Newark to Atlanta. I was anticipating a bad "intra-USA" trip. Let me tell you...domestic US air travel is no fun any more. Before moving to Basel I travelled extensively for business, and mostly intra-USA. Back then, pre-911, it was easy peasy (as the Brits say). I would drive from the office to O'Hare (ORD) and park, run to the gate and arrive at the gate about 20 minutes before the scheduled take off - no problem! Now, you must allot at least 90 minutes depending on the airport. Newark tends to be a nightmare, but after practically disrobing while going through security...all was well. At one point my boss (who I was travelling with last week) commented that I was practically naked after I had to strip off my layers for security. But, all went well. Note to Pete V. - I will definitely contact you next time - would love to get together!
Atlanta - We (boss and I) arrived in Atlanta at around 9PM and the lovely Sam Epp was waiting for us post baggage claim to take us to our hotel. Sam owns the limo company, and I advise anyone travelling to Atlanta who needs a limo to contact Sam!! Sam has very cool tricked out SUVs and travelling with Sam is like having your own personal body guard! Well, let me tell you...Sam was definitely the highlight of the evening. After dropping us off at the Hilton Northeast (somewhere near Duluth,GA) the boss successfully checked in and before going to his room suggested we meet in the bar in 15 minutes for our last chance for a meal for the evening (this was after he and I bitched and moaned about flying economy in the US and not getting a meal). So, I hand over my Amex to the nice young lady at the desk and she tells me she can't find me a room and they are oversold... and horror of all horrors...I am being shipped off to the La Quinta!!!! Oh my god you know what this means to a hotel diva????? Quick phone call to boss saying see ya tomorrow and I'm whisked off to La Quinta. First of all, the La Quinta doesn't have a proper sign's been demolished and a small "Bayside Suite" banner is in it's place. Now, I never, and I mean never, stay at a hotel, any motel, at which you enter your room from the outside!!!!! Ladies ...this is not safe! I was horrified by the exterior room entrance. Luckily, I survived the night, but...there was no door on the bathroom, the sheets on the bed were definitely of a low thread count, my shampoo came in the equivalent of a plastic McDonalds ketchup packet, the bar soap cracked in half in my hand when I tried to lather up due to thinness, and the heater did not work properly so I woke up after a very poor night's sleep as a Mrs. TBF-sicle. Thank God I was only in the room for about 7 hours total. Luckily, there were no bugs or rodents - to my knowledge. I got up early so I could get out and wait to be picked up by the boss. I'm not even going to horrify you by describing the "breakfast room", but suffice it to say that there was no way I was going to have an egg from the giant bowl 'o hard boiled eggs" or a waffle from the lady reading the morning paper with the squeeze bottle of waffle batter. The boss laughed at my experience, but admitted that if anything had happened to me he would have felt horrible for unknowingly taking the last room at the Hilton. Ok, the day was ok, and when I left the office to return to the airport - Sam Epp was waiting to whisk me off and send me on my way to ORD.
Chicago - Arrival on time, pick up slightly delayed due to traffic coming out of the limo lot and into the O'Hare melee. I had the driver take me straight to Kobe East - my current favorite Japanese restaurant where mom (known as Jo to TBF) met me. I ordered some carryout sushi - YUMMY - and then headed to chez Jo for a restful night. Mom and I had lunch out, shopped at Woodfield and then met my bro and sis-in-law at their place before proceeding to Banana Moon (Deerfield, IL) for a nice dinner. Saturday, mom and I went over to TBF's sister's place and visited with her, bro-in-law and the kids. It was a very nice time indeed...and thanks to sis of TBF for the ride Saturday evening back to ORD for my journey home.
Special journey to LHR - Check in at O'Hare was uneventful, but when I reached the lounge, the poor lady was in the process of trying to get some very slow travellers (all men) to hurry up and get to the gate for the flight to London (one before mine) that was about to close without them on board. They were a lame of them said to her...I believe I misplaced my boarding card, to which she said...SIR - GO TO THE GATE NOW AND THEY WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU...BUT GO NOW!!!! Well, I joked around with her and tried to make her feel better as she was very worried and stressed for these guys who were moving in the slow lane. Anyway, it was a sleeper service so I went to the dining room to catch a quick bite before boarding so I could sleep on the flight. Much to my pleasant surprise, she appeared a moment later asking me for my boarding card and telling me not to eat much because she was upgarding me to 1st class!!!! What a nice lady ... definitely made up for the La Quinta experience. This was my very first 1st class experience and hopefully not the last!
Well...back to the beginning of this lengthy post...TBF was waiting for me when I arrived at BSL...HOME SWEET HOME...I missed him a lot!
Happy Valentines Day for all you lovers out there!

