29 Juli 2022

This week is coming to a close quickly. We said goodbye to our guests. I think my sister and nephew had a good time visiting. I believe one of their favorite activities was swimming in die ZĂŒrichsee. Almost every town along the lake front has a public bath. Many of these have beaches to go along with the swimming areas. Our favorite so far has been the bath in Kilchberg. They have a very large grass area where you can pack in hundreds of people and not feel that crowded. The swimming area has multiple docks so you can get in and out of the lake without walking on the rocks. They have floated a couple of resting areas out in the water and they even have multiple diving boards. It was easy to tell that this has been the warmest summer since moving here. The lake is normally a little chilly, but this year it was almost warm. Still refreshing, but honestly on 90 degree days, I would prefer a little cooler water.

The other big lesson is that I never realized how much nicer it is to sleep with air conditioning. I broke down on our last anniversary and bought Julie one of those portable room air conditioners. It does a pretty good job of keeping the bedroom cool during this heat wave. Unfortunately, this past week for two nights I was being a good husband and slept on the sofa rather than in the bedroom. One night I had a conference call that started at 3 AM our time, and yesterday I had to wake at 4:30 so I could start my first Century Ride since college. Julie works hard enough, so I did not want to disrupt her sleep by waking her up hours before she needed to rise.

In other news this week I sent in my registration for my courses this fall. I signed up for one class through the Business School called “IT for Managers.” The second class is offered through the IU Law School it is titled “Information Privacy.” I think they will be pretty interesting. The classes start on 22 August; so I still have a couple of weeks left on break. One thing that will be interesting is that I have a “zoom orientation” next week. It is scheduled to be about 8 hours long. The time zone difference is in my favor, though. It starts about 3 pm so I do not have to worry about being up in the middle of the night!

I went out for a couple of long rides with week. On Tuesday, I joined a friend in a ride around the lake. This is about a 70 km ride. I have a lot of respect for my riding partner. He has an e bike, but he only uses the electric assist after he stops. I am impressed because I let him set the pace, and he hums along at about 24 – 25 kmh. His bike must weigh 50 pounds. I think I would have a hard time pedaling it, let alone cruising along at a pretty decent speed. He really kicks my butt on the hills, but I know he is using the electronic assist for that. 🙂 My second long ride started in the town of Baden, CH. I met another friend, and we rode from Baden to Belfort, France. This was a really fun ride because we went through Germany as well. The total distance for this ride was 172 KM. As I said in the first paragraph. I had not ridden that far since college. My time was a lot slower now, but not am I 30 + years older, I am carrying a lot more excess baggage now! Anyway, it was a good ride, and my riding buddy is going to do a couple of mountain passes with me over the next couple of weeks so I am ready for my big ride in September!

100 miles in 14 minutes

We had talked about going another 50 KM but the temperatures got up into the 90’s and France (unlike Switzerland) does not have the plethora of water spigots every few miles and we wound up a little dehydrated. Well, that, and when we got to Belfort we checked the train schedule and there was a train leaving in 15 minutes. We decided that the Gods were trying to tell us something. So we bought tickets and headed back. One of the most interesting things about the area, at least to me, were the raised canals over other bodies of water in France.

Canal over a river in France

My riding partner was explaining to me that a very popular summer activity is to rent a houseboat and cruise the canal we rode by. I have done a couple of houseboat vacations on lakes in the US. Honestly, they were not my favorite vacation, but I could see the appeal to others. However, I saw no redeeming things at all to do this on the french canals. For one reason, the canals were foul. You would not even think about swimming in the water, and that is at least 1/2 the fun of a boat vacation. The second reason I would never want do this are the locks. There are some pretty good elevation changes in this part of France, so there are many locks. In some places the locks are only separated by a couple of hundred meters. These locks have been in place so long, that many of them are still manually operated. The amount of work required to go 10 miles on the canal would be significant. This is certainly not my idea of a fun vacation. Drive the boat, tie it up, activate the lock, untie the boat, drive 200 meters and repeat the process. Some of the locks are big enough to handle two or three boats at the same time. However, many of the locks are big enough for only one. I mean we go on vacation to leave the rat race and traffic jams. Not experience them on the water!

Monday is one of the few Holidays that Julie actually gets to take off this year. It is Swiss National Day. This is similar to the 4th of July in the US. The biggest difference is that it celebrates the unification of the country, not independence from a foreign power. To show you how slow things tend to move in Switzerland. The day was first celebrated officially in 1891. That sounds like a long time, right? Well the signing of the federal charter that is celebrated happened in 1291! To demonstrate even more how slow the Swiss Govt can move. The day did not become a National Holiday until 1994. It seems so strange that the celebration of the founding of the country did not become a national holiday for over 700 years!!!!!! The holiday will be celebrated a little differently I think. Usually the weekend is full of fireworks both town wide and household. This year, though, due to lack of rain most of the fireworks displays have been cancelled, and in some areas setting of fireworks is illegal. We are going to celebrate by driving to Strasbourg, France and exploring a new town.

Last note for this week: WE GET TO SEE THE PACKERS PLAY IN OCTOBER! The Packers are one of the last teams to play a game outside the US. This year they are coming to London, and I got tickets today! Hey, Matt Moore! If your season tickets cover this game, come on over, and we will have a party in London! This should be a good time. I am hoping some friends coming over this month from Wisconsin, are going to be able to bring us some cheesehead hats. Though I do not know what the good people of London will think about us wearing the hats on the tube while we are traveling to the game. Just wearing green and gold, they might think we are some crazed soccer fans, but the foam cheese head hats might be a little extreme!

