18 May, 2022

I am writing today from Southern Indiana. I have been back in the US for a week now. The graduations went well. I really wish Julie and I could have figured out a way to attend both, but until someone figures out how to travel about 600 miles in the space of a minute or so being in two different places at almost the same time will be impossible.

I do think I got the better of the two graduations. Sure Julie got to spend some time with parents, but she had to sit through the mass graduation that is UW/Madison. She never was even able to pick Kaylee out in the crowd. I was able to see George walk in, and got to watch him parade boldly across the podium like everyone in the audience was there for him! It was fun to watch. Both of us got to sit in the hot blazing sun for a couple of hours, so that is a wash. The two kids graduated with honors; so all in all it was a success!

I have to admit one of my favorite parts of the graduation weekend was the dinner on Saturday evening. For the most part, I believe the food in Switzerland is better than what we normally get in the US. We do not have to worry as much about pesticides, steroids, and antibiotics. The one exception is steak in a restaurant. If I have a choice between beef or horse, I will take horse meat every time. The steaks taste fine, but there is a big difference between a dairy cow and a beef cow. I am convinced that the VAST majority of the steak served in Switzerland comes from a dairy cow. My son had reservations at one of Indianapolis’ best steak houses for dinner and it did not disappoint! The meat practically melted in my mouth. It was by far the best steak I have had in three years. Also the prices at the restaurant made me feel like I was back in Switzerland.

I am very proud of both of my children. George starts work for an Appellate Court Judge in Indianapolis in August (after the Bar Exam). Kaylee has landed a position in a laboratory at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. That is the reason I will be back in a month. I get the joy of moving Kaylee as she starts her adventures after University.

I am spending the week in Mitchell, Indiana with my parents. It is very nice to get some time with my parents. For the most part we have just spent time visiting, but I also get to spend some time helping them out. Nothing very strenuous, but I have helped mow the lawn, get the pool ready for summer, and other house projects that are difficult for my parents.

One of my concerns is how much fitness I will lose here. I had been riding a lot back home, but since it is very expensive to ship a bike I am jogging most days. It has actually been about six months since I did any jogging. Jogging is a lot harder than riding!!! I have not been worrying as much about distance as time. I try and go out for an hour each morning and keep my heart rate up to level 4 on my Garmin Smart Watch. I just do not know how an hours worth of jogging compares to 2 1/2 or 3 hours on a bike. 🙂

I am taking some time for fun. Dad and I have taken the 4 wheeler for some jaunts through the woods, and today I decided to do some fishing.

The cows were smarter than I. They were staying under the tree out of the rain, but I did catch enough fish for dinner. A friend of Mom and Dad’s brought over a few fillets and now all of us can have some fish. The bass were pretty small, but then again, the pond is pretty tiny as well. It was fun to go fishing. I have not been fishing since the move to Switzerland. This really cemented that one of the first things I want to do when we move back is fix the big pond on our Bedford Farm. The pond used to be about 5 acres. Something happened about 25 years ago, though, and the pond sprung a leak.

You can see from the google map image above the pond now is not even 1/4 of the size that it used to be. When I was in High School, the water went almost up to the trees above the pond, and you can see the line below the pond where the high water mark used to be. I figure that when it gets repaired not only will I be able to fish I will be able to dunk hunt as well! OOHH that means I need to get a dog when we move back!!!

I have also learned that I am not as allergic to bee stings as I thought. When I was about 8 or 9 I had to spend a couple of days in the hospital after a hornet sting. Ever since that happened I have thought I was very allergic. Well my Dad decided to get some bees, and they arrived yesterday. Dad, of course, was wearing a bee suit. I was simply staying back about 25 yards. Everything was going great until my Father dropped the transport case. For some reason that put the bees in a very bad mood. In seconds I had been stung about 6 times on the face, ears, and head. I had some swelling, and I can tell some of the stingers are still imbedded today, but I did not have the major reaction that I was afraid I was going to have.

