18 September 2021

Well this past week marked my official 2 year anniversary for arriving in Switzerland. I spent it like I spend every other day. Walked Julie to the train, exercised, cleaned the house, did laundry, cooked dinner. When we are not going somewhere, I lead a very boring existence! I have been really bad the last six weeks keeping up with my German. It was very hard to do with all the visitors, but now that they are gone I really need to start in on my lessons again.

I did get a practical lesson yesterday. You have heard me go on about the hills around here. Yesterday, as I was cleaning the kitchen I noticed an elderly woman starting to walk up the hill towards the grocery store. She had a cane, and looked like she could barely move. So I quickly grabbed the recyclables, and started off. I caught up to her about 10 meters up the hill, and in my halting german, I asked her if I could help pull the shopping trolley up the hill. She gave me a big smile, and consented. She did not speak a word of English, but we were able to talk some as we walked. I got her up the hill to the level ground, and she asked for the trolley back. I told her if she would like, I would shop with her, and help her go back down. I think she said there was no need; she does it frequently, and she finds going down easier than going up. She might have actually been saying, what a stupid foreigner. I make this walk multiple times every week, I can do it myself. But she gave me a big smile and said “Vielen Dank” so I am choosing to believe it was my first thought.

Julie is getting ready to leave me for three days next week. It will be her first work trip since February of 2020. If you remember, she went back to the US, and we were afraid she was going to be stuck there, as that is when all the travel restrictions started because of Covid. I had big plans for three days of solo exploring, but now it turns out, I might get one. She leaves on Tuesday, but Wednesday I have a dentist appointment at 8:00 AM and then she comes back home on Thursday. Not really sure why I agreed to the dentist appointment. I had a temporary brain fart. I think it is simply because I hate going to the dentist so I wanted the first appointment I could get; so I did not have to dread it any longer.

I found a new goal for next year, though. I had lunch with a fellow American on Thursday. He told me about a bike ride that happens every September called the Alpenbrevet. The ride starts in the town of Andermatt. You have four rides to choose from. The rides go from 64 kilometers up to 288 kilometers. The rides are over some of the most famous mountain passes in Switzerland. So the short ride is two mountain passes with over 2000 meters of climb. The longest ride is five passes with over 7000 meters of climb. The longest ride starts at 6 in the morning. There are two control points you have meet along the route, and then it finishes at 9 PM that night. That is one long day on a bike. No way can I make that one. I think I am going to sign up for the 2nd easiest ride. It is a little over 100 KM. It covers three mountain passes. The Furka ( go back to my post from last week where I did this one in my car.), the Nufenen, and the Gotthard. If I spend a lot more time on the bike than jogging next year, I think I can get in good enough shape to tackle this one. Anyone want to come and join me?

We also got another lesson in one of the differences between the US and Switzerland. This one concerns renting. Now please note I cannot say with any certainty that this is the way all renting is done here. This has been my one and only experience.

When I arrived, almost three months after Julie, two years ago. Our landlord had us re-sign the lease. I do not know if it is a law that both spouses have to sign, or if this is simply another sign that Switzerland is way behind the times in regards to women’s equality. Anyway, our landlord was very insistent that I had to sign the lease as well as Julie. We signed a two year lease, that was originally up in June of this year, but one thing we noticed when we signed the new lease that September became the end month. We since learned that there are two months that people traditionally move in the canton of Zürich. Those two months are March and September. Anyway, we knew the lease was coming to an end, but we had not heard anything at all from the landlord. We knew we were covered, because we did not give any notice that we planned on leaving. Anyway, I called him and he came down to talk to us about the new lease. It turns out, that once the original lease expired, the lease converted to a semi permanent agreement. Either party has to give 6 months notice for non-renewal. And of course there are only two months the notice can be given. You got it: March and September…. We found this to be strange. One reason I do not know if this is common, or not. Is I made the comment to our landlord about how different that is vs leases in the US. He made the comment, that yes, he wants to make money off the lease, but that is not his primary concern. He lives in the top floor of the building; and it is more important to him that he have long term renters, and people that are good neighbors. I guess the good news is that even though he is really the only other person in our building we have met, he thinks we are good neighbors! The bad news with the lease, is that the house next door has finally started to be torn down. This is going to be bad. The house is right next to the bedroom, and our office. If the construction noise is 1/2 as loud as all the other houses being built around here, that means we will never be able to sleep past 7 AM except for Sundays, and the office will be practically unusable while they are building the place. We thought we would be getting a larger deduction on our rent for the time period they are building, but we signed a contract that said $300; so that will be the discount. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

I did not think I had any worthwhile pictures to show, but I did find one. This morning after grocery shopping, we got back to the apartment and it looked like everyone that has a sailboat decided to get it out today. This will probably be one of the last warm sunny days; so people are out taking advantage of the weather.

Segelboote auf dem Zürichsee

Not much else to talk about this week. I will update you next week on my solo adventures. Not sure what they will be, but I am sure I will have fun doing something. My last thought of this post: Go IU! Beat Cincinnati!

10 September 2021

Just some updates first. Switzerland is once again struggling with COVID. It does not appear to be nearly as bad as some states back home, but the numbers are still climbing and the ICU beds are at almost 80% capacity. Because of this there will be more restrictions put in place beginning Monday.