I hope you all have a great weekend. Talk to you next week. Enjoy the pictures. I do not have many this week, but hopefully will have some good ones from Strasbourg.

28 Mai 2022

We have been back in Switzerland for a few days now. This trip back, thank goodness, was uneventful. The flights left on time, and somehow they arrived early. My son was ecstatic, because I let him sit with me in “economy plus.” He could not believe how much more room there was. I was crabby, because the seat does not fold down into a bed like business class. Oh the difference 30+ years makes. 🙂

Since I have been back, the news has been full of what happened in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas. The only political type statement I am going to make is: “There is something broken in the USA.” We have one political party that proposes things the majority of the country does not want to see happen, and the other political party is all about sending thoughts and prayers, but refuses to actually propose anything. One shocking statement I heard that says a lot. “Two children died from contamination from Abbott Labs formula, we shut the plant. 18 children die in their classrooms and nothing changes.” We have some really messed up priorities in the US.

In my previous life, I was the Technology District for a school district in Wisconsin. In the Army, I learned to never volunteer, but one day at work, I forgot the lesson. My boss had signed up to attend a two day training seminar. At the last minute something else came up and she asked for a volunteer. I did not have anything pressing on my calendar, and all I could think about was wasting the money that had been paid; so I said, “I can go.” It turned out to be a two day seminar on ALICE. If you work in education, in the US, you probably know what that means: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate. (The scary thing is that three years after leaving the school, I did not even need to look up what the acronym stood for. The one thing I really learned from the training is that in an event like this someone is going to die or be seriously injured, but if you have a plan in your head about what can be done there is a chance of survival. I will never forget watching an elderly woman who was maybe 85 pounds if she was carrying a suitcase lay out a SWAT member from the Green Bay Police Department. The officer was pretending to be the shooter in a classroom and as other people distracted him; she gave him a flying tackle that would have been the envy of every NFL linebacker! So after attending the event I was given an additional duty for the school district: Write the plan for what happens if an armed intruder comes into the school.

I spent a few months researching school and workplace violence. I learned more than I really wanted to know about causes, reactions, response, recovery, and aftermath. I called schools and asked for their plans. I worked with the local police department, and county sheriff’s department to learn about how they would respond if something ever happened. I took another couple of months and wrote a draft. For some unknown reason I kept this stuff. I was able to write the school’s “administrative rule for unarmed and armed intruders” in four pages. The actual plan for how this would be implemented was much longer, and honestly it was never completed. Heck, it may never be completed. As part of the “rule” we had to have one yearly evacuation drill and one yearly lockdown drill. As is usual with all bureaucratic nonsense. We learned something new each time we practiced. What started out as a pretty simple plan to evacuate and rally at a predetermined point became a monstrosity that could never be implemented in event of a real emergency.

I took this very seriously. We had drills where the police department came into the building with simulators and blanks. We made it so realistic, that there were teachers crying for hours after a drill. One thing we did learn from this drill, though, is that even if the police respond the way they are supposed to (unlike Texas) you are really on your own. If the police do not know exactly where the gunman is, they have to go room by room. After about 30 minutes of the first drill, we had to call it off, and make it so the police could actually “take down” the intruder. It takes a LOOOOOONG time to clear a modern school building, and our buildings were relatively small. I should add, we only did the realistic drill when it was only teachers. I did not want to potentially traumatize students with gunfire for a simple drill.

I also had the job of explaining the plan to our Middle and High School students. This was another annual thing, and it literally was the hardest day of the school year for me. We would bring one grade level at a time into the auditorium. I would walk them through ALICE, and what it meant. I would explain the evacuation plan and talk about what would happen when we got to the meeting place. Then I would ask for questions. Every year, there would be at least one kid that had to show how funny they were and ask a question they were sure would fluster me. I am both kind of proud and shamed to say, that every single time this would happen the kid would immediately quiet down when my response was something like, “Then you or some of your friends are going to die.” (That is why they wouldn’t let me talk to the elementary students. My soft side is pretty well hidden.) This kind of discussion should not be necessary for a school, but unfortunately something like this should be made mandatory for all schools and businesses.

Every once in a while I think about things I miss from the United States. I have to say mass shootings is NOT one of them. There is something incredibly messed up when we have to train 5 year olds how to survive a gun battle. Unfortunately, this problem is not just in schools. Only two weeks ago another teenager brought a legally purchased gun into a grocery store and killed 10 people, because he was afraid that minorities were going to take over the country. The US does not have the only mentally messed up people in the world, but we sure make it easy for these people to get their hands on something that will do a lot of damage to innocent people.

I do not think we need more regulations on gun purchases, but I do think we need to have actual background checks where someone actually checks the background of the person buying the gun, on ALL purchases not just ones from a store. I don’t care if it now takes me a month to buy a shotgun. What I do want to see are large capacity magazines come with a $500 per magazine tax, mandatory proof of insurance for gun owners, and at least some purchases of ammunition come with a reporting requirement. I also think the Federal Government should start tracking all gun and ammunition purchases. I think local law enforcement would like to know that someone just bought 5 AR -15’s, and 10,000 bullets in small increments.