I still have a few days left in Indiana. I know tomorrow we will be doing mechanic work on one of the tractors, but I am really not sure what other tasks my parents have in store for me. I did start my Masters classes this week, so I get to spend a couple of hours each day studying. My first class is a law class. I feel kind of funny, but I have already been asking George for clarification. I guess his law degree has to come in handy for something, right?

I am kind of looking forward to heading back home. George is flying over with me. Julie gets in two days before we arrive. We have reservations to visit Milan so we can see the Last Supper, and then there is another four day weekend coming up. We are thinking of visiting Luxembourg or Belgium. We have not decided yet.

Anyway, that is how my time in the US is going. Next time I write, I will be back in Switzerland. I hope you have a great week!

5 May, 2022

Happy CInco de Mayo to everyone. ONE thing we cannot seem to find here is good Mexican Food. Basically every time we find a place that says it serves Mexican food we stop, but so far we have been pretty disappointed. We found a chain that serves decent americanized mexican food, but that is the closest we have come. So I am making soft shell tacos for dinner. Have to celebrate somehow. I made a comment on a Reddit thread in regards to Swiss dining about mexican food, and was told there is a really good one near Interlaken. When George is over in a few weeks, we will have to take a road trip and see if it is a good place.

The last few days, I have come to realize that some things are just messed up no matter what country you live. I am thinking cellular companies. Updating a phone in the US is a major pain. Especially if you have the phones attached to a business plan. It could take hours to get a phone attached to Verizon and that does not include transferring apps and other data. I was hoping things would be different here, but it turns out to be much the same.

My birthday is this month, and since Kaylee’s cat decided to see how fast my cell phone could fall from the counter top, I have been living with a busted screen. Since the only things on my list were 9,000 and 18,000 CHF each ( I really would like a new bike, and a Rolex watch!). We decided a new cell phone would have to do! This actually turned out to be a lot more difficult than I thought.

I decided to go with a new iphone, as I really like the Google Pixel Android phones, but they do not sell them anywhere here. I also had (well, thought I had) a coupon code good for 10% off a new phone. Julie signed us up for UPC when we got here, because it was just the easiest. It was a true one stop shop, where she got internet, television, and mobile all at the same time. So the coupon was good only at a UPC store, so I hopped on my bike and rode to the nearest store. This turned out to be an adventure all on it’s own.

I somehow managed to swallow a bug about 1/2 a block from the store, and could not stop coughing. There was no way I was going into the store like that, because everyone would think I was spreading COVID; so when I finally got to the point the coughing spasms were over, I went to a Kiosk and bought a bottle of water and some Ricola to get me by. By the time I got back to the store, there were now five people in front of me, with only one assistant in the place.

So I wait patiently in the lobby. I once again felt inadequate because an older gentlemen came up and started talking. I explained I did not speak german well, but if he would talk slower I would do my best. I also asked him if he spoke english. With no hesitation, “I speak German, Italian, French, and Spanish, but I do not speak English.” Said in perfect English!! He then immediately walked away. After waiting about an hour, I finally got my chance. I was trying so hard to do the transaction in German, but we hit a roadblock and had to switch to English. The roadblock was…. Julie is on the contract so they cannot sell me a phone unless she is there. The assistant then tried telling me I could order online, and we would not need Julie, but that doesn’t work, because the only plans online come with multiple year payoff schedules, and I do not like those. I then explained about the coupon. She told me the coupon was not good on phones, and when I showed her the message, she said “It must have been translated wrong, because that is NOT what it says in German.” I tried explaining to her that I did not translate it, UPC sent it to me, but all to no avail. So I basically wound up wasting a couple of hours and got no where.

When Julie got home that night, I explained what happened, and she said she was working from home the next day; so we could just go to the store in Thalwil and get it there. We both figured she had to be there, since the assistant I had already talked with was so adamant that I could not buy the phone without Julie. The next day we got to Thalwil, and Julie was not happy, when the clerk just sold me the phone with no questions asked!

We got back home and I got the phone set up, with no problem. But here is where I realized I am out of practice with technology stuff. Apple makes getting a new phone very easy. I had everything moved over to the new phone in under two hours. I made a test call to and from the phone and I thought everything was fine. Until this afternoon…..

