I’m here. Sorry for being gone so long. No good reason for it. We haven’t traveled too much recently though so I’d just use that to diffuse any talk of my general procrastination. Chiz did, however, fully roll the whisper of her maybe going to Singapore on business into actually being there as I type this. It’s a business trip in pretty much every sense of the term but she is staying right downtown with a walk to the office so seems like a good place to find the pulse. A couple Yanks will be showing her around but I told her that is no excuse for her coming back without having eaten something she normally wouldn’t. She’ll be back on Thursday and if you are half as excited as I am that she might regale us with her tales on this very blog then you are one third as excited I am about Ron Paul.
The main inspiration for this post though was to document my experience at the Zurich Street Parade this year. For my complete, yet very brief history, with this event check out the post from last year and see where I was coming from.Continue reading "Street Parade 07"...
Was talking to some guy in the guild from The Netherlands today. He told me his Grandfather was from the USA so he is quarter American. I've never heard it work in that direction before.
On our most recent visit back to the U.S. we found out some very interesting information about my ancenstry. My fabulous Aunt Barbara gave us a letter from the Bern archives which stated that my great, great, great grandmother (Anna Barbara Stalder) was baptized in a little town called Lutzelfluh here in Switzerland. Her mother was from a nearby town called Ruegsau and she was very Swiss indeed, maiden name is Sterchi.
Anna Barbara left Switzerland with her husband and daughter Wilhelmina to the U.S. when she was in her twenties. She died in childbirth on the boat but then Wilhelmina went on to marry a man in Nebraska. The story goes on from there until you get to me...Chizzy. Fascinating and I'm so thankful to have received that information so that Bryan and I could go on a little excursion and pretend that we were The Stalder's. It was a gorgeous day and we had nothing else to do so we hopped on the train in search of distant relatives or any clue that there are other's like Chizzy out there.Continue reading "Is Chizzy a Swiss name?"...
If it’s 5:30 AM and I am wide awake and chipper on 3 hours of sleep, as I am now, the safe money is always on “jet lag”. If it’s 5:30 AM and I’m forced by panic out of bed hung-over on 3 hours of sleep, as I was yesterday, the safe money is always on “catching the early flight”.
We arrived safely back in Zurich yesterday after a great 2 week trip home. Chizzy had the idea to start things off in Las Vegas with a long weekend before heading up to Washington. As usual, we had a great time and got by with a little help from our friends. Piro stepped up and we got to meet Megan for the first time, which was a pleasure. We spent an evening with David Copperfield and an afternoon with The Price Is Right. We bullied a group of small children at the Derby Races in the New York, New York arcade and won a small army of Incredible Hulk stuffed action figures. I broke my personal best for largest bet on a single hand of blackjack, but Piro took the prize with his ‘paper plays’ bet of over $300 on black at the Roulette wheel. He won. In the end though, no major gambling wins. More importantly, no major gambling loses. Ate at a buffet.
But the biggest news out of Vegas was the decision and announcement that Shelby and Nick have agreed to combine forces in a yet-to-be-named Super Couple. The union will be unlike anything these two star crossed solo artists have ever attempted in the past. Translation for any who need it: Shelby and Nick are engaged to be married! Way to finally man up, dude.
Phase two of the trip was spent catching up with family and attending the wedding of Chizzy’s sister Christine (the primary purpose of the trip). The wedding went off without a hitch at their fantastic new home and the catered Thai food combined with the Karaoke entertainment made for one of the best wedding receptions ever. Big congratulations to Rod and Christine. And for the record, no, Bob didn’t look the least bit out of character wearing a kilt and serving as the Maid of Honor. Keeping with the times, Chizzy has abandoned her Britney Spears routine in favor of the more grounded Gwen Stefani. If her rendition of Hollaback Girl is any indication, this could be a real career defining move for the amateur southpaw.
Phase three was the semiannual week long test in Seattle to see if we are still able to assimilate in American society. Come on. I’m kidding. We haven’t changed a bit. Although, I was afraid to order the French Dip sandwich the final dinner there simply out of fear of being mocked. That’s your problem. Not mine. It really was great to see everybody and hang out a bit. We’ll be back before we know it.