Starting Monday you have to provide proof of vaccination, a negative test, or recovery from Covid within six months before you can go to any inside entertainment venue. This includes restaurants. The government will also be announcing more travel restrictions next week as well. The thought is that quarantines will go back into place for Swiss people who are un-vaccinated and return from another country. Possibly they will also strengthen entry requirements for non residents as well. Right now, from the EU you can come in with a negative test, that might change to come in only with vaccination. You can come into the country, if you are only transiting through the country even without a vaccination. I think this one is the most likely to change. My guess is that you will not be given entrance, unless you are vaccinated.

The vaccination rates here, are about the same as in the US, but the Swiss courts have already ruled that companies cannot require the vaccine. The company is expected to make accommodations for employees not choosing to get the vaccine. This court ruling means that our level of vaccination is not likely to get better anytime soon; so the government is trying to avoid more lockdowns by putting in place other requirements.

If you have read my blog the last couple of weeks, you would know we have had lots of visitors lately. Unfortunately, I do not have a lot of pictures from my parent’s visit that I can show. My parent’s have asked that I not post pictures of them publicly. I do try and respect their wishes.

I think the trip was really good for my parents. My parents are both in their 80’s. Before coming over my father was saying this will probably be his last trip to Europe. However, by the time they left he was already talking about next year, and making plans for things he wanted to see and do. I guess travel does have a good impact on your mental state. It is hard to describe how good it was to see our family after being “exiled” for the last year. Now we just need to figure out how to get Julie to see her parents. We are on track to see everyone at Christmas again; so keeping our fingers crossed that we can still travel then.

In about an hour we are taking off for Colmar, France. It is already becoming fraught with problems. I had booked us a long weekend in Dijon, but Julie wanted to change. We had a real problem finding a hotel, but we did finally find a place. Julie just informed me, that there is a marathon on Sunday morning. This explains why I had such a hard time finding a hotel, and probably means that we will not be eating much this weekend. Julie said she has been trying to make reservations since Tuesday with no success. Hopefully there is a McDonalds around!!

I am kind of glad we are leaving the Apartment for a couple of days. The upstairs neighbors are remodeling, and the concrete construction seems to amplify the noise. It must be a pretty major change based on the amount of drilling and hammering that is taking place. We are hopeful they will finish with the long weekend.

Well Julie is finishing up her last work call of the day; so it is time to get going. Not many pictures, but I hope you enjoy them.

7 September 2021

So much to write about so little time.

I know I have not written as much lately, but our 5 weeks of visitors has come to an end. We had our first visitors since February 2020 the first week of August. Our son George arrived on 31 Juli, a week later his girlfriend Gabby came as well. We had a few days rest, and then Kaylee our youngest showed up. Kaylee and my parents passed in the air; so the day after Kaylee left my parents arrived. I literally just had enough time to wash the sheets, clean the bathroom, and mop the floor before I had to take off for the airport.

Those people following me, know I really do not like driving that much here. The roads are narrow and the rules are just different enough that driving is still stressful. My parents are in pretty good shape, but I was really worried about fighting their baggage and a rush hour train; so I decided to drive to the airport. That was my first mistake…..

I had been told that rush hour in Zürich is a lot worse than you would think it should be for a city of under a million people. Normal traffic, the airport is 30 minutes away; so I left TWO hours before the flight arrived. Probably closer to 2 1/2 almost 3 hours before they made it through customs. Here is the thing to remember about Zürich traffic. There are three major arteries feeding the city. These three arteries come into the city at basically two points, and as soon as the city limits are reached traffic goes down to two lanes, and very quickly after that to one lane. This can lead to bottlenecks at any time. Knowing this fact, I thought I would take the one really long bypass around most of the city. This adds a guaranteed 30 minutes going from one side of the city to the other. The bypass was stop and go about 2 minutes after I got on the highway. The GPS in my car kept recommending I take a side road; so I decided to try it. After all, at this point I still had 90 minutes, to go about 15 KM. There was one big flaw in my plan: Road Construction. After an hour, I was 3 KM from the airport. My GPS was telling me to take a ramp onto the airport highway, that simply did not exist. I could see the exit, I could see the highway, but the exit was closed. I tried for an hour, trying to find my way through town. I kept wanting to believe the GPS knew something I did not; so I kept circling trying to find a way on to the highway. Literally shouting at myself I finally said “Screw it!!!” I just picked a direction and kept driving for another 20 minutes. I figured I was far enough away that the GPS would re route me. It worked. By the time I got to the airport I was almost 90 minutes late. I parked the car, and finally found my parents patiently waiting for their idiot son!! Oh well, we had a big hug, and a lot of laughter as we drove back to the apartment.

My next driving mis adventure was Saturday. I drove the four of us to Stein am Rhein in the morning. We walked around the town and had lunch. The town is about 70 kilometers from our house. Normally an hour and a quarter to an hour and a half drive. Getting there was no problem, but coming back…. I left the town at 2 pm, and made it into my driveway at 5:50!!! We sat in traffic starting about 5 kilometers outside Zürich. I am not sure I have ever been in a non accident caused traffic jam that bad. It was so bad that Julie has decided we will never again go on the other side of Zürich for one of our Saturday Adventures!