Last night on Social Media an acquaintance took me to task for believing that “guns kill people” and that we do not do anything to limit driving cars even though more people are killed by cars than guns every year. The first part is just silly. No, a gun by itself cannot kill someone, but put in the hands of a psychopath a gun can kill a lot of people. I wanted to reply to the man that I would love it if we would put the same on restrictions on guns that we do on cars.

Right now to buy a gun all you need is to be 18 years old, and not have any felonies on your record. Supposedly there are some mental health requirements as well, but everything I have read is that the US does an awful job reporting mental health issues to the right authorities. Just show up to any gun store with an ID, and you can walk out of the store with a gun. Some states might have a waiting period, but I believe those are gone in most states. Yes, you had to fill out some paperwork, but by Federal Law that paperwork cannot be shared with your state. Heck, it cannot even be shared with the Federal Government. All of the paperwork that has been filled out since that law went into effect is stored in a gigantic warehouse in West Virginia! We have a LOT more requirements to drive a car.

First off the car has to be registered with the state; so that potentially everyone can check to see who owns a car. Next comes the license. You have to receive a certain amount of training from a licensed teacher to even get a training drivers license. Then a written test showing that you know the rules of the road, and finally a physical test that proves you can operate the vehicle safely. I believe all states require minimum levels of insurance before you can legally drive the car. I would actually be pretty happy if the US would implement these requirements to own a gun. Would it fix everything? Not by a long shot, but it would be a step in the right direction.


I apologize to those that came here to read about the new city we visited, and instead got this dark morose stream of consciousness. I promise we have some visits on the calendar. Next weekend, we are checking a new Country and City off of the visit list. We are driving to Luxembourg for a few nights. The weekend after that we are re-visiting the first city I visited after moving. We are heading back to Milan for a weekend. Julie and I both want to see “The Last Supper.” Since our son spent a semester in Milan we thought it would be fun to visit with him; so he can show us the parts of the city we missed the first time.

Until next time…

27 April 2022

Well according to the city and canton of ZĂŒrich winter is officially over. Based on the cold temperatures in the morning this week I think someone forgot to tell Mother Nature! I was able to head down to the Operaplatz (renamed SechselĂ€utenplatz for the weekend) to see winter being blown to smithereens. No one knows exactly when the Böögg became the symbol of the spring festival, but it has been awhile.

BÖÖGG

SechselĂ€uten goes back to the middle ages. It was the start of the summer working hours for the guildhalls in the canton. The workday used to be from sunup to sundown, and they were paid a daily wage for their labor. This, of course, was a raw deal for the working person for about 8 months of the year. During the spring, summer, and fall the laborers put in a lot more work than they did during the winter. SechselĂ€uten is Swiss German for Six O’Clock ringing of the bells. This was the symbol for the workday to be over. It meant these workers had some time off with sunlight; so they could do some work of their own, or just simply visiting with family.

When the festival first started it was a neighborhood party. There were multiple parades around the town, and boys would set off fireworks and other LOUD celebrations. At some point boys being boys someone decided to burn winter in effigy. Hence the Böögg was born. In the US we would call this the Boogeyman. From different stories I have read the first Böögg was set aflame in 1902 as an official part of the festival, but reports go back to the 17th and 18th centuries in regards to fireworks and burning winter in effigy. It has been done every year since with the exception of 2020 when the event was canceled due to Covid. 2021 saw another first because although the Böögg was set on fire, it happened near the city of Andermat. The city government moved the display because they did not want people congregating again because of Covid. So 2022 was the big return.

I knew it was going to be big; so I went down about four hours early. I took a leisurely stroll through ZĂŒrich from the train station down to the Opera. The festival goes the entire weekend ending on Monday. There are many different neighborhood festivals going on with food, games, and fun. About 4 PM the parade of guilds begins. The different guilds have bands, floats, and many parade walkers in period costumes.

One thing I had not done, was visit the Lindenhof. There is nothing very special about this place, but it is the sight of an old Roman Castle. The views of the river are very pretty, though.

The Limmat Fluss (River) from the Lindenhof

I learned that Swiss crowds are no better behaved than crowds anywhere else. I was kind of surprised by this. So again, I got down to the festival grounds very early. I knew I was not going to be able to get very close; so I wanted to find the best possible spot to watch the show. I was so early, that literally there was no one else just standing around; so I did get a great spot right as close as possible. The crowds starting pick up with about an hour and a half to go. I found myself having to defend my spot on the fence fairly aggressively. Everyone wanted that spot. I kept one hand on the fence; so as not to get pushed away, but one point a woman wedged into the 6 inch space between another person and I. A hand grabbed the back of my jacket and pulled me away from the fence far enough the lady could get in front of me. I was really mad, but not mad enough to start a fight. 🙂 I really started getting upset when 15 minutes before everything really got going the woman’s son came and tried to climb the fence in front of me. Then about another 6 kids magically appeared. I get the festival is really for the kids, but darn it. I had scoped out that spot, and been standing there for HOURS. I was not about to let these kids climb the fence and ruin my sight line. So I stood there grabbing the fence above the woman’s head. The kids were able to climb up enough they could see, but not high enough they ruined everyone else’s view. It was a good thing I do not speak Swiss German, because I am sure I was being called a lot of names! Next year, I think I skip the fire, and just go down to watch the parade!

We have visitors coming this weekend. If you have read my blog for a while you have met Gabby (my son’s significant other), well Gabby’s sister is studying in Europe this semester; so she is coming tomorrow to spend a few days in Switzerland with another friend. I admit I am a little nervous. The last time we had college students stay with us the entire world shut down two weeks later! Hopefully, this will be like the burning of Böögg and signify the end of the covid pandemic. I am not going to hold my breath, but I will remain hopeful!