Today I had to run some errands, so outside of the house, I tried to look something up on the internet. NO DATA CONNECTION… In fact no nothing.

When I made my test calls it never occurred to me that I was using WIFI in the house. I had assumed, that since the clerk at the store had asked about our UPC information he had done something in the system that automatically updated the SIM card info to UPC. I was ecstatic about how easy it was to update phones here compared to the US, and was telling myself that the US really needs to learn how easy this stuff can be.

As I was troubleshooting the issue, I looked at the system settings on the phone, and quickly realized there was no SIM card in the phone. I could not remember the last time I bought a new phone that did not come with a sim card already in it. It was then I remembered: Yes, I do remember, it was almost three years ago when you bought a new phone over here. I had to wait for a while, because they would not sell me a phone until I could show I was a resident. You can buy burner phones here, but you cannot get a cell phone on a “plan” unless you are a legal resident….

So I get back home, and immediately swap the sim card from the old phone into the new phone. Reboot, and all is good. Kind of… The new iphones are supposed to be 5G capable, but my old phone was only 4G; so I started going through the process to get a new sim card that will take advantage of the 5G system. Tried valiantly online to order a new SIM card but I had no success. For some reason UPC will not take our Residency ID numbers. Next is where I really learned how out of touch with technology I am when I called UPC to try and get a new card.

You see I just assumed that most places in Europe was more advanced than the US in regards to cellular. I mean, there has not been one place in this country that I could not get a signal. Even at the top of some of the most remote mountain areas there is a cell signal. The person on the phone asked why I did not just put the old card in the new phone. I told him I had done that, but I was only seeing a 4G signal, and since the new phone was 5G I figured I needed a new sim card to make it work. He laughed and told me that UPC does not have 5G in Switzerland. I was gobsmacked. Primarily because UPC merged with a company called Sunrise last year. Sunrise advertises they have the most comprehensive 5G network in the country. Pretty PO’d to find out the two companies have integrated everything EXCEPT that.

I also learned that extra privacy settings and different security settings make getting a new phone a bigger pain here versus in the US. The biggest thing being resetting up the banking apps. I really am glad about the security level for our bank apps, but what I find a little silly is that I now have to wait for an actual letter with a security code before I have access to the bank on my phone. What is really frustrating is that because of the way the bank has relied on the phone for two factor authentication it is now even harder to log into the bank via the internet.

Heading back to the US

We are heading back to the US in a week for graduations. It is an exciting time. One is graduating with her undergraduate degree and the other graduating from Law School. Still upset that both graduations are on the same day, but we are making it work. Getting the packing lists written out, and also the lists of stuff we need to bring back. I do not think it will ever cease to amaze me that we always go back to the US with lots of room to spare in the suitcases, but coming home we always worry about how much extra we will have to pay in baggage fees!

One thing that concerns me a little is how quickly I will lose some of my bike riding fitness. It costs way to much to send a bike back and forth; so I will be jogging to try and at least keep my general fitness level. I have really just started my hill workouts for my ride in September. I am hoping to add one more peak to my hill workout before I head home, but it looks like it is going to be raining almost every day from now until we leave. The weather report is showing the only chance for me to get a real bike ride in before I leave is the day I have to take Julie to the airport. (Since we are going to different places we did not coordinate our flight schedules.) That means I wind up doing a lot of kilometers on one of our balconies.

The balcony rides are kind of like running on a treadmill. You work up a good sweat, you get your heart pumping hard, but at the end of the exercise it just still seems kind of underwhelming. Maybe what I should have asked for as a birthday gift is a better bike trainer. If I could find one that would actually simulate hills that would be great! Oh well, Christmas comes soon enough.

I hope this finds you well. I will try and get at least one post in before I leave, and also one from the US, otherwise I will talk to all of you again in late May.

27 April 2022

Well according to the city and canton of Zürich 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 Sechseläutenplatz 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.