Just like our last trip back home we had major issues remembering to break out the camera. The only set of photos we took were of the progress Chizzy’s folks made on their house. I’ll put those up in a separate post pretty soon. It’s looking really great.
I will not lie. My enthusiastic reaction on Christmas morn’ to the two Bryan “Spelled the Cool Way” Adams tickets nestled in my stocking was somewhat forced. Sure, I couldn’t get enough of the Heaven video I recorded onto VHS off the MTV countdown when I was a mere grade school lad. And I cautiously added Waking Up The Neighbors to my CD collection a few years later, but come on… Bryan Adams on tour in Zurich? I was skeptical.
Chiz bought the tickets months in advance knowing the concert fell on the worst possible day. For you see, today marks what has become an infamous household event. Yes, Quarter End is upon us again. There are early mornings and late nights. There is weekend work. Essentially, you will want to avoid Chizzy at all costs and she will want to avoid you. Did the Canadian Wonder have a way of making us forget?
The plan was to meet inside the arena since she was coming from work, so I made my way solo through the Friday rush hour. The crowd I ended up walking with from the train station didn’t do much to bolster my confidence. An odd elder mix of leather clad Euros is tough to read in the most obvious of circumstances, but a Bryan Adams concert made it all the more surreal. Maybe they were just heading to the We Will Rock You show across the street? No. No, they weren’t. They were heading the same place I was. Bryan Adams beckoned. What did it all mean? How did they know him? Surely it wasn’t Prince of Thieves? Please don’t be Prince of Thieves. It wasn’t.
Bryan Adams truly is “Big in Switzerland”. Oddly big. The sold out, lyric-knowing, devoted crowd was not to be trifled with. There are no two ways about it. We ran with it. The crowd reception to Summer of ’69 was amongst the best I have ever seen. He and his black T-shirt clad band totally floored the place. They did FOUR encores. We had a great time. The fantastic gift, fantastic show, and fantastic wife, who made it out of work in time to catch the entire performance by my side, certainly made this a night worth mentioning.
It snowed here yesterday. Probably not shocking to those back home who are still dealing with some winter weather, but we were having a decent string of sunny days so it seemed out of place. Chizzy missed it because she is currently in sunny Irvine, California on a business trip. I’m really jealous of her being in The States, but it equals out because she is really jealous that I am going to Prague this weekend. I’m meeting up again with Tobin, Paty, Reid, and Reid’s girlfriend (sorry I don’t know her name yet). The main event of the weekend is a half marathon that the guys are doing. Paty and I will be providing moral support and I’m interested to see if the Czechs have a sidewalk cheer for the participants like the Swiss do. “Hop, hop, hop, hop…”
I’ll do a Prague post when I get back. It will be my first time to the city and I’m really wondering if people have built it up too much in my mind. I’ve never heard a negative word about the city and Chizzy considers it one of her favorites. I’m excited to see the city and the gang.
It just seemed like a photo was due.
Nothing going on.
Thanks for tuning in. Been having a bout of writers block lately and it has nothing to do with the release of the Warcraft expansion. I’m serious. And I’m rightfully relieved my breaking point was finally reached on this one. It is probably more of a social experience than you think it is but come on? Enough already. It was a bit of bad timing with Tobinski logging on from Ireland but I did stick around long enough to pass along my infinite wisdom. Carry the torch, little female gnome paladin. Piro, your thoughtful gift was invalid after all on the European servers. Sorry about that. I’ll keep an ear out for the DHL dude brining the replacement gift.
This isn’t to say my work habits have improved in the trade-off. Stever is holding it down and doing us proud. Coupled with rumors that Birdly felt a hint of spinal relief sleeping on straw mats in Thailand makes his weekend return a very exciting company event. My working habits were generously dubbed as “interrupt driven” sometime a while back. Interrupted from what is the question I’m not proud to answer. So I won’t.