In other news, when Switzerland announced they were going to put economic sanctions on Russia over invading Ukraine a lot of people questioned that. The feeling seemed to be that Switzerland could not stay neutral and still put sanctions on a country. Well this week the government was able to demonstrate what military neutrality means. Germany wanted to send some anti aircraft weapons to Eukrane, but the munitions are made in Switzerland. Switzerland’s policy is they will sell arms, but only if there is no active war. So if Germany wanted to ship the material six months ago there would have been no problem, but now they cannot based on Germany’s agreement with Switzerland. Switzerland takes the equipment thing very seriously. They have blocked shipments of helmets, footwear, and protective vests. The government here has even blocked shipments of medical supplies, because there is no guarantee they will only be used in civilian hospitals. On the surface it seems kind of harsh, but the more I think it does make a lot of sense.

Not a whole lot of pictures from this last week. The weather was awful, so outside of SechselÀuten I did not do much other than ride my bike on the balcony, and go to the grocery store! I did get a pleasant surprise today, though. A month or so back I told you all about the Alpenbrevet. This is a ride through the Alps. I signed up for a 100 KM ride that goes over three mountain passes. I got a package today that had a new bike jersey! I think it looks awesome.

I hope you have a great week, and as usual enjoy the pictures.


21 April 2022

I remember when Kaylee was looking to spend her senior year of high school in Argentina. Julie and I, of course, were a little worried about our baby going so far away, and other than the surprise trip to a hospital we really did not have much to worry about. The one thing I remember from the preparation was a quote by an exchange student that had already returned. “I decided I was going to make my exchange year the year of “YES.” As long as it was not illegal I told myself that no matter what someone asked me to do, I was going to say yes, and enjoy the experience as much as I can.” Of course there is a difference between being an 18 year old vs someone in their mid 50’s. We probably have not said yes as often as we should, and we spend far to many Sundays recovering in the apartment instead of being out exploring, but we are trying.

One of the ways we have expanded our horizons the most is in food. Whenever we go someplace new, we make sure to order what we think is the most strange thing on the menu. (Seriously though, the fresh octopus we had in Portugal has been one of the best things we have ever eaten.) One big change is that we almost never buy pre-made meals any more. This is primarily because since I am not working I have time to cook, so about the only thing we buy pre-made is Rösti (a local take on hash browns) and Pasta. Well the pasta is going to be cut down a lot in the future.

Pasta Maker

Julie had a gift card burning a hole in her purse; so we hopped a train to ZĂŒrich last Saturday and went to Globus. Most of you have never heard of Globus, but think high priced department store and you are on the right track. We almost never shop there. Everything is priced significantly higher than any other store. However, since Julie had the gift card we decided to check it out. As we were walking around the store, Julie saw this and said how she had always wanted to learn to make pasta. So on the spur of the moment she picked up the machine, a spaghetti attachment, a drying rack, and some kind of ravioli contraption. The ravioli thing looks like a cross between a pizza cutter, and one of those tools used to put screen in a screen door. 🙂

We brought it home, and decided that since Monday is a holiday, (Does anyone in the US get Easter Monday off? That is actually a thing here, but I did not realize it until this year, because the last two Easter’s we have basically been shut down due to Covid.) we would use the afternoon to try and make fresh pasta. The recipe is pretty easy. You buy a specific kind of flour and then mix a little olive oil and 1 egg for every 100 grams of flour. I also added a little salt based on some of the things I read online. Mix everything up well. Roll the dough into a ball, and let sit for about an hour while wrapped in plastic wrap. Flatten the ball with a rolling pin, and then start running it through the big rollers on the pasta maker. It takes a total of about 18 trips through the roller and then you roll it through the attachment on top of the machine to make the shape. I actually made a video of using the machine, because WHAT ELSE DO I HAVE TO DO? 🙂

My first attempt at making pasta from scratch!

Making pasta is a lot more work than buying a bag of stuff in the grocery store, but honestly the results are worth it. The taste and texture is so much better than anything we have bought in the store. One thing we have learned here, is there is a big difference between regular pasta and premium pasta in the grocery store. Well the fresh stuff makes the premium stuff seem second rate. I highly recommend it. The other benefit is that until I do this enough to really figure out the machine, it is a great way to cook together. If you watched the video, the pasta maker is a lot easier with two people than only one. Now, maybe if we had bought the PREMIUM pasta maker that had an electric motor instead of a crank…… but that will be for the next gift card!

Pasta on the drying rack.
The finished product with a homemade sauce as well!

I think I am going to have a fun time experimenting with this. Just like I have really enjoyed learning how to bake bread. My next bread adventure BTW is to make Julie some English Muffins. The two stores that used to carry the muffins, locally, stopped carrying them, so Julie needs to find an alternative. Our recent trip to Munich found Julie searching through the grocery stores, where she picked up a month’s supply of muffins, but that is running out quickly!

THe BööGg

SechselĂ€uten is the name of the Spring Festival in ZĂŒrich. The translation of the word is “The six o’clock ringing of the bells.” This goes back to medieval times when the work day was from sun up to sun down. That scheduled worked fine in the winter, but starting in the spring and then through summer it meant that the workers got the shaft because they were paid per day, and all of a sudden sun down meant a much longer work day. So the guilds in ZĂŒrich came up with a solution. Each spring the GrossmĂŒnster started ringing the bells at six pm to signify the end of the work day. So now the day is a festival in ZĂŒrich. The festival ends with the burning of the Böögg. At 6 pm next Monday the pyre is lit, and the tradition is that the faster the Böögg’s head explodes the better the summer is going to be.