Friday, February 10, 2006

In Search of "THEY"

Jo - my mother-in-law - will be here in less than two weeks, and she knows these people. They are known as they. She thinks they really exist. Maybe they do. Then again, maybe they don't. I can't be sure, but I've always doubted their existence. It seems that they only appear when she's trying to prove her point. You know what I mean? She normally doesn't talk about they. But, they seem to always magically appear in the statement: " know what they say?" Including her imaginary friends in her statement somehow, in her mind at least, gives her argument credibility. I've learned to come back with a "...just who the Hell are THEY?" Her response varies: someone on the radio, a newspaper writer, somebody on T.V.... "Oooohhhh, I see. The incontestible, panoptical, unprovable they."

Jo: I'm sorry. I take it all back, and I'm sorry I doubted you. You see...they have moved into our house.

There's a group of little people living in our house, and they are taking control of our iPod. I've never seen 'em (that's my cute little pet name for they), but I know they are there. You see, they are the little people who live in our iPod and decide what will come up next when we shuffle our songs. I can't remember when they moved in, but I do remember what happened.
I'm pretty sure it was a few months ago on a Friday night. We always set our iPod on "shuffle songs" mode during dinner, and that night was no exception. It was either close to the end of dinner, or shortly thereafter that I said something like: "Wow! They sure are playing a lot of Red Hot Chili Peppers tonight!" Mrs. TBF looked at me like I was insane (...maybe I am, maybe I'm not...) and said: "Ummmm...who are they? Are you referring to the 'little people' in the iPod who choose the songs???" "Why...yes...I guess I am", I said.

...and they have been with us ever since.

They have been accepted by Mrs. TBF. However, she thinks they like me much more than they like her. "Wow, they sure are playing a lot of Rush and Yes tonight..." is one of the usual comments I hear.
So I figured that since Mrs. TBF took the iPod with her on her trip to the U.S. this week that they would be going along with her on her trip. I was happy for 'em since they don't get out too much. But, it appears that they either stayed behind, or that they have now produced progeny. You see, they have now taken control of my laptop.
This past week, since I've been sans iPod, I decided to hook my laptop up to our stereo receiver so that I could play my iTunes songs through the stereo. After listening to the "party shuffle" for a couple of days, I suddenly noticed that there was a preponderance of Italian music (i.e. Jerry Vale, Eros Ramazzotti, Frank Sinatra, Andrea Bocelli, et al.) "What the heck's going on here?", I thought. Then I noticed it: They had somehow moved into my laptop and had switched my iTunes to "Mrs. TBF's Music" playlist.
I spoke with Mrs. TBF a couple of nights ago, and she insists that she didn't do it. Now I'm scared.
What will they do next?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Like Squeezing Blood Out of a Turnip...

...but I think I did it!