Finally I had one more driving mis adventure this week. The one wish Dad had on the visit was to see the Matterhorn. We drove down to Zermatt on Sunday; so that on Monday morning we could take the Gondola up to the Paradise look out, and Mom and Dad could get some good pictures. Well that part of the plan did not go very well. Mom wound up getting altitude sickness. She came down for breakfast, and after about 90 seconds was back up in the hotel room. I have to give a HUGE SHOUT OUT to the staff of Hotel Julen. They were fantastic. Our original plan was to checkout, and they would hold our luggage while we explored. With Mom getting sick, we were going to simply head back home. The hotel staff kindly let us delay our checkout by a couple of hours; so that Dad and I could go up, while Mom was able to lay down and rest. Thank you again! I will certainly have to stay there again!!

So anyway, Dad and I came down from the Mountain and got Mom onto a train, and down the road toward Täsch. If you do not remember, from our earlier trips to Zermatt. That town is car free; so you have to park your car about 5 kilometers from the city and take the train into town. Anyway, we got on the road, and started home. The first 20 minutes was fine. Then the GPS told me to make a turn, and go through a tunnel. Dad brought up the fact that we did not go through a tunnel on the way there. I told him that was not odd. There have been many drives that we went through a tunnel one way, but drove around the mountain the return trip. However, another 30 minutes later, and we were discussing that: A) we were climbing B) we were going through towns we had not passed before. At that point I knew the GPS was taking us home a different route, but I did not appreciate how different the new route would be. I was not that worried, because the GPS kept saying we were getting closer to home, and it looked like it would be about an hour faster than the route to Zermatt. My passengers were all enjoying the scenic drive. I on the other hand, was to busy dodging bicycles, and making hair pin turns to worry much about the views. I finally convinced Dad to get out his phone and start taking some video.

When we stopped to take this picture, I finally realized where we were. We had just passed a sign that said Andermatt 15 KM. We were going up the other side of the “James Bond” pass. You can go back and visit my first post in January where my wife and I walked up the other side of this pass.

Furka Pass
Furka Pass in January 2021

There are two things I was thankful for yesterday. The first was the simple fact there was not much uphill traffic, as I was driving down, and the second is that Julie was not with us. Julie does not like mountain passes and she had commented as we were walking up this one that she was NEVER going to drive it.

Coming down the pass was an experience. I had to stop a couple of times for oncoming traffic. There might have been enough room for two cars to pass, but I was not sure. All I know is that at times, it felt like the right side of the car was mere inches from plunging to the bottom of the mountain, and the left side I KNOW was millimeters from losing the mirror. The speed is posted at 80 KPH. I think I got up to 60 once for about 20 meters! Part of me is scared to death to do the pass again, but an even bigger part of me wants to drive it again, with someone willing to hold a camera for the entire drive up and back down the pass!! It was something I will not soon forget!

This coming weekend will be our first “international” adventure in the car. Julie wants me to drive her to France for the upcoming three day weekend!

PRAY FOR ME!!!!



27 August 2021

It has been a whirlwind of a week. I am going to have to go through and really decide what pictures to post, because I have taken over 1000 since Kaylee got here.

Our first two days were pretty easy. We let her get through the jet lag so we stayed close to home. We spent one day just going around Zurich. She has seen all of that before, but she wanted to visit the city again. Monday we went to the top of Mt Titlis. This is one of the places I have wanted to visit since I arrived two years ago. I intentionally waited for Kaylee, because part of the visit is going across what is listed as the “highest” suspension bridge in Europe. I knew Julie would want no part of that, and Kaylee is game for just about anything.

This is the two of right after we crossed over the bridge. Unfortunately it was very cloudy at the top, so the views were simply not there. I guess this means we have to go again! Both of my children love history, and reading, so I took another trip to St Gallen to see the library. I cannot express how impressive that room is, but since they do not allow cameras, you will have to look it up yourself. :).

Before Kaylee arrived, we had asked her what she wanted to do, or where she wanted to go. The only other European country she has visited is Spain; so she told us she wanted to go to Italy, and see Pompeii. We braved the Covid riddled jet, and flew to Naples on Wednesday. It has been pretty busy since we got here. The first night we walked all around the current city. In school we all learn about Pompeii, but most of us do not know there was another town that was destroyed and preserved in the same eruption. This is the town of Herculaneum. In some ways , it is even more impressive than Pompeii. The main reason being that entire buildings were preserved in the volcanic mud. Including wooden boats, stairs, and ceilings. You will see the real differences in the pictures. The two towns were also completely different in business. Pompeii was much more of a traditional industrial town. Whereas Herculaneum was a town mostly made up of very rich roman citizens. Herculaneum is where the rich people had their summer homes. After touring Herculaneum, we went into Naples and toured the Archeology Museum. Another fascinating place.