Sechseläuten 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. Sechseläuten 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 ZĂĽrich 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 Sechseläuten 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 Zürich 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

Sechseläuten is the name of the Spring Festival in ZĂĽrich. 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 ZĂĽrich came up with a solution. Each spring the GrossmĂĽnster started ringing the bells at six pm to signify the end of the work day. So now the day is a festival in ZĂĽrich. 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 ZĂĽrich 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.

31 März 2022

Spring in Switzerland is not much different than back in the US. The temperatures get gradually warmer. Then we get a stretch of really nice days where the temperature gets up into the high 60’s or low 70’s. WHAM! Then winter decides it does not want to let go, so we get a week with colder temperatures, and even a threat of snow.

Last week was the false spring. It was so nice that I went for close to a 90 mile bike ride from ZĂĽrich to Basel.

I have talked before about meeting people via TikTok, and once again TikTok came through. A gentleman contacted me about going for a ride; so I said yes. This same man tried to get me to ride with him a lot last year, but the weather was so bad, we were never able to connect. So anyway, last Friday, I walked Julie down to the train station with my bike in tow, and hopped on a train to the north side of ZĂĽrich to meet Martin and Uwe.

Honestly, I was very scared about going on the ride. Not for my physical safety or anything like that, but because I have seen what the real serious cyclists are like here, and I was afraid I would be badly out matched, and they would leave me in the dust, or else they would just get angry because I was slowing them down. Well thank goodness we were all very close to the same level of fitness. We started our ride with a nice cup of coffee. Rode for a couple of hours and had a nice lunch, and then finished a pretty good climb, with a 25 kilometer downhill stretch all the way to the Basel train station. 🙂 I have to admit as a cyclist I felt a little guilty. Normally a rider takes turns at the front of the group to set the pace and help fight the wind. Unfortunately, this was a much more complex route than the map above indicates. There were turns seemingly every couple of minutes. Only one of us had a GPS bike computer, so he wound up leading the group for the vast majority of the ride. Hopefully, we can ride again on a route that I know, so I can help more.

Another thing I did last week was get my eyes checked again. Back in the US an eye exam was annual thing. Party because I was able to work into my school contract, that the district would pay for the eye exam. Staring at computer screens all day I needed to ensure my eyes worked as well as they could!

Well, vision care is not part of the health insurance here, and I have been unable to find any kind of vision insurance; so it can be pretty darn expensive. Up until 2011 it was required that up to $150 be covered by insurance, but that was for FIVE years; so it was basically worthless. I knew my eyes had changed a lot over the last two years, but it was even more than I thought. I picked up my glasses yesterday, and it took a few hours for my eyes to really adjust, but it is so nice to be able to see again. I am not sure that waiting two years is a good idea for the future.


So we are coming up on three years living here. During this time we have voted at least 4 times, if not more. This includes primaries and general elections. There have been a couple of elections I got the ballot, but chose not to vote. I honestly do not feel right voting for the local things on the ballot. Since I do not live there, and do not pay my taxes, I do not think I should have a say, but I could have voted if I wanted.

Here is my beef now…. Wisconsin has a process that I have to get in annually and request absentee ballots. I can request them for the entire year, so it is not that big a deal to do this. The problem is timing. The first primary in Wisconsin is always in February; so basically this means I cannot ever vote in that election. Again, not that big a deal. In January, I requested absentee ballots online. The same as I have since 2020. The second week in March, I realized I had not seen the ballot for the April election, yet. I thought this was a little strange, because I have gotten every other ballot with more than enough time to return them. (Well except the time I messed up Julie’s by forgetting to sign it and I had to pay FedEx to get it there on time.)

Anyway, I log into the website to see what the status is, all to learn that the ballots had just been mailed about two days before I checked. This makes perfect sense if I had requested absentee, and was still living in Greenville. How anyone thought a ballot mailed the first week in March was going to get to here, get filled out, and then get back to Wisconsin by 5 April is beyond my comprehension. So I immediately emailed the town clerk, and asked her to email the ballots. She informs me that she is NOT able to do that because I did not ask them to be emailed. Unfortunately, I cannot ask for them to be emailed. According to the Wisconsin website, email is only available for active duty military personnel. I have tried contacting the state elections commission, but have not heard anything back.