The Swiss do NOT part with their money very willingly. However, I've actually managed to penetrate the tightfisted Swiss armor twice in the past few weeks.
First, I kind of negotiated a reduction in our car insurance premium without even realizing I was doing it.
We received our new insurance card and I noticed that only Mrs. TBF's name was listed. Just on a whim, I e-mailed the insurance agent (who thankfully speaks perfect English) and brought up the fact that the car title is in my name only and that I probably drive the car 95% of the time. He answered me back saying that we are both insured, but he was going to add my name to the policy anyway. I thought that was the end of it, but a couple of days later I received a new policy with my name on it. And, lo and behold, I noticed that the annual premium was now a couple of hundred francs per year less than before. Wow! I didn't even have to really do anything. Imagine that!
Upon further examination, I noticed that I was listed as a "Yankee" instead of a "Canuck". "Hmmmm....I'll have to let him know about that too," I thought. Since my German is now significantly better than it was five years ago, I thought that it might be wise to peruse the entire policy. I struggled a bit, but I managed to discover that the policy listed us as driving the car between 14,000 - 20,000 km. per year (we actually drove it less than 7,000 km. in each of the past two years), and that it's kept in an unlocked garage (it's not). So I e-mailed the insurance agent again. This time, I received no reply. However, I received a new policy a few days later showing the corrections plus an annual premium that is now SEVERAL HUNDRED FRANCS less than before!!! Wow! It kind of makes me think that we've been over-paying for the past five years, but...well, that's all water under the bridge now.
And...that's not all!
If you'll recall from about two months ago, I've been battling with our Jura coffee machine. A couple of Sundays ago, I spent a good two hours of my "day of rest" battling with the "machine that cometh from the depths of Hell"! "Enough's enough!...", I told Mrs. TBF, and proceeded to sit down at the trusty Mac and whip off an e-mail titled "My Machine is KAPUT Again!" to Jura. I won't go into the details, but I think I managed to express my displeasure with their product in a very unemotional and business-like manner. I broke down what the machine had cost me in francs per day to operate when the original purchase price and repair costs were factored into the equation. I included a rather point-blank "...I AM NOT WILLING TO SPEND ANOTHER CHF ON THIS MACHINE!" about half-way through the e-mail. Then, I boldy asked for a coupon worth 500 CHF that I could apply toward the purchase of a new machine. And finally, I went for the jugular with a rather masterful closing statement: "Whether or not I purchase another Jura machine now lies in your hands."
I didn't know if anything would come of it...but I felt pretty damned good about myself. Hey, and I managed to once again get the "old hag" running again and just sat there re-reading my "Pulitzer Prize worthy" (at least in my mind) e-mail enjoying my cup of coffee. And, just for good measure, I put our old French press right next to the Jura machine to put a scare into the old tramp by showing her that she could be replaced in a heartbeat. Let me tell ya...the bitch is scared!
Well, anyway, a week goes by and NADA! Mrs. TBF asked me a couple of times if Jura had responded to my "magnum opus", and both times I squeeked out a rather effeminate "no".
I had pretty much given up hope. That was, until I opened my mailbox on Monday afternoon after driving Mrs. TBF to the airport. Inside was a letter from Jura. I ripped it open, and here's what it said:

Thank you for your email dated January 30th, 2006. We regret that you have experienced some problems with your IMPRESSA S70.

As stated in your letter, you prefer not to have the coffee machine repaired, even though we assume that you have brewed approx. 10,000 cups of good [ahhhh...Swiss modesty] coffee with it. In September 2004, you already had 7,782 draw offs [I guess they had recorded this when repairing the machine. I had given them my customer number in the e-mail.]. This means that the coffee machine has performed appropriately in the given time frame. We can assure you that you have not bought a defective machine if it has lasted 5.5 years.

We can offer you a special price for an exchange with your IMPRESSA S70. [...blah...blah...blah...]

To bring an already way too long post to an end, Jura basically offered us the opportunity to receive a 500+ CHF credit on any of three Jura models if we bring in our old machine as an exchange. The only catch is that we have to go the factory to do it, and the price "excludes freight cost" which looks very suspicious to me. But, I'm going to go to a local Jura retailer in the next couple of days, see if Jura is actually offering me as good a price as they say they are, figure out what this "freight cost" thing is, and then (and ONLY then) Mrs. TBF and I will be driving off to the Jura factory in our now-less-expensive-to-insure Jeep to purchase ourselves a new Jura machine.

So...who's next?

Dog Day Afternoon...

I'm a busy guy. Ok...not really, but just humor me and we'll pretend...

One of my many responsibilities is going over to Diagnostic Dave and Mrs. Dx Dave's house every Wednesday and Thursday to walk their two dogs - Sam and George. Really, I don't think what we do actually qualify as walks. They're more like "pulls" - I pull Sam (he's 15 years old) and then George attempts to dislocate my shoulder by pulling me (he's about a year old). I end up walking them separately because past attempts to walk them together have always started well, but then ended up spiraling downward into chaos.

As I said, Sam is over fifteen years old and movin' kinda slow. But, his tail still wags when I wake him up from his coma, and he'll still gladly eat the abundance of treats - and my hand if I'm not careful - that I give him . Sometimes his "brother" Nuegli even joins us when we go for our 2-3 minute walk.