The festival has been called off the last two years due to covid. In fact, 2020 was the first time in recorded history the festival was canceled. Last year the festival was canceled, but the burning of the Böögg was moved to Andermatt. (See the video below.)

Burning of the Böögg

Next Monday, I will be downtown ZĂŒrich for the parades, and to watch the head explode live!

According to Wikipedia. The fastest time has been 5 minutes 7 seconds, and longest time is 43 minutes 34 seconds. I am hoping for a record, because I really want a good summer!

language success

I know I have talked many times on here about trying to learn German. I had, for me, a major success this week that I wanted to tell you about.

Each year, Julie and I have to renew our visa. Honestly, it is a pretty easy process, but it is kind of a pain. We are supposed to surrender our Aufenthaltstitel (residency permit) and then wait 4 – 6 weeks for the new one to show up. Normally it is not a problem to be without the card. If we are going anywhere, we simply use our driver license and passport. This year, though, I did not want to surrender the permit card, because we will be traveling back to the US before the new one would arrive. Not having the card does make it hard to get back through customs at the airport. Without that card, the border agents, give us a lot of grief about exceeding the 90 day policy as a tourist in Switzerland. So my success was that not only was I able to do the whole transaction in German. I was even able to ask about keeping the cards until the new ones arrived since we are going to be traveling internationally in the next few weeks.

What made the transaction even more special to me, is the town clerk realized I was trying valiantly to do this in German. He kept replying to me in English and then he would stop himself and switch to German! This almost never happens. The normal thing is that once the Swiss person realizes that I am not fluent, they immediately switch to English, and everything from that point on is English not German. It really does make it hard to get better.

I hope you are having a fantastic week. I will write again next week with hopefully some good pictures and video of the festival.



13 April 2022

Today is a bit of a recovery day. I went for a bike ride yesterday with my two new TikTok friends. I did close to 80 kilometers, but as part of the ride there were a couple of really hard climbs. My legs still felt a little weak this morning; so I took it easy and just did some walking and stretching! I am really thankful my new friends took me on this ride, because now I have a good route to really practice some longer climbs without having to take a train to the mountains! The last climb took us up high enough that there was still some snow on the ground. The last climb was about 350 meters and you could really tell the difference when we hit 1000 meters above sea level. That was when we started seeing some snow still on the ground. The ride really showed I have a lot of work to do before my big mountain ride in September. I really have to start doing some work on the hills.

Easter Week

If you have followed me very long on this blog, you know that Julie and I do not go to church very often over here. Part of the reason is the nearest english speaking church is on the other side of Zurich. The other reason is financial. If you belong to one of the major religions you are taxed for belonging to the church. It is not as bad as it sounds, it does go back to when the church was also the government. In this case the money the government collects goes back to the church. From what I can tell, this is also another issue with being a US citizen. We get a 1:1 credit on our US taxes for every dollar we pay in Swiss taxes. However, the church tax does not count. Making it even worse, the US does not consider it a charitable donation, so we cannot write it off our US taxes that way. So we have not joined a church here. I say this because one of the Easter traditions in Zurich is to decorate some of the more well known fountains with roses for Easter.

We found this out by mistake last year, but this year we were really looking forward to touring the city and seeing the fountains. It is really a pretty site. I really wish they would do more, but I guess roses are pretty expensive.

The picture above is our favorite. For sure it is the biggest one, but the way the water hits the basin right in the center adds a lot to this display. The roses are in the fountains from the Saturday before Palm Sunday through Easter Monday. We went and did the tour Monday after Julie got off work. It was so nice, because last year we did it the day before Easter and there were BIG crowds at all the fountains. The churches publish a map so that you can easily find which fountains have been decorated.

Employment Update

Back in 2021, I decided I was going to try and find a job. Since then, for a couple of reasons, I have learned that it would take some kind of miracle for me to find employment here. In other posts I have talked about some of the reasons, but it boils down to 1) I have not worked as hard as I should in becoming fluent in German and 2) Being over the age of 50 makes it harder to find employment.

Number one is solely on me. I realize, that if I absolutely HAD to find work I would have worked harder at learning German. Number two, however, is really more to do with how the Swiss version of Social Security works. I also think that age discrimination is something that is pretty universal. In the US, for example, the statistics of what happens to someone over 50 that loses their job are pretty shocking. ProPublica did a study a few years ago that found: only 10 percent of people over the age of 50 ever earn as much as they did before they lost their job. For years after the job loss the household incomes of these people are substantially lower for the families that experience job loss after the age of 50. From what I read online, this same phenomena happens in Switzerland.

For years job seekers in the US market have come across companies that treat them like dirt during the interview process. Companies never call back, never give updates as to how the process is going, and some companies are even asking for prospective employees to provide free labor by working on “case studies” that are actual problems the company is trying to solve, and still the person is not hired. This same thing happens over here. I have been following this one thread a man started about six months ago. He was asking about salary ranges for positions with financial institutions here in Zurich. Six months later, the company finally got around to offering him a job. When he got the job offer, he found the company was offering the same wages they were offering almost 10 years ago. When he turned down the offer, he described being berated for “wasting” the company’s time. What about his time? I mean how many of us would ever wait around six months on a job offer? Then when you found out they were offering the same pay as they gave out 10 years ago, would you take the job? I admit not having any first hand knowledge I may not have the full picture.