I know the legislature in Wisconsin was doing what a lot of Republican legislatures are doing right now, writing laws to make it harder to vote absentee. I thought Governor Evers vetoed those, however. I do not understand what has changed since last year making it impossible for me to vote. Well not impossible, but airfare back to Appleton is one HELL of a poll tax. Any attorney in Wisconsin want to take up a case pro bono about why the state has taken away my ability to vote?

The Glocken

22 März 22

I am going to start my post this week with a rant. Not a political rant this time, just a rant on poor behavior.

I would consider myself pretty well traveled. This weekend, for one of the very few times, I saw how we “Americans” get such a bad reputation. I have decided it comes from High School kids. The problem comes from arranged trips for High School students. These trips are normally arranged for schools either through a language department, or maybe history. Anyway, Julie and I are waiting with at least another 500 people at Marianplatz in front of the Rathaus-Glockenspiel. We were waiting for the Glockenspiel to start the evening performance. There was a group of maybe 30 students WITH PARENTS standing nearby. They were rude, loud, and obnoxious. None of them even bothered to look up at the display as it was happening. They were all to busy being in their own little world. Finally after about 5 minutes, the tour leader tried to get them quiet, but it was no use. I actually felt embarrassed to be an American at that point.

One lesson I learned is that if a parent wants their kid to experience Europe, then bite the bullet and travel with them. That kind of trip is wasted on a group of high school kids. They might soak up some of the experience if they are with their parents, but no way in a pack; like what happens on these trips. Unfortunately, this was not the only time we ran into these groups last weekend. Munich must be on the must see Europe itinerary, because we ran into three more of these EF Groups, and unfortunately none of them were well behaved. (Side note: This is actually a pretty common occurrence when local schools do field trips as well. HS kids are pretty much the same everywhere. When the group is speaking the local language, it is just kids being kids, but when they are all speaking English, it is easy to blame the bad Americans.)

Rant over!!

Glockenspiel at night

MĂĽnchen (Munich)

The name Munich translates roughly as “by the monks.” I do not know if the city was founded by monks, but based solely on the number of large churches in the city, it is safe to say that monks played a very important role in the early history of the place. There has been some kind of settlement at present day Munich since the Bronze Age. The first reference as being named MĂĽnchen occurred in 1158 by Pope Frederick. Which also leads credence to the fact that monks played a very important part in the early history of the city.

Munich is the capital of Bavaria. Today Bavaria makes up about 20% of the German landmass. Munich took A LOT of damage during World War II, but the heart of the city was rebuilt with a lot of care taken to recreate the buildings as they stood before the war. We took a tour through the Residenz and if we were told once we were told 200 times, that “the Residenz was almost practically destroyed during WW II……”

It is a fascinating city, and I cannot wait to go back.


I had my first experience on the German Autobahn. One misconception that is in the United States, is that there are no speed limits on the autobahn. This is not really true. Most of the autobahn has speed limits in place. The majority of the autobahn is an 80 mph limit. However, there was one long stretch on the highway, where the heads up display in my car went blank, and all of a sudden I was being passed like I was standing still. I figured, what the heck!!! The speedometer on our car reads 300 kilometers per hour. I got it up to about 250 KMH. That means a speed of about 145 MPH. I do not think our car would go any faster. I only ran like that for about 5 minutes, but WOW!! WHAT A RUSH!

You have to constantly be watching your mirrors, and certainly look before changing lanes, because even at that speed I was still getting passed! There are a couple hard and fast rules for the autobahn: 1. No passing on the right 2. Double check your mirrors before changing lanes. 3. Stay in the right lane when not passing. 4. Use indicators. 5 where applicable OBEY THE SPEED LIMIT! 6. If traffic is backed up you MUST create a Rettungsgasse. (This is a safety lane for emergency vehicles. If in the left lane you have to drive as far left as possible, and if the right lane drive as far right as possible.

