Happy Valentines Day. I really didn’t think about it being Valentines Day until I was at the grocery this morning. They had one little kiosk set up by the front door with little heart shaped tines of chocolate. No banners, no section of cards. Pretty low key. In fact in one part of the store it looked more like Halloween, because there were two displays of masks and costumes. I am assuming these are for Mardi Gras or Carnival as it is known by on this side of the Atlantic. In fact, Julie and I are all booked for a long weekend in Venice, Italy this month which is known for a Carnival celebration. I am very excited. Anyway, I did at least get something for Julie. I mean how else is a wife supposed to know she is loved if her husband doesn’t buy something because some random date on the calendar says I need to show my love. 🙂
On another note, I did break down this weekend and finally sign up for the Alpenbrevet. This is a bike ride that takes place around the city of Andermatt. There are four different rides to choose from. The shortest is 64 kilometers long and you go up and down two mountain passes. The longest route is 268 kilometers long and you go up and down FIVE passes. (This one is sold out already!) I am more of a wimp. The ride I signed up for is a little over 100 KM long, and it only goes up three passes. The picture below is from near the top of one of the passes.
I will have 12 hours to complete the ride and it will probably take the majority of that time; so I do not think I will be riding in the Tour deFrance anytime soon! I am not worried about the distance part of the ride at all. I can ride 100 KM in under 4 hours so that part will not be bad. I AM worried about the elevation changes. In measurements that I know all my US friends can understand. The ride is only 67 miles long, but in those 67 miles there are over 10,500 feet of climbs. That is a lot of elevation change. The ride is the first weekend of September, so all summer long you will be getting reports of me trying to learn to climb up the mountains on my bike! This is going to make the hills of Southern Indiana, look like Florida!
In other news: There was another election yesterday. There were some interesting things on the ballot, but one of the most interesting was a local referendum question in Basel. The city of Basel was voting on granting “rights” to primates. I am not talking just normal animal rights issues. The vote was to grant human rights to all primates in the canton of Basel. This, I think, would have caused major problems if it had actually passed. The question did not spell out which rights were being granted. Would primates have a right to free travel? A right to an education? A right to marry other primates? No one actually knows, so it is probably a good thing the question went down in flames. 76% of the people voted against this. Just think of the lawsuits. Any person would have been able to sue over basically anything. The zoo has a monkey cage? The monkeys have to be freed. This monkey needs to be given a free public education. This list would be almost endless.
The four national questions were: 1) can Switzerland limit tobacco advertising 2) should ALL animal testing be banned 3) end the “Stamp” tax on large corporations 3) Financial Aid to public media
The first question had 56% of the vote to get rid of almost all tobacco advertisements. This one was fought vigorously by the tobacco companies, and also other large industries. The feeling is that if the country can limit the free speech for tobacco companies what are they going to come after next. I found this to be pretty odd. Most of the world has already determined that limiting tobacco advertisement is a good thing, but Switzerland has resisted this until now.
I was actually kind of surprised the medical testing question did not pass, but it failed with almost 80% of the people voting no. I mean this is the country that says you cannot just own one guinea pig because one guinea pig will be lonely. It is the country that says cats MUST have access to the outside. I mean in a lot of ways, I think Switzerland likes animals more than people. Switzerland would have been the very first country in the world to have a total ban on animal testing.
The stamp tax question was really a bone being thrown to big business. Right now if a “large” company wants to issue stock the government imposes a 1% tax on the capital raised. This is only on sales that generate more than 1 million CHF. So if it had passed it would have only impacted large companies. Over 62% of the people voting said no to this one.
I really did not understand the “media” question until the last couple of days. I thought the bill was to abolish public TV and radio. You know the same argument that happens in the US every election cycle when one party wants to cut Sesame Street and Wisconsin Public radio. However, in Switzerland the “PUBLIC” stations are already taken care of by a direct tax. Every household has to pay about 450 CHF per year to support public TV and radio. This question was should the government provide support for every newspaper, television station, and radio station in the country. The people that brought this bill forward basically have said since social media has changed the way advertising works these businesses are no longer able to make it financially. Therefore, the government should provide help. I have to admit I was torn on this one when I learned what it was about. On one hand I think businesses should either make it or fail on their own. There should not be government assistance. On the flip side. I have seen what has happened to newspapers and other media companies in the US. There really is no longer a local paper in the Fox Valley WI, or in my old hometown in Lawrence County Indiana. The local papers still have the same name, but almost all of the reporters are gone, and all the stories come from the HQ in some distant city. Heck the old paper in Appleton, WI doesn’t even have news stories any more unless they are two days old. This vote was the closest of the four questions. 54% of the people said the government should NOT help out these media companies.
One thing that will be happening soon in regards to media companies does have me ticked off, and it will be causing me to cancel our cable service in the next month or two. The new rule is that cable companies can now charge you for recording shows. Since you can fast forward through the commercials the companies have to make up or that lost revenue. The fee will probably be only 10-20 CHF per month. So basically a hamburger and fries at Burger King, but that puts me over the edge. I am already paying for streaming services, It will mean that I will no longer be able to watch the local news like I do most days, but I only catch about 1/4 of what they say anyway, and I do it to help learn german; so I will just have to start watching more Netflix in German.
That is about it for the day. I hope you have a great week, and will write more soon.