We learned that getting around in this area is a lot different than getting around in Switzerland. There is not nearly the same amount of signage here, and the trains all run on different lines, and the tickets do not seem to be switchable from one line to another. I am sure will someone will get on here and say I am wrong, and I probably am, but here is why I made my comment. There are not many automated ticket stations here. At Herculaneum, I showed on my phone where we wanted to go in Naples. The ticket agent made the comment that we would have to change lines. I already knew that, so I did not think much more about that comment. Until we got to the gate to change lines, and the tickets I had “paid” extra for, would not let us through the gate; so we had to buy more. Also on the way back, we wanted to come all the way to Pompei, but at the first train station we could only buy a ticket that would take us to one of the main transfer stations, and then we had to buy another round of tickets to get back to Pompei. The Swiss system is so much easier. You simply type in where you want to go and the ticket is printed out to allow you to get there. Since this was our first trip outside of Switzerland in a year; at least it was good we were able to figure it out!

I think I could write multiple posts about the two cities we toured. They are each spectacular in their own right. Herculaneum because of the amount of preservation. This city was covered in poison gas, and then mud. Pompeii due to the size of the city. One thing I had not known, is that 17 years before the eruption, there was a major earthquake; so both cities were significantly smaller than they would have been. Pompeii before the earthquake was a city of almost 35,000 people. After the ‘quake it was down to about 5-6,000. For our Pompeii visit, we hired a guide. We really got lucky here. The hotel arranged for an archeologist that worked on the site to be our guide. Not only did we learn about the history, but he was able to talk to us about the steps they use to uncover the site, and how they restore and preserve the buildings and other things they find. We also learned that teenagers are teenagers through all places and all times. He pointed out graffiti that was made around the year zero, and it was disturbingly similar to things we would find today. In this case it was of a young man urinating. Prostitution was legal in that era. As long as it occurred in a brothel. Our guide also pointed out different places around the town, where an illegal street prostitute scratched out her calling card on the corners of buildings.

Another thing that I found interesting was the outside of the some buildings. These were painted red on the bottom and white on the top. The red never changed color, but the white part was used for a billboard. The top was constantly being painted over, and the advertisements would change.

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If you look at the picture above you will notice the writing on the wall. In this case it was an election advertisement. I guess politicians are also the same through all time!

A final fascinating thing we learned. The experts are now thinking they have the time of the eruption incorrect. For hundreds of years, people have said the eruption occurred in August. There are some original documents from survivors that talk about August. However, evidence now points to the eruption happening in late October. One of the reasons they think this, is the clothes that people are wearing. They are more in line with “winter” wear at the time. August is so blasted hot, that people were never fully clothed, but most of the bodies found were found fully clothed. Our guide thinks that what has happened is that survivors talk about August, because that is when the mountain started giving off signs that it was angry. Those are the people that left, and when they left.

I am sitting in the hotel room right now, and the wifi connection is awful; so I am only going to post a small number of pictures today. I will get some more up and some video when I am home. It might be a few days. Kaylee flies out on Tuesday, and my parents are coming in on Wednesday; so we have one more week of visitors!

11 August 2021

8 days until we see our daughter

Well, we have about 36 hours left in our son’s visit. The two weeks have flown by. The first week we stayed close to home, and simply caught up. We have played a lot more this week. Part of that is because his girlfriend made her first trip to ever to Switzerland. We have enjoyed taking Gabby around to some of the beautiful places in the country. I will not have as many picture this week. Most of the pictures we took were of the kids, and they have asked us to not share them online; so I will respect their wishes. (My guess is that they have already put a bunch of them out there, but….. :). )

We started off by driving to Grindelwald. We spent one day up on The First, unfortunately the rains came in during the afternoon, so that was cut a little short. We had plans on going to the Glacier Canyon on Saturday night. We had been online and seen all the pictures taken at night; so we figured it was always open late. We missed the small print that it is only open late on Fridays. So we walked from our hotel to the canyon only to discover it was closed. We decided to adjust our itinerary for Sunday, and after going up the Jungfrau, we drove over to the canyon before heading back home. On the way back home they did get a small taste of mountain passes, as we took the fast way back.

The two took the train over to Bern earlier this week. We toured the Rhein Falls, and Schaffhausen. We even were treated to an unexpected concern at the Munot. (The Munot is the circular castle above the village. Unlike most castles in Switzerland. The Munot was built solely as a fortification. Most castles served a dual role as the primary residence for the ruler, as well as having a military application. ) Today they are exploring the wonders of Zürich, and then tomorrow, I believe, they are going to Luzern and Mt Pilatus. Today they also had to go to the airport and get their COVID test. The only people flying into the US right now are returning citizens, and some business travelers. However, they have to show a negative COVID test before flying.

Pop up concert at the Munot



Whoever schedules the rain in Switzerland, you have done a good job. We have only had one rain washout during the two week stay. I hope you keep on the job, because I need three weeks coming up for our daughter’s visit, and immediately following that; my parents are coming for a week.

My favorite local store is the Trek Bike shop near our house. I’ve put a 1000 miles on the trainer this summer. (The rain has wreaked havoc on doing anything outside.). I think riding the trainer is even harder on the bike than road miles. Part of that is the simple evaporation and blowing away of perspiration. When I am on the trainer even with a terry cloth covering, a good portion of the sweat lands on the bike. I had to replace bearings in the head tube and the crank. Primarily due to sweat induced rusting! Anyway, the owner of MoveOn Bikes is FANTASTIC. Incredibly friendly. Fast and meticulous work. AND even more importantly for Switzerland the pricing is incredibly affordable. I hope to buy a bike from him before we move home, but that might be a bit of a reach. Good bicycles are even more expensive here than back in the US.