That being said from what I read and hear about the one real difference in employers here vs the US is the length of time it takes to hire someone. This process seems to be even more broken here than back in North America. So anyway, I have made a future employment decision.

I applied for a couple of different Masters programs in Cyber Security. I was accepted by Indiana University and will be spending my remaining time in Switzerland as an online student. :). I figure this will help cover up the HUGE gap in employment when we head back to the US and Julie and I switch roles as Homemaker. So if anyone has any hints about being an online student, I welcome them. I have looked over the courses, and I have to say the Nerd in me is very excited. The IU program was appealing to me because it mixes courses from the Business School, the Law School, and the School of Informatics. The degree requires 6 hours from each of the schools. I have to admit I am kind of looking forward to taking a class called “Information Privacy.” I am equally intrigued in taking a class called “Topics in Artificial Intelligence.” The one thing I am not looking forward to is that there are a couple of the classes that are not 100% compatible with living on another continent. There will be a couple of semesters where I have class at 02 or 0300. That will make it rough to wake up and walk Julie down to the train the next morning!

So that is about it for updates. Nothing to exciting is coming up other than heading back to the US in a couple of weeks. Julie is smack in the middle of quarter close, so hopefully we will get some day trips in after Easter, but the next big trip will be when young George comes over. Since he studied in Milan for a semester he is going to take us back and show us around. This will also get another bucket list item checked off, because I have bought tickets to get in and see “The Last Supper.” I figure not seeing that painting would be the same as going to Paris and not seeing the Mona Lisa. There are only a handful of paintings so famous that everyone knows them; so if you get the chance to see it “live” you have to take it.

I hope you enjoy the pictures. They are from my bike ride, and the fountains around. Zurich.



24 MĂ€rz 2022

I thought I was going to have another 100 Plus photos to share today. However, I got burned by iPhoto. I am still not sure how it happened, and if there is any way to get the actual photos.

I actually have three cameras that I travel with. I use a sony digital camera, my iphone, and then a gopro video camera. Every trip I come back and take the photos off of the sony and gopro and import them into iphoto. Once every couple of weeks I back up my iphoto library onto an external drive, and I also use google photos as a backup. That way I literally have iphoto backed up three different ways (icloud also backups). Anyway, today I was trying to export the pictures from the Residenz in Munich for this blog, and I got a really strange message. ” Photos with unavailable original files cannot be opened. The original photo “DSC02796.JPG” is either offline or cannot be found. Click “Find Original” to reconnect.”

Somehow, all the pictures i took with the sony are showing in iphoto, but it is like a thumbnail file. I can see the picture listed in iphoto, but every time I try and open the picture or do anything with it I get the message above. What has me so frustrated is that I did nothing different than I ever do. I always wait until I see the photos are showing in Iphoto before I delete them from the SD card. Somehow, that was not enough this time. There were some great pictures that I will never be able to show. I am really bummed. So if anyone has ever experienced this, please let me know. I mean there should be a way to take what I see in iphoto, and make it a real picture, but so far I have not had any luck finding a solution.

Residenz

The Residence in Munich served as the seat of government from the early 1500’s until 1918. The building was actually started in the year 1385. Over the centuries the rules of Bavaria added onto the original castle. This has led to an amazingly large castle with all kinds of strange angles, and other different design characteristics for the same building. The front of the building is large, but honestly as castles go rather plain looking. It is only when you enter the building and start walking around that you can grasp the size and complexity of the different rulers. The following link is to the museum’s web site. It lists some of the rulers and the specific changes they made to the building. Unfortunately this is not an all encompossing list, because from 1385 – 1550 it only lists two occupants. and there had to have been a lot of construction during those almost 200 years! https://www.residenz-muenchen.de/englisch/residenc/bau.htm



The Residence has been open as a museum for a little over 100 years now. It is very interesting the see the differences between the eras of when the Dukes, Catholic Church, and lastly the Kings had the building. Everything was incredibly ornate, but you can really tell the difference when the occupants had a higher authority above them vs when they were the KING or QUEEN. The building also was some of the finest renaissance era architecture I have seen.

Another aspect to the tour that struck me were some of the wood floors. The guide said that in the King’s apartments they really wanted marble floors, but in that part of the building the construction on upper levels would not allow the weight. So the architect designed wooden floors that at first glance appear to be marble. I was fascinated. The picture below shows one of the examples, but when you see the gallery at the end, you will see many different designs. Unfortunately, I lost about 1/2 of the pictures of the floors 🙁

The one really costly part of the trip, is that Julie decided if we wind up moving back to Mitchell I have to build a hallway like this from the back of the house, to where we are going to put the hot tub, and outdoor bar!

For some reason it is called the yellow hallway. I never really understood why. I have decided, though, if she gets her hallway, I get a throne room!

My favorite room in the whole building was the Emperor’s Room. I am not sure the photo will look right on the web site, but I stood in the center of the room, put my iphone in panoramic mode, and went from one end across the ceiling to the other end of the room. I also have a short video a few paragraphs up with the room in the video.