The only thing I wish is that the autobahn was always three lanes wide. The right lane, for the most part everyone was driving about 130 KMH. Having a middle lane would make it so much easier to drive faster, and not have to worry nearly as much about getting overtaken by someone driving even faster. Final thought on the autobahn. For the most part it is really not much different than any interstate highway in the US. The only real difference is the Germans do something different for maintenance. There were no ribbons of blacktop, or other joints where part of the road has been rebuilt. The construction crews make sure that any joint is very smooth. Anyone that has driven on US interstates knows that is not the case anywhere.

The last thing we did, before driving home, was to visit the Olympic Park. This is the 50th Anniversary of the Olympics held in Munich. For you youngsters, the Munich Olympics are best known for a hostage situation. A group of Palestinian terrorists killed two athletes initially and then held nine more of the Israeli athletes hostage. The situation was eventually resolved but it resulted in the killing of all the athletes and most of the terrorists. The officials only suspended the games for ONE day!!! As Hoosiers the secondary thing those games were known for: 1. The Soviets beating the US in basketball. It was the first time the US had lost a game. There was a lot of controversy because officials added time to the game and allowed the Soviets a final shot. There was so much animosity that the US did not even show for the medal ceremony. 2. Mark Spitz (a Hoosier swimmer) won seven gold medals. The most by any Olympic athlete at the time.

The park is stunning. This summer there are some Europe wide events taking place, but then the park will be closing in sections for renovations. Based on the crowds it is a very popular spot when the weather is nice.

I am only going to list about 1/2 my pictures again. I will do one more post with pictures from the Residenz.

16 März 2022

I normally do not post on back to back days, but the weather was fantastic today. Sunny about 65 degrees.

I went for a ride around the lake, and brought my GoPRO with me. I thought you might enjoy a quick tour around Lake Zurich.

Julie and I will be in Munich over the weekend, so hopefully will have some good pictures of a new city next week!

14 März

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.

1 März 2022

Well in big news from last week Switzerland said to hell with neutrality. According to Swiss fable the neutral status of Switzerland dates back to the early 1500’s. For the most part, the rest of the world says the neutrality goes back to the fall of Napoleon. The last time the Swiss were in an armed conflict was during the time that Europe was getting out from under Napoleon’s thumb. Switzerland gave up their neutral status so that opposing armies could cross Switzerland on their way to defeat Napoleon.

Switzerland takes their neutrality so seriously, that it could be argued that apartheid in South Africa lasted longer than it should have because Switzerland ignored the rest of the world’s economic sanctions and helped the government of South Africa to function after the rest of the world shut off economic access. The only other times in recent history that anyone even questioned the neutrality status was in the early 2000’s when Switzerland took two actions. The first action was following the US lead in trying to cut off the funding for terrorists. The reality is the Government said they would be doing this, but many of the banks decided to turn a blind eye to terrorist money. This just came to light again in the last few weeks when one of the largest banks (Credit Suisse) got in trouble again for laundering money. The second action that had some people questioning the neutral status was when Switzerland became part of the United Nations.

So the news last week that Switzerland would not only abide by, but even put their own sanctions in place against Russia was a pretty big deal. I do not see Switzerland committing to donate weapons or ammunition as many other European countries have, but even the economic sanctions came as a big shock to a lot of people over here. Enough politics…


Venice has been one of the places on my lifetime bucket list pretty much as long as I have had a bucket list. When people dream of visiting a city outside their home country I would be willing to bet that Venice is in the top 10 wish list for almost everyone. I am very thankful that Julie and I were able to go last weekend.

View of the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge

Venice is a pretty small city. It only has about 51,000 residents. The amazing thing is that weekly, there about 500,000 people living there. Each year the city has around 30 million visitors. This leads to some really bad crowds. I will say, I am glad we went at a non peak season. I do not think I would have enjoyed the city at all if we had gone at the height of summer.