Not a whole lot more to say about this week. I know Julie will be happy when Annual Filing Season is over. She is already looking forward to (hopefully) spending a couple of days near Naples when Kaylee is in town. I will be happy too. We will be able to go back a regular schedule. and not a schedule that changes from day to day.

Hope you enjoy the pictures below. I’ll write again next week.

29 July 2021

2 Days until we see George

22 days until we SEE Kaylee

I decided to write a little before I walk to the grocery store. Julie wants Tacos for dinner this evening, and I have everything but ground beef! I was just thinking this week, that I really need to fine a good butcher to find meat here. After growing up on a cattle farm, and having all the beef I wanted from Mom and Dad for as long as I can remember, that is probably the food I miss the most. My experience is that overall meat in Switzerland is simply not as good. I think it is because there are very few “cattle” farms here. The VAST MAJORITY of the cows you see are dairy cows. All my farming friends know the difference!! Our new friends Steve and Julie gave me a recommendation for a butcher shop they use. Unfortunately, it is on the other side of the lake, and about an hour away.

I think I told you about Steve and Julie before. I met Julie through Tik Tok. She commented that she was going to be in Zermatt the same weekend we were, and I suggested meeting for drinks. We changed that to meeting for dinner. We went over to their house last weekend for dinner, and I was finally able to use some of my IT knowledge to help them get a VPN running on their wifi router; so that Julie could watch Below Deck. :). There must be something about those shows and being named Julie, because my Julie also gets on me when Bravo and HULU catch on the VPN and it takes a day or two to find another work around.

We are still experiencing a lot of rain. It is not as bad as it was two weeks ago. Now we get rain every other day instead of every day. That seems to make a big difference. Most of the areas that have flood control were really trying to lower the lake levels last week to make room for the storms that were supposed to come through last weekend, and early this week, but for the most part, the storms kept the rain up in the clouds.

I thought I finally had my first job interview lined up. I got a call from a recruiter, we talked three or four times on the phone, and then she told me about a job she was trying to fill. She even gave me dates and times for an interview. Then nothing….. I contacted her the day before the interview saying I had not received the calendar invite and I was told it was being pushed back for a day or two. Then was again told I would get a calendar invite, but . I know I should not get discouraged, but it is very discouraging to not even get an interview. The recruiter “assures” me that my CV and applications are great. That means they either see my picture and say I am “too old” or they are bucking the trend of every company I have heard about here, and doesn’t speak english.

I think more and more about trying to set up a tech consulting business for expats coming here. I would help set up their home networks, VPN, why NOT to change your apple location to Switzerland, those kind of things. I just don’t know if the market is big enough to support a small business here. If I were confident I could at least break even, I would move on it harder, but I am not. I need to do some more research, but so far my impressions are that most of the people relocating to this area are much younger than me. Most are worrying about getting a good cell phone plan, and due to the prevalence of wifi are not buying cable subscriptions or internet subscriptions for their homes. I do need to do some more market research, I guess I could also consider spreading out to other cities. I would just have to change my payment structure to capture a lot more travel time. Oh well, I will probably still be having this same conversation with myself a year from now, but as long as travel is still allowed, and we keep getting visitors having a job will not be as important to my sanity!

Not much else to talk about this week. The apartment has gotten a good cleaning while we prepare for visitors. That is about it! Talk to you next week; I have two bathrooms I have to clean this afternoon! 🙂

20 Juli 2021

It looks like the rain is going to go visit somewhere else for a while. Hopefully, the rain will go to the western US; as they need rain a lot more than we do. We have had no rain for the the last two days, and we are supposed to go another three or four without any, but then heavy storms are predicted again. Zürichsee has avoided the flooding, but the water level is at least two feet above normal. There are some places that sidewalks next to the rivers or the lake have been closed because of water, but hat has been the extent of the flooding here.

Julie and I went back to the Zoo Sunday. That took a little bit getting used to. We have not really been around any kind of crowd for over a year. We found ourselves not visiting some of the attractions, due to the number of people jammed into small places. I would say about 25% of the people are still taking threats of COVID seriously. About 1 in 4 people would wear a mask when you could not separate from other people. Speaking of COVID.

From what I am reading the rest of the world is starting to see the number of cases rising. I was reading, though, that we are a long way from going back to lockdowns and restrictions. The health ministry spelled out the criteria that will lead to more restrictions.

  • The first is new cases. Infections must remain below 600 cases for 100,000 people. Right now we are at 53 cases. At our peak during the pandemic the case load was over 7,800 per 100,000.
  • Intensive care hospitalizations: If we reach over 300 at any given time. At this point we are at 37.

I would assume there are more, but those are the criteria I could find. Just like the US, the number of cases are primarily happening with people that choose to not be vaccinated. People in the hospital is the same. Apparently, over 95% of the people admitted to the hospital for Covid, have chosen to not take advantage of the vaccination. Here is my one SNARKY thought for the day. I do not have much sympathy for the people choosing to not be vaccinated. I find it very ironic that these are also the same people that complain the most about the restrictions, yet they are unwilling to do the ONE thing they could do to ensure we do not go into restrictions again. The Swiss are counting on people being vaccinated instead of restrictions. Right now we have about 66% of the adult population with at least their first dose. About 55% of the adult population is fully vaccinated I do think the vaccine passports are playing a part of this success. We can now go anywhere in the EU, and we do not have to quarantine upon return. IF you are vaccinated.