On the other spectrum we have Chiz. Fighting hard for people and a company and a job she doesn’t even like anymore. The merger hit hard and everyone got a bit more exposure to the personalities around them. The primary problem is that Chizzy is the kind of person who just gets stuff done at work. So it is depressing to observe how much more complicated the majority of people around her make it look to get that same thing done. She normally wouldn’t care about that but she has to manage some of them. She got a smile out of me when she confessed she felt a measurable portion of the problem stems from the more socialist mindset of many coworkers. That’s my Little Eichmann.
In truth, it is Chiz who is responsible for introducing me to Libertarianism a couple months back and that has been my latest foray into molding my feeble political mind. So, I pretty much hate the government right now and this has caused the unexpected side-effect of me not being able to read much news without getting pissed/scared/aghast at what is going on the world and in the US. And right in time to watch the two-party system kick into a record breaking advertising campaign to win the right to fix your problems the way they best see fit. We can figure it out ourselves. Thanks anyway.
But we’re doing great here. We got a German class going again. We just got a private tutor we go see a couple hours a week. Not a big serious commitment to learn the language but it helps to view it more as a hobby now. You don’t need to speak German to get by in Zurich. But I won’t deny it could certainly help. Just last month we finally received our 2005 tax forms to mail to the Swiss authorities. This was three days from the deadline. After two lost mailed copies (?) and as many weeks, I went face-to-face last week with an actual tax authority to hand deliver the damn things. Sadly, I wasn’t able to defend any of our honest attempts at prior delivery because the gal didn’t speak a word of English. I ended up bowing out of the office not really knowing if we were all cool now.
I also couldn’t pass by a chance to deal with a little bureaucracy, US-style, the other day. I was due for a passport renewal. They really try to push the mail-in option for renewal. But I was fresh off “Die Post” concerns surrounding those important tax documents and the US Embassy was just down the tracks in Bern. I got to bus a little outside of old-town Bern and I really got further appreciation for that city. That Bern is one nice city. I was further rewarded that I got to speak to an authentic American. A New Yorker. A New Yorker with the accent. It made me smile when the first words she barked at me were, “These photos are not going to work”. This began a pretty contentious relationship for the next hour but the worst I could do was, “Why did you ask me if I want to keep my Passport if I can’t really keep it?”
We hope you all had a super fantastic holiday season. We did end up getting a tree and this is what it looked like.
Pretty good. Pretty, pretty, pretty good.
Piro rolled into town right in time for Christmas. We greeted Piro with a Rivella at the airport but he didn’t like it and ended up throwing it away. Milk serum isn’t for everyone. We’ve seen apprehension to it in the past.
Notice there is no snowboard on his person. It got lost along the way. We weren’t too concerned because we had several days before we were heading to the mountains but he did try to make things as interesting as possible by not having our address or phone number with him when he reported the lost bag. Fun fact: Did you know some airlines outsource their call centers to India?
Santa Claus comes on December 6th here in Switzerland. In this spirit of early gift giving we decided to hook Tolsty up with some new digs. Actually, it was because he broke his other ‘perch’ with the extra weight that comes with his abnormally large size but we would never tell him that.
Yes, we carried this through town and onto a tram. Judging by the amount of smiling head nods I’d say people had a pretty good idea what a fun time the furball was going to be having.
Yeah, we sprinkled the thing with catnip to sweeten the deal, but he didn’t need the extra incentive. He knew this was his the moment he saw it. Yet he still will only scratch the furniture. The idiot.
Didn't see this one coming at all. Chizzy says to me the other day, "Thanksgiving is tomorrow." Normally an odd one to miss but it happen and I don't really know what it means. Even though she technically figured it out before I did, I think it came as a bit of shock to her as well. It did ignite a mini-mission though that required a bit of online recipe reading. Stuffing. Chizzy felt like whatever meal I came up with that day should definitely involve stuffing. Immediately, I mentally went down every aisle in my home away from home but stuffing mix just didn’t feel right. I just couldn’t picture where it could be on a shelf in the Coop on the corner. I’d have to cook it. (Just so I’m not misleading anybody, my culinary skills have only just recently got to the point where I can even debate whether things like Stove Top stuffing could classify as cooking.) The stuffing worked out great and it actually tasted and kind of looked like the stuff…ing. And I guess if people just called it “bread stir-fry” like it seems to be it would take away some of the tradition mystique. I’m not onboard with keeping it secret any longer.