Venice is unique among the major cities in Italy. Venice was founded after the fall of the Roman Empire. Legend is that citizens were trying to escape the German Hordes that ransacked Italy. By moving to the islands right off the mainland, it made it harder to be pillaged. I am sure that played a big part in the initial settlement of the city, but the lagoon being easy to access for shipping is what really made the city grow. For centuries Venice was a stand alone City-State and at the end of the Napoleanic period it was governed by Austria. In 1866 Venice became part of Italy. Venice has been instrumental in the Arts. Venice is the birthplace of many artistic movements, and is also the home of two very famous baroque composers Vivaldi, and Albinoni.

Venice is known for Carnival (Mardi Gras if you are from the US) but even though Carnival was actually being held this year, it was still a subdued experience. Most of the free parties were still cancelled because of Covid. Julie and I decided to not attend any of the paid parties. One reason that the cheapest one we could find was still $50 per person. On top of that, we did not think it would be a good idea to be inside with everyone eating and drinking. Covid is on the way down, but it is still active. One thing that is unique to Venice is that people hang out around St Mark’s Basilica in costume. Most of the costumes are of 15th and 16th century men and women, but you see anything from simple masks to elaborate “halloween” style costumes. We ran across a couple of families that were all dressed like American Indians including carrying bow and arrows. Here is an example of one of the more elaborate costumes.

On Saturday evening we met two different couples from the UK. One of the couples was retired, and they have been coming to Venice the same week for years. The woman used to run a bridal shop and she made the costumes for them. I wish I had seen them on the square because the pictures we saw of the costumes were amazing. The couple explained that most of the people dressing up are not Venice residents, but instead are people just like them. They come and spend a few days to a week every year, and it is simply fun to go hang out on the plaza and meet people from all over the world.

Originally the canals in Venice were all natural. The proper english word for the canals in Venice would be channels. Over the years, though, construction has caused some changes to almost all of the canals. Today they all look more man made than natural. Especially some of the smaller ones.

The picture above shows a pretty good example of the canals looking man made. As the buildings went up, it was easier to change the flow of the water and make straight walls. The picture was taken closer to low tide. You can easily see the high tide level. It is also very easy to see the remains of past floods. The city used to do regular maintenance on the canals. Workmen would block off the ends and then pump the water out. This allowed them to clean the canal, as well as do maintenance on the foundations of the buildings. Now occasionally the small canals will be dredged, but even that does not happen often. The bigger problem concerns the larger canals. The problem is that these canals keep getting deeper. It has something to do with very large ship traffic. The ships are now so big, that as they come by the city into the lagoon, the bottom gets stirred up, and the mud gets taken out to sea. This in turn causes erosion, as the mud gets sucked out of the larger canals to replace what got stirred up by the ships. In fact Venice is now putting limits on the number of cruise ships that can visit.

Of course when you are in Venice you have to take a ride in a gondola. There was a gondola dock right outside our apartment, so it was easy to find one. The gondolier was very interesting. We learned that there about 425 gondoliers in the city. It is hard to become a gondolier unless someone in your family is one. Our gondolier is third generation. The boats require a TON of maintenance. Every quarter the boat has to be taken out of the water and the bottom is stripped and waxed. Every other year, the boat has to be pulled out of the water for a couple of weeks, and black finish is also stripped and re applied.

We also learned that “quarantine” was developed in Italy. The plague hit Venice particularly hard. Partly because the city is so condensed but also every time the plague started to subside another ship would visit the port and bring more rats. Venice learned that the only way trade could continue was to separate the sick from the well. Remember how at the start of COVID we were all told to buy our groceries and let them sit for a day or so in the garage in case the virus was on them? That practice was developed in Venice as part of the quarantine procedures. They tried to quarantine material as well as people.

I told you this, because according to our gondolier it is in remembrance of the plague that all gondolas are painted black. The plague began in Europe about 1350. Because Venice was the trade center of the world it kept coming back, and the last case of plague was around 1630. Just think almost 300 years, and we complain about two years of COVID!

I have way to many pictures so I will make one more post about Venice. This is about 1/2 of the pictures we took.