I used to always walk George first, but Sam's bladder isn't what it once was. So, now I walk Sam, give him his treats, and then let George out of his crate.
George is a bit of a wild beast. He pretty much mauls me the moment he gets out of his crate, but he seems to be settling down a bit (a very little bit!). Today, I nearly had a heart attack when I asked him to sit so I could take his picture, and he actually did!

After my dog-duty, I made a quick stop at the grocery store, and then it was off to the home of the Expatters. I asked Kirk and Gretchen a while back if I could raid their CD collection so that I could download some of their stuff into my iPod, and today was as good a day as any. Moments after arriving I gave the official Expatter mascot - Grady - a couple of treats, and then he became...well...kind of rambunctious. He tugged on my pants and shirt a couple of times, he snorted on my back while I looked at the CDs, and he even looked as if he was going to begin humping my leg at one point, at which point I had to break out a can of whupass and show him who da boss!

Since Grady was showing no signs whatsoever of calming down, Gretchen decided that the four of us should go out for a walk. That would be me, Gretchen, the bun in the oven, and Grady. I ran a little bit ahead of the pack so I could take this photo, waited for a second because Gretchen didn't want to be photographed wearing her Wisconsiny hat, and then we trudged on through the drizzle and gloom. Eventually, we made it back to the house. Gretchen and Grady seemed to by nice and warm, and I was frozen to the core.
I jumped into the car, blasted the heat, turned up the seat warmer to high, and then zipped down the hill back to the apartment.
Step aside people! I have a shopping bag full o' CDs to download into the Mac. Gotta stick to my schedule.

Afterall...I'm a busy guy!

While TBF was sleeping...

Greetings from NJ! Won't TBF be surprised to find that I figured out how to blog by myself in a hotel room in Short Hills,NJ! Well, I had my first real meal tonight after the stomach flu on Sunday. Although a nice meal at a place I like in Summit called the Huntley Tavern, I can't say that I feel great afterwards. I kind of feel like I ate an inflated balloon which is now sitting in my lower intestine somewhere wanting to break free - if you know what I mean. And, I tried to have a cup of coffee this AM and I still couldn't do it. Maybe that's because coffee in he US pales by comparison to the black gold that comes out of our moody Jura machine - TBF has news to share on that front by the way. So, maybe tomorrow I'll be able to have a cup of coffee and a normal meal. Anyway...time to go to sleep.
TBF - miss you and I promise to call at more reasonable hour tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

It's 7:04 a.m.

Do you know where you're Big Finn is?

Much has been written in this blog about my inability to sleep when Mrs. TBF is out of town. This morning has been no exception.

Last night, I was up until 2:00 a.m. or so watching T.V. with King. We watched things like Law & Order. At least it was one of the good old episodes with Michael Moriarty (I guess it was an old episode. I just looked it up, and he was on the show from 1990-1994!). I wasn't feeling tired, and I just figured that it was no big deal because I'd just go ahead and sleep in until the crack of whenever in the morning.
I set the sleep timer on the T.V. in the bedroom, and I fell asleep watching "Viva la Bam!" That show is definitely one of my guilty pleasures. For some reason, I just can't get enough of that gang of juvenile delinquents. I'm not really sure why. Who knows? Maybe it's the decadence, maybe it's his love of Finnish rock bands like H.I.M. - a band, by the way, whose music Mrs. TBF describes as "suicidal". Regardless, I don't really remember too much of the show, so I must have fallen asleep pretty quickly.

So, when did I wake up this morning? 10:00 a.m.? 11:00 a.m.? NO! I woke up at 6:44 a.m.! As far as I could tell, there were no loud sounds coming from my loud neighbors - Migros and Primus. I just woke up for no apparent reason. I then made the terrible mistake of making the slightest movement which caused King to come over and start tapping me on the nose. I tried ignoring him, I tried telling him to F-Off!, but nothing worked. I figured I'd just go feed him and go back to bed. As I was feeding him, that feeling came over me which told me that trying to go back to sleep would be futile. So, I just turned on the coffee machine, made a cup of 7:04 a.m., and let caffeine begin working its mysterious magic.
Maybe I'll go to the gym and shock the early morning gym rats (pretty much the senior citizens...and my ex-neighbor Chris) by showing up before 10:00 a.m.