For a few weeks we could travel to many countries and not have to quarantine on return even if we did not have the jabs, but as cases have started climbing in other countries the ability to travel is being lessened without the vaccine. I saw in the news paper yesterday, that Greenland is the first country that is tying public transportation to the vaccine. I do not think they will be the last, and that could have a major impact if all of Europe went to that plan. I also saw that France is tying their immunization records to more social activities. Beginning in August, you have to provide the COVID health pass if you are going into a restaurant, bar, long distance train, or shopping center. That announcement led to over 2 million vaccine appointments being made. Germany has had a system like that in place for over a month, now. The difference being that Germany does allow entrance with a test done within 24 or 48 hours.

Enough about COVID.

So since the rain has held off I have been able to get on my bike a couple of times this week, but that ended this morning. I got about 1 mile or so away from the house, and I think a bearing broke in the crank. I am either going to have to start jogging again, or get out my leisure bike vs the road bike. What I find very irritating about the bike going belly up, is that I just spent money on new tires and re-taped the handle bars all because I knew the rain was going to stop this week! Why this could not have happened two weeks ago, when I was only able to ride on the balcony is beyond me. Oh well, it is probably past time to really start training for the St Jude anyway! I even bought some new running shoes to get in the right frame of mind. The older and fatter I get, the more important the running shoes become!

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count down to seeing the kids:

George : 11 Days
kaylee: 30 days

Julie and I are just a LITTLE bit excited to see the kids again.

15 Juli 2021

I woke up today and realized it is Thursday. Wow, for a week with nothing going on, it sure flew by. I am not quite sure how the days got away from me.

I got a reminder this morning, that I am finishing up my second year in Switzerland. I got a bill in the mail for my 1/2 price pass. This 1/2 price pass is without a doubt the best deal in all of Switzerland. For 165 CHF you get 1/2 price on almost every public transportation ticket you buy. This deal is made even better because it includes almost all gondolas, and mountain trains in the country. There are only a handful that are not covered with the 1/2 price pass. I have decided to let my annual train pass expire. I simply do not make enough trips into Zurich that it pays for itself. My annual pass is about 900 CHF. This allows me to travel anywhere one zone outside of Zurich. The catch with my pass is that I cannot travel between 6:00 AM and 9:00 AM. The breakeven point is about 125 round trips downtown. So a little over 2 per week. That doesn’t sound like many, but I do not think I even average 1 per week. I can only remember taking the train three times into Zurich last month, and one of those really doesn’t count, because we took the train only to catch the train going to Zermatt. Of course that might change, I have a job interview on Monday!

I am not very confident I will get the job, though. Qualification wise there is no problem, but the company is looking for someone that is fluent in both German and English. Which has of course been the number one hindrance to my job search. I am convinced that employers here are no different than in the US in many ways. The job I was approached for is an “entry level” job. However, they are asking for 8 years experience. Including experience with Active Directory, SCCM, multiple multi function print devices, phone system support, and they want someone to offer training. That does not sound like entry level to me. I am fortunate that Julie and I made sure we could make this move without me having to work. That takes a lot of pressure off, and as I was talking with Julie earlier this week; makes me want to hold out for a salary that makes it worthwhile. Yes, it would be great to be around people again, but taking a job for entry level wages, to me, is not worth the trade off for the flexibility to get things done for the household.

Swiss Alert App

A few weeks ago I downloaded this app to my phone. I thought it was required as part of the Covid Vaccine passport, but it turns out to not be related. That being said I have been fascinated how often it rings with an alert. The last week, it has been going multiple times per day. The reason for it going off has been alerts for flooding. I do not know what the records for rain fall are, but I am convinced that we are getting close to if not already exceeded the records. I think about 3/4 of the country is already under water, or is getting close . The one nice thing about all the hills is that flooding is usually contained pretty well.

When we were in Luzern last week, Julie and I both commented about high the river and lake levels were. The water was inches from going over the bank, and all the flood control locks and dams were actually under water! I was reading an article in the news yesterday, and it was warning that if the lake rises another 5 inches the center of the town will be flooded. The problem is that it has continued raining since that article came out, and it is supposed to continue to keep raining for another two days. The lake is not supposed to crest until sometime on Sunday, and that assumes the rain stopped for good yesterday! The city of Bern is preparing for the 4th 100 year flood event since 1999. There is one big difference, however, from the flooding this year to in the past. Typically the flooding occurs in April or May. It usually happens when there is an unseasonable warm spell combined with heavy rains. The snow melts from the mountains, and has to run downstream, then combine that with heavy rainfall and you get problems. This year the snow melt happened a few months ago. This is 100% caused by the heavy rains we have seen all spring and summer. There is simply no place left for the water to go. The rains have been very polite. I have only had to drive the car to the train station three times to either pick Julie up, or drop her off in the morning!