Real potatoes were mashed but gravy was out. For that we ended up with a box of ‘gratin’ sauce if you can picture something like that. Turkey wasn’t there but we knew it was going to be a little chicken anyway.
We are sorry we weren’t able to spend it with anybody but the holiday was still able to do its job. We thought about all the things we are thankful for and there is a very good chance that if you are reading this you were a big part of those thoughts. We hope you all had a good one.
So, I guess it’s Christmas time then too? They get into the Christmas thing here pretty well so we’ll get sucked into the spirit. Although after convincing me a tree is the way to go, Chizzy surrendered unprovoked yesterday. Bold move. What’s behind it? Stay tuned in to find out…
And I don't mean George Michael from Arrested Development, although he's cool too and it's a pity there's not a 4th season.
On Thursday, October 26th we went back to our school days and witnessed a legend in action. There were naysayers who thought he would sing off key and that he had lost his magic, but I assure you he did not disappoint. George Michael took the stage at Hallendstadion with a bang. His stage was set up with three levels of his band on both sides of the stage. Once again these pictures are from my phone so I apologize for the poor quality, but you can kind of get an idea. The band is where the blue lights are shining.
It was quite a spectacle. We were dancing fools to old Wham hits like "Everything She Wants" and "I'm Your Man." We heard some lively songs including "Fast Love" as well as classics like "Father Figure," "Faith," and "Praying For Time."
We started on the left side of the crowd and after intermission moved a little closer and to the right. This is the best crowd we had seen so far at any concert in Zurich and it consisted mostly of people our age and older. You can't go wrong with these tunes. Everyone was out of their seats, singing & dancing. There was no banter from GM, he performed like a professional and sounded fantastic. After two encores he ended with "Freedom " but I could have stayed there all night listening to every song he's ever done. GM, I'm your fan and you did it right.
That was the slogan used on the billboards and posters around town that were promoting the Zurich Open tennis tournament. Despite all her long working hours Chizzy still manages to keep an eye out for random happenings that we might be interested in. Not that we are big (or medium) tennis fans, but we know who Maria Sharapova is. So, we had tickets for the semi-final day on Saturday which featured the two singles matches and the two doubles matches.
We got to our seats a few minutes early and caught this gal finishing warm-ups and signing autographs. It turned out to be Daniela Hantuchova who would go on to play in the finals match the next day.
“ARE YOU READYYYYYY?!” After the music and light show, the entrances were a bit lacking. They just came out of the tunnel and gave a little wave to weak applause. Good effort though.
Continue reading "The Girls Are Back In Town"...
Sharapova was playing in the first game against Katarina Srebotnik. You just knew there was no way a ‘otnik’ was going to win out against a ‘ova’.
We pick up with the story back in Zurich where Nick and Shelby made plans to hang out for the entire week. The first full day we had there was Sunday. The city is a bit dead on Sundays since nothing is open, but the weather was great and we took advantage with a hike up to Uetliberg. I guess I didn’t take any pictures from the top, but I do have this one from about half way up the trail. This trail features a nice set of stairs to reach the top. Legs held up. I take what I can get.
Still going with that.
This hike also marked the final time the four of us were able to hang out together during the day. After an intentional effort to plan around Chizzy’s quarter end work schedule, the merger her company went through a while back essentially ended up making the timing a worse case scenario for being able to hang out with her. Chizzy didn’t have any time off from work from that Monday-Friday so the three of us set out to conquer alone.
One of the blogs I read every day is The Daily Dish with Andrew Sullivan. He has this ongoing feature where he posts photos that people from around the world have taken from the window where they work or live. I decided to submit my photo, and he freakin posted it the next day!
Here is the post with our view from the office room. I wonder if any of these neighbors read him?
I guess the next best thing after the World Cup in the soccer world is the Euro tournament. Essentially it is the same format as the World Cup except it is a Europe-only competition. The next one is in 2008 and is being co-hosted by Switzerland and Austria. I guess this is a huge get for these countries because the countdown is officially on.
Counting down in Paradeplatz
On one of our first visits to Zurich we were able to see the Alps pretty clearly looking south across the lake. We imagined this was a pretty typical view at the time. As it turns out, it is fairly rare for the mountains to make an appearance on the horizon. There is always this haze that obscures them on the clearest of days. But every once in a while something happens and they show up. This happen just the other day. It was such an event that Chizzy commanded me to walk out to the lake to get some pictures.
Views from Zurichhorn September 1, 2006
I still don’t get out very often and I haven’t made any acquaintances worth mentioning, but there are a couple people of Zurich I am able to identify. You know. The kind of characters that when you live in a place for a while you just start to recognize and associate them with certain things?
For example, I can point out the creepy tram guy. He’s this older dude who just seems to ride the trams all day long for the fun of it and insists on always standing right in somebody’s personal space no matter how empty the tram is. Essentially, this guy loves to put his crotch as close to your face as possible. Very strange dude.
Another guy I can point out is Rollerboy. I have no idea what the locals really do call him, but I’m sure he has a moniker. This dude always wears the same outfit and shamelessly rollerblades along the most busy and popular streets of the city. He usually has some sort of paint on his body and face. He can often be found skating right next to or behind a tram. He skates during the rain, sun, and snow and he never seemed like a very friendly guy. I recently got confirmation of this during the weekend of the street parade. I saw him coming down the Bahnhofstrasse while I had my camera with me. I had a good laugh when I looked at the LCD screen and saw I had captured him in true form.
The joke is on me. That ‘TOT’ on the leg that is showing is German for ‘dead’ but I don’t know what his other leg says. I can imagine it might be the German word for ‘drop’.
P asked me yesterday what the status with Chizzy’s job is and I realized we haven’t been good at updating with the merger news we’ve been getting. Essentially, it looks like everything is totally secure in terms of the office staying open and Chizzy keeping her job. In fact, her position looks as solid as ever as she has already been in meetings with the new CEO of the company. And I have to say I was pretty impressed when I heard who the CEO was. I didn’t realize they had such a big name executive running the show there.
We just wanted to send out a few huge congratulations to all you crazy people living your lives out there.
Two huge congratulations go out to Rodney and Christine for their new sweet house AND their new engagement! We are really happy for you two. We saw some pictures of the new place and it looks amazing. Looks like there will be plenty of room to move about with the new ball and chain attached. Kidding, of course. Congratulations!
Another “huge congratulations” to John and (especially to) Sarah for the arrival of their new baby girl Leah Anne this past Thursday. One minute we are at your wedding and the next you have a baby girl (the times are not literal there if you are wondering). We can’t wait to see her when we are back next. We will keep up-to-date on your blog in the meantime (if you have time to update now!). Congratulations!
You want more babies? You got em. Crespin and Sue have brought Aurelius Crespin Rodriguez into the world and they couldn’t be happier. And we couldn’t be happier for you two. We don’t see enough of you guys, but we know you are doing well and Aurelius is one lucky little guy. Congratulations!
You want more babies? Don’t have any more, but we do have a wedding for you. Brian and Janelle tied the knot this past weekend. Congratulations! I remember when Brian used to come running back from work each night just so he could tell everybody what great things Janelle had done in the office that day. OK, I made that part up, but that is how I see it in my mind. Congratulations and we are sorry (for ourselves) that we couldn’t be there!
And last, but certainly not least, a huge congratulations to Bob and his new job/apartment/life out in Denver. It is a big move and we are really happy to hear that things are off to a great start. We already miss you.
We only had one night of rest in Zurich after returning from Venice before we were off to Ireland for four nights. Ireland was not a completely random choice. Peggie, having some Irish heritage, has always wanted to see Ireland and Chizzy was happy to plan a trip there as part of the folk’s vacation here. At first, she started looking into hotels in Dublin but we figured that probably wasn’t going to be the kind of Irish vacation everybody wanted, so the hotel search quickly changed to a cottage search somewhere on the west coast of the country. She found a great one on Galway Bay in a little area called Bishops Quarter.
OK, fine, it’s a