Monday, February 06, 2006

I DID IT!!! (...and other boring stuff)

Friday morning weigh-in: 214 lbs./97.4 kgs./15 stone 4 lbs.
I did it! I reached my goal weight by losing a total of 36 lbs./16.4 kgs./2 stone 8 lbs. It took me five months to do it, and I would have done it faster except for the facts that I just tried to maintain my weight over the holidays, and I only followed the diet (militantly) during the week and ate normally during the weekends. Now, it's time for maintenance.
I've been doing Weight Watchers online. It's been pretty easy for me. Today, after entering my weight online, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my daily point allowance has jumped from 26 to 30. I guess the trick now is to not gain back the weight.

Friday evening: Mrs. TBF had been in Zürich for three days of meetings. On Friday evening, she came home and brought Wes (one of her colleagues based in the U.S.) along for dinner. They arrived at our apartment earlier than I expected. Fortunately for me, Mrs. TBF had forgotten her housekey because I was vacuuming the house in my underwear when she and Wes buzzed up from the lobby. I quickly threw on some jeans, and greeted them at the elevator. They worked away in the office for awhile until I finished getting dinner ready, and then we had a nice meal and talked until the wee hours of the morning.

Saturday: We had a French lesson. We are now done with our lessons at Berlitz and we are taking French lessons with a private teacher who comes to our house. Overall, we weren't too happy with Berlitz. We kind of got the feeling that they pretty much took our money up front, and then they didn't give a rip about us anymore. Plus, we noticed that one of our teachers would arrive at our lesson unprepared. One time, she had forgotten her lesson book and taught us out of an Italian book. We paid A LOT for these lessons, and...well, let's just say we're glad Berlitz is behind us and leave it at that!
After our lesson, we went into town to do a little shopping. We were feeling a little hungry, so we stopped at a place for pizza. The pizzas really hit the spot, but I think my pizza must have had a whole head of raw garlic on it because Mrs. TBF kept telling me that "you stink!" for the rest of the day.
On Saturday evening we went next-door to Corey and Suzanne's house for a nice dinner (Simon and Rosemarie were there also.). The highlights for me were the excellent leg of lamb that Suzanne made and the 1977 port that Corey served up while we smoked cigars and froze our asses off on the balcony. Ahhh, the hardships we go through to enjoy the finer things in life! One big plus of going to Corey and Suzanne's: no worries about drinking a driving. Elevator down to lobby, walk out the front door, walk down a few steps, turn left, walk about fifty feet, walk up a few steps, go in the front door, take the elevator up to the top floor, and VOILA!

Sunday: Strange day. Mrs. TBF was going to play tennis with Rammy at 11:00. At 10:30, I woke up when she was getting back into bed after calling Rammy to tell her that she wasn't going to be playing tennis because she didn't feel well. It turned out that she had the flu, and ended up sleeping away the entire day. I'm not joking. She must have slept at least eighteen hours yesterday. I didn't feel that well either (might have been yesterday's "garlic bomb" pizza), but poor Mrs. TBF was definitely hit hard! At one point, I walked into the bedroom to find Mrs. TBF kneeling on the floor throwing up into a plastic bucket. Of course, curious King was also sticking his head into the bucket so that he could see what was going on. I wish I had had my camera handy. What a Kodak moment!
Later I moved Mrs. TBF's duvét into the T.V. room so that we could watch the Super Bowl. Remember, the Super Bowl starts after midnight here. I remember the opening kick off, and...I must have fallen asleep since the next thing I remember was the Rolling Stones playing at half-time. We just went to bed. I taped it, so I'll just watch it later this week.

Today: Fortunately, Mrs. TBF was feeling better because I had to drive her to Basel Airport to catch a flight to Newark via London. She just called me from London a few minutes ago, and she's now about to board the flight to Newark. She'll be gone until Sunday afternoon, so I guess I'm the "bachelor" for a week. I wasn't feeling 100% this morning, but I'm feeling better now so I think I'll head to the gym.

Sorry, I hope this week is a little more exciting than the past few days.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Let There Be Light!