The only other thing going on this week, is that Tax Time is finally over. If we were Swiss citizens we would probably move about 15 miles further outside of Zurich. Taxes here, just like in the US, can be dramatically different from Canton to Canton or State to State. For us though, it really does not matter. We get a $ for $ credit on our US taxes. This means that every dollar we pay in Swiss taxes is taken off our US tax bill. That being said. Taxes in the US are SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER than here in Switzerland. At least we do not have to pay state taxes. Wisconsin tax rules are that since we do not claim physical residency we only owe taxes on money that is earned in Wisconsin. I really wish the US would get in line with the rest of the world and only tax people that live there. There are only two countries that tax based on citizenship AND residency. The US is one of those two countries. I know that the number of people in our position is very low, but it does kind of stink. I was one of those people that thought taxes in European countries would be so high that we would never owe anything in US taxes. Wow, was I wrong! The amount of taxes we have to pay for having a US passport is mind numbing because we owe it all at once. The tax bite would seem smaller if it were deducted each paycheck. If we lived somewhere that was easier to obtain citizenship, I would entertain getting rid of my US citizenship for the sole purpose of saving money. I say that completely tongue in cheek. I have no desire to renounce my US status, but DAMMMMMMMN that tax bill almost makes me rethink that! I think what makes me even more angry this year was reading about how little the very wealthy pay in income taxes compared to everyone else. QUEUE: People saying they pay more money. Sure Bezos pays more money, but our income is less than .5% of his income. Percentage wise, we pay much more of our income than he.

Enough of a rant. I’ll just continue to get angry if I think about taxes!

Things will continue to be pretty quiet for the next couple of weeks. We have two weeks of just us, then the visitors start. I cannot express how excited I am to see George and Kaylee. Not to mention seeing my Mom and Dad. Now, we just need to figure out how to get Julie to Florida for a week or two; so she can see her parents as well, since they are not able to make the long flight.
Do not have a whole lot of pictures, as we have not done anything very photo worthy since our vacation. I do really like the chocolate cows below, however. These were pictures from last Saturday. Luzern is only about a 30 minute drive; so we went for lunch!

Elections

Last week there was an election in Switzerland. I thought I would talk a little bit about the different referenda that were on the ballot, and then talk a little about voting.

In some ways Switzerland and the United States are very similar. Both places practice a representative democracy. Both countries have federal rules for voting, but give freedom to the lower levels (states and cantons) to take care of the details. The two countries have a checkered past in regards to who is able to vote. The biggest differences, that I see, are: 1) individuals can gather signatures and get a referendum on a national ballot in Switzerland. That exists at the state level in the US, but not the national level. 2) Switzerland relies very heavily on mail in ballots, and is testing internet voting in some cantons. Another difference is that Switzerland does not rely on any machines for voting. In larger areas they do have ballot reading machines, but other than the internet voting all of the votes are cast on paper ballots. Oh, another similarity between the two countries. The voter turnout is very similar between the two countries. For “big” elections in Switzerland turnout is usually around 60%, Just as in the US during a presidential election.

So here were the big items on the ballot:

  • Repeal the powers from the Federal Government in regards to fighting the COVID epidemic
  • Prohibit the use of synthetic pesticides
  • Clean water initiatives for farmers
  • Limit C02 emissions by 2030
  • Anti Terrorism initiative

The terrorism initiative passed, but all of the rest failed. I think those results would be similar if they were held in the US. After you read a little about them, please comment and tell me if you agree.

Covid

In 2020 a law was passed by the Federal Assembly (Swiss Congress; it is composed of two houses just like in the US.) giving the government powers to combat the pandemic. These powers included mask mandates, limits to travel and assembly, investments into Covid research, and allocated money to pay for the vaccines and the social safety net. There is a group of people that believe those measures were unconstitutional; but when the courts did not agree the group organized the campaign to get repeal of the law put on the ballot. Even though we are on the downhill side of this pandemic, the legislation would have limited government response for future pandemics, or future waves of the current pandemic.

This was defeated by 60.2 percent.

synthetic pesticides

This law would banned use of synthetic pesticides for the whole country. It would have also banned fresh food products from any country that did not have a ban in place. The last sentence seems to be in some debate, so I was really glad it did not pass. Some people were reading the law that only food that had been treated with pesticides would have been banned, others were reading it as ALL food from a country that used synthetic pesticides would have been banned. That is a pretty big difference, and I would have not liked to see what happened to my food bill while it was being ironed out in the courts.

This was defeated by over 60% of the vote.

Clean Water

The referenda called this a clean water bill, but it was really a farming bill. The law would have removed all government subsidies from any farmer that uses pesticides or anti-biotics. It also would have placed severe restrictions on spreading manure over the fields.

This was defeated by about 60% of the vote.

CO2 Emissions

This law would have required Switzerland to go back to 1990 levels of CO2 emissions by 2030. It would have raised taxes on fuel, gasoline, and airline tickets. The secondary goal of this bill was to have zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

This one was actually pretty close. About 53% of the people voted against this one.

My commentary is that because it is so easy to get things on the ballot here, this one will for sure be coming up again, and in another couple of years, I can see it passing. I think that it will make living in a very expensive place, almost impossible for the average person.

Anti-Terror Law

This one was put on the ballot after the terror attacks that France has had the last year or two. The law grants a lot of power to the federal and local police departments. It allows police to take “preventative” measures against potential terrorists.