When you look at the gallery below, pay attention to the last picture in the first row, and the first picture in the second row. To get an idea of the craftsmanship keep in mine this is a marble panel on a stair. I could not believe the artist was able to capture the perspective of a hallway with that detail, and have the stone feel so smooth it is as if it was a painted picture or one solid piece of stone. There was another room where the ceiling was painted to this same style. When you stood in the center of the room and looked up, it felt like the ceiling was a 100 yards away instead of 30 feet.

I normally I put my 2nd post of the week out on Friday, but tomorrow, I am going on a bike ride from Zurich to Basel. It is about 100 kilometers, so it will take me a good 4 or 5 hours (probably much closer to 5). I am also looking forward to the ride, because I am going to meet some people in person that I have only met online. There is a reason it is called social media after all. I just hope I can keep up with the other riders. I have tried to make very clear that I am not a speed cyclist it is much more about recreation to me.

Anyway, I hope you have a great rest of your week, and weekend. I will talk to you next week.

14 MĂ€rz

Happy PI day everyone! I have never baked a pie in my life, and will not start today, but I stopped at two grocery stores and two bakeries looking for any kind of pie. I guess Monday is not a good pie day in Switzerland!

This week’s post will be pretty short. We did not do much last week. Julie was attending a COVID super spreader event at a hotel near the airport, and about all I did was eat fondue!

We have all seen what is going on with the price of gasoline and fuel. That price increase was expected and talked about even before the fighting started. Russia controls about 10 percent of the global production of oil. So it is of course no surprise that the price of a barrel would skyrocket. Here is the one political question I have:

Why is the republican party in the US so duplicitous? On one hand they say they support the actions President Biden has been taking in regards to Ukraine, and in fact they were the ones that really started the movement to sanction the oil coming out of Russia. Then out of the other side of their mouth they blame Biden for the sudden spike in the cost of gasoline. What I find even more frustrating is that from what I can see online, a large percentage of the population has now jumped on the bandwagon and blame Biden more so than Putin for the cost of gasoline. You could see this coming from a mile away, but I was surprised how quickly this seems to have taken root.

In the 80’s and 90’s I remember the republican party used to call many on the democrat side “useful idiots.” This term was used for someone that spread the same propaganda that the USSR was disseminating. If I remember correctly the term was first used in the 1960’s, so it is pretty old. Anyway, I think we need to resurrect that term again but this time it seems that it would be used for the loud mouth wing of the republican party, because the Tucker Carlson’s of the party seem to be really trying to shift the blame away from Putin and the Russians on this subject.

Enough about that. So we already knew that gas prices would go up, but here is something I learned this weekend. Russia and Ukraine account for 12 percent of the world’s food calories that are traded. The big one is wheat. Turkey and Egypt right now get almost 100% of their wheat from Ukraine, and many other countries in Northern Africa get about 50% of their wheat from Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine account for roughly 30% of the global supply of wheat. Corn, is also a big one. Ukraine and Russia account for 20% of the global trade in corn. Here is the one I never would have thought of. 80% of the sunflower oil production comes from these two countries. The US will slowly start to see this impact but not as quickly as those in Europe will.

The oil seed market is going to be impacted for years. Ukraine alone is over 50% of the sunflower seed market. Those seeds should be going in the ground in the next 3 – 4 weeks. How much do you think is actually going to get planted, and as the fighting continues, how much will actually grow to maturation? This will really drive up the price for all cooking oils. If the fighting continues for another two months, we could be looking at a three year timeline before the cooking oil market would actually stabilize. We will have disruptions this year since Ukraine has stopped all food exports. Next year for sure if the crop is not planted this spring. Then potentially into the third year while the pipeline replenishes.

The food issue is going to be another instance of the rich countries will be ok, but the poor countries will really suffer. Countries like the US and Canada, can probably increase their production so they will not suffer as much. Countries like Switzerland will be fine, because they can afford to buy food. It is the poor countries in Africa and South America that will be hit the hardest.

Another thing that we are seeing in Switzerland is a tie in between Covid Deniers and supporters of Russia’s invasion. There are a couple of different thoughts behind this. One is that simply these people are ANTI MAINSTREAM thought. If the majority of the population says the sky is blue and the sun is shining; these people will say it is cloudy. Another thought process is that these groups tend to use Russian sponsored means of communication and possibly they have opened themselves up to a lot more pro Russian propaganda than the average person sees. A third view simply says these people are all conspiracy believing people. According to a conspiracy specialist here, these people view Russia as the only government that ever tells the truth. Because they believe Russia always tells the truth, it is very difficult for them to make Russia the bad guy. These people have to keep supporting Russia, otherwise the entire house of cards begins to collapse. If Russia is the bad guy in this instance, then a lot of the other things they have believed may not be true either.

In another example of Swiss logic. It is OK for the government to impose economic sanctions on Russia for the invasion. Russia was the instigator, and therefore since they broke society’s norms they can be punished. HOWEVER, Switzerland also put sanctions on flights into and out of Russia. So to be neutral, they did the same with Ukraine. They took this one step further. There can be no flights over Switzerland that could be used to support Ukraine in their fight. So no planeloads of javeline missiles. They will allow humanitarian flights, though.

In a final piece of news from Switzerland. Last week the government rejected the idea of foreigners voting in federal elections. There are some cantons in Switzerland that allow foreign residents to vote in local elections. Like all voting regulations there are some requirements like living in the same town for at least five years, having no legal problems, etc… Over 25% of residents in Switzerland are NOT swiss citizens. This is a pretty large percentage of the population. So there was a proposal that said basically if you are over the age of 18, a contributing member of society (pay taxes), and you have lived here for five years you can now vote. I figured the odds of this happening were pretty slim, and it was rejected soundly at the committee level. 17 votes against to only 3 votes for the proposal.

A comment made by one of the politicians that made me laugh out loud was this one, “If someone wants to vote all they have to do is go through the naturalization process.” This is almost a joke. Switzerland has some of the most stringent methods to become a citizen of any country I am aware. There are literally people that are on their third generation of living in Switzerland that have not been able to become citizens. The biggest problem seems to be that there are minimum national standards on citizenship, but each canton, and then each community can add to those standards. I agree that taking a test to show you understand the constitution, and history of the country is a good thing. I agree that you should become a part of the community and become integrated into the culture. I do not think you should be denied citizenship because you wear sweatpants around town. (True Story, https://www.thelocal.ch/20160609/immigrant-family-denied-swiss-citizenship-over-choice-of-clothes/) Or because you did not know what canton claims to have invented raclette. (The answer to that one if you are interested is Valais.)

Oh well, I know I will not be here long enough to be meet the requirements for citizenship anyway.

I hope you have a great week. This weekend Julie and I driving to Munich for a couple of nights. So next week, I will have some pictures of a new city. Wednesday the temperature is supposed to get up to about 70; so I plan on going for a bike ride around the lake. I will bring my GoPro and have some video to share.

8 MĂ€rz 2022

Well I am on day 1 1/2 of semi bachelor hood this week.  Julie has meetings all week with all the executives around the world.  They decided to hold the meetings in ZĂŒrich.  She decided that with how late the meetings would go it made more sense to just stay at the hotel.  So I am on day two of eating fondue for dinner!  I will probably gain 20 pounds while she is gone, because I am eating all the stuff she won't let me eat very often when she is here! 

Just like people in the US are complaining about rising prices we have the same problems here.  Gas is about $9 per gallon, but thank goodness for great public transportation we do not have to drive that often.  We were shocked at how quickly the prices have gone up though.  We were going to visit Vienna, Austria next weekend, but decided to cancel the trip.  On Saturday, I was looking at air fare, and it was going to cost us about $150 each for flights.  I did not book, because Julie had not heard if she could have the day off.  I checked yesterday afternoon, and the flights had more than doubled to about $360 per ticket.  Now that Covid restrictions are being lifted, we thought we would be able to travel again, but it looks like war in Europe will put a damper on that one!

I know this is going to seem strange, and you would think I would already know this.  Europe is a lot bigger than we think about in the US.  The reality is that Europe is BIGGER than the US.  Since the US is one of the largest countries and Europe is one of the smaller continents, it tends to mess up our minds.  For the last two years we have not been able to really even think about planning trips outside of Switzerland, and now that we can I keep forgetting the size.  There are still a lot of amazing places we can go on a three day weekend. Basically we are limited to Eastern France, Southern Germany, Northern Italy, and Western Austria.  For example Vienna is 1.5 hours by plane, but 8 hours by car. Close enough to drive, but not on a three day weekend!   

Speaking of war.  I had an interesting online talk with a friend back in the US. He made a comment about getting out of here and heading back to the US. Honestly, I do not know any more than anyone else, but my feeling on this is that if the fighting expands enough where I need to feel worried here in Switzerland, then all my friends in the US need to feel worried as well. My feeling is that if the war spreads beyond Ukraine, it will be so much bigger that location may not matter.  

Venice Part 2

One of the most fascinating sites in all of Venice is St Mark’s Basilica. St Mark’s was started in 828 AD. History says the remains of Saint Mark (The Evangelist) were brought to the city from Alexandria. The original church is long gone. The church had at least three iterations before the current church was started in 1063. It took about 30 years for the church to be consecrated.



The domes and upper walls of the church have been covered with 91,000 square feet of gold mosiacs. One of the most impressive things to see is the Pala d’Oro (translated as Golden Cloth). This altarpiece was originally started in 976 AD. In 1345 the piece was redone. The altar piece is 3 meteres by 2 meters and is made with gold, silver, and many jewels. There are 526 pearls, 330 garnets, 320 emeralds, 255 sapphires, 183 amethysts, 175 agates, 75 rubies, 34 topazes, 16 carnelians, and 13 jaspers.

Pala d’Oro

The top section has St Mark in the center, and the images on each side are images depicting the life of Christ. The bottom section tells the life of St Mark. I wish my picture did it justice. It was one of the most amazing things I have seen in Europe.

The Basilica is not as impressive in regards to size as some of the other big churches we have seen, but in some ways to me it was even more impressive than St Peters in Rome. The amazing thing is that the church is still standing. The plaza in front of St Mark’s is the lowest place in the city; so it floods regularly. All around the sides of the church, you can see where they are trying to shore up the foundation.

So that about covers Venice. I am really glad we got the chance to go. Hopefully Kaylee will be able to visit us after the Holidays this year, because I know she would enjoy the museums in the city!

Below is a video of our gondola ride. I left the original sound so you could hear both how quiet and loud the gondola ride was.

This last video was made walking back from our dinner the first night to our hotel. You get a really good idea of what the streets in Venice are like. There is almost no such thing as a straight line. At one point, I was trying to get us to the Rialto Bridge from our hotel room. I looked at the map and thought I had it down. We wound up over 1/2 a mile from where I wanted to be! It was really frustrating.

Most of the pictures below are from St Mark’s.
As always, I hope you enjoy the pictures, and if you like the blog, please subscribe.