I drove Mrs. TBF to the tain station this morning so that she could catch the 7:20 train to Zürich. She'll be away until Friday evening. I guess I could have gone along with her, but she's going to be in meetings all day. Also, I'm sure she'll have dinners with her colleagues and be busy until late in the evening. So, I figured that I might as well stay at home. At least I have King here to keep me company during the hour or so when he's awake during the day. Plus, I have things to keep me busy at home. Such as...
This morning, upon returning home, I noticed that one of the recessed light bulbs in our ceiling had burned out. I noticed that one had burned out on our balcony a few months ago, and now that there were two, it was worth my while to actually think about changing them.
The old bulbs were removed. It was a bit trickier than I expected, requiring a screw driver and a steady hand despite the ever-present fear of electrocution. I have to say that anything involving electricity in Europe scares me a bit. There's a lot more juice going through those wires here than in America, and I'm beset by dark thoughts of Mrs. TBF coming home from work one evening to find me sprawled out on the floor, still glowing, dinner unmade, with a screwdriver in my hand, and a confused look on my face.
As I was saying, I removed the old bulbs and I put one of the bulbs in my pocket so that I'd know which bulb to buy at the store (HA! I rarely make the same mistake twice!). So, to make a long story short (I can feel your collective eyes rolling up into your collective heads.), I bought the bulbs and replaced them (sans electrocution).

So, what's the problem? I'm glad you asked. My problem is with two numbers: 7.50 and 85. The 7.50 is the price in Swiss francs (about $5.85 U.S.) per bulb at the Gartenstadt Coop. I guess that in itself isn't too bad. What is troubling to me, however, is the fact that we have 85 OF THESE RECESSED LIGHTS IN OUR APARTMENT. That's right....85!!! I'm hoping that we never have a power surge which results in all of the bulbs blowing out at the same time. One big zap and we're out 637.50 CHF (almost $500 U.S.) Here I am standing with the replacement bulbs, the Coop receipt, and a very small portion of the airport landing strip that makes up our ceiling.
Who the hell designed this place anyway?


Either my town is testing the emergency sirens right now, or I should be heading down to the bomb shelter! Ummmm...

Road to Nowhere!

Fresh off our daytrip to Strasbourg this past Saturday, we decided to set off on yet another, albeit more modest, adventure.
A while back, I noticed that the number ten tramline that passes right by our apartment goes all the way to Rodersdorf. The stop before Rodersdorf is called Leymen, which is actually in France. Having never been to Leymen, I suggested to Mrs. TBF that we take the twenty-two minute tram ride and check out what Leymen has to offer.
We set off on our adventure not realizing that, on Sunday, only two trams per hour actually go on to Leymen. When we arrived in Flüh, we heard an announcement that said it was the final stop. Realizing our error, we discovered that we had about fifteen minutes to kill before the tram would arrive that would whisk us away to our goal - what would hopefully be another exciting visit to France.

We walked around Flüh for a few minutes and found it to be pretty, well, sleepy. As far as we could tell, waiting for the tram was pretty much the most exciting thing going on in town on Sunday afternoon. However, we did manage to find a restaurant called Säge that we're going to be going to next month with the Expatters. Giddy with the excitement of Flüh, our tram finally arrived, and we slogged onward toward Leymen.
If "sleepy" describes Flüh, then "hibernating" describes Leymen. We walked down the hill toward what appeared to be the main part of town. Eventually we made it to what appeared to be "main street". It wasn't dead. We could see signs of life - smoke coming from chimneys, the flicker of T.V.s through windows, a couple of cars parked in front of a restaurant... The townsfolk obviously had things to do which did not involve being outdoors on a cold Sunday afternoon. It was actually some time before we even saw anybody outside at all.

We checked out a couple of restaurant menu boards (they looked good), walked by the main church, and then walked back up the hill to the tram stop. Funny...the hill didn't seem so big when we were walking down it toward town. I'll bet that it REALLY seems big after one has loaded up on cassoulet, pot au feu, or something of that persuasion.
While we were riding the tram back to Binningen, I told Mrs. TBF that I was bored. The strange thing was that I wasn't bored when we left home a couple of hours earlier. Our little excursion had actually made me bored! I think I said something like, "Man...this is one boring country on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of winter if you don't ski!".
Realizing a "TBF low blood sugar emergency" was on hand, Mrs. TBF brought me home, fed me a snack, and then all was well again.