This law did pass.

Thoughts

I honestly do not have a lot to say about many of the laws, but after watching the discussion about these, and doing some research I learned how close the US and Switzerland really are. I did not know this, but the US Founding Fathers based a lot of our constitution and organization of the USA off of Switzerland. After living here for almost two years now. I really can see the fight between “States Rights” and “Federalism”. It is one thing to see these take place in the US where there is a lot of space. Here this is compacted and it has been very interesting to watch things evolve.

I was a little sad that the Anti-Terror law passed. Not because I support terrorism, but because the older I get, the more questioning I become of people. I am becoming more and more convinced that most of our political leaders are not looking out for the interest of “everyone” but only for themselves. I have followed what President Trump tried to get the Department of Justice to do and can easily see those kind of things coming true here as well. Especially because the law says that political intent can now be classified as terrorism even if there is no threat of violence. I understand being able to stop violence, and that has my full support, but the thought of arresting someone and classifying them as a terrorist simply because they want to take political action against a law or politician goes against everything I thought a free country stood for.

21 Juni 2021

Happy late Father’s Day. Did you know that Father’s Day is not the same around the world? I did not know this until this month. In Switzerland, Father’s Day was 6 June. However, in a many other European countries the day is celebrated in 19 March. That day lines with St Joseph’s Day in the the Catholic Church. Julie and I were able to spend a few minutes talking to the kids. They are together for at least part of this week.

Every two years the Sorrells Family spends a week on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. This has been happening for either 24 or 26 years. I honestly do not remember, if we started this before George was born, or not. I do remember the very first time he went the room was not big enough for the portable crib we brought; so our son had to sleep in a drawer. It actually worked out pretty well!

Sorry George! (George at 5 months old)

This makes the second time Julie and I have had to miss. Two years ago we were involved in moving, and simply could not take the time off. This year of course we did not even think about making plane reservations as things were so up in the air in regards to travel until the last couple of weeks. We are glad, though, that our kids are able to go spend time with the family and each other.

We had another quiet weekend here. Though I have to admit we did a bad thing…. We are learning to live without air conditioning. The secret is adjusting the blinds in the house as the sun moves. However, Saturday about noon we felt like we were roasting; so we hopped in the car to enjoy a little A/C. Somehow we found ourselves in Interlaken which is about 120 KM away. We did have a very nice lunch, and a stroll through the town before heading back home. The drive through the mountains took me a little by surprise, though. On the map, in the car, it looked like a highway. Well, I guess technically it was a highway, but for about 5 miles it was a true mountain road. I don’t think my speed got over 20 MPH, and I have never been so thankful that we did not come across any bicycles on the hair pin turns. Normally the turns are not so bad, but in this case, we are on the mountain side of the road; so every corner was blind. You had no idea what you were going to come across after you made the turn.

If you remember from a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about going across the lake and riding the Swiss Wheel. Well the wheel disappeared. We found it on Saturday. It has been moved to Interlaken. The ride would have been scenic, It was set up on a big field that looks at the Jungfrau off in the distance.

View of Jungfrau

The Jungfrau is not the highest peak in Switzerland, but it is arguably the second or third best known behind the Matterhorn and maybe Pilatus. I say arguably, for the simple reason it is so easily viewed from Interlaken; as Interlaken is one of the most visited cities in Switzerland.

Last June, Julie and I spent a week in the vicinity of the Jungfrau. When George and Gabby come to visit us in August, we are planning on taking them down there for a weekend as well. The canton just built a high speed gondola that takes you about 1/2 way up the mountain, and then you take a cogwheel the rest of the way. Julie was fascinated last summer watching the helicopters carry parts up the mountain while they were building the gondola; so we are looking forward to riding it this year. Kaylee is not being forgotten. When she comes to visit, we are going to Mt Titlis. At Mt Titlis you ride up a spinning gondola, and then they have Europe’s highest suspension bridge to cross. I can hardly wait for the video of that!!!!

I am still having fun baking bread. The good thing is that I have not made anything inedible, yet. Though some have been better than others. I am experimenting with some different recipes, and different timings of letting rise, etc.. I tried making a cranberry/walnut breakfast bread and it tastes great, but man it was dense. Here is a picture of the loaf I made today.

I am not sure I am saving a lot of money, but I am having lots of fun, and the afternoons I bake the apartment smells amazing!

So bread bakers I would appreciate one piece of advice. How do I stop the big crack on the top from forming. I have tried scoring the top with a knife, but whether I score it or not, I get a big crack like in the picture. Is it something to do with temperature? Please leave me some feedback!

Saturday, Julie and I are traveling back to Zermatt. If the weather is good, I will probably post once. If the weather is bad, you might get a lot of posts next week. Talk to you soon!

Sorry that I do not have a lot of pictures to post. I left some from Kaylee’s experiment in here. Kaylee started working in a UW Biology lab last year. She is working on a project where they are studying how bacteria move through food plants. The lab is studying one bacteria in particular, and the hope is to find out how they modify the plant to resist the bacteria. Her part of the project is genetically modifying the bacteria to make it glow; so they can follow the bacteria’s progress through the plant. The glowing pictures are from her work. I thought they were pretty cool so I am sharing them as well as the ones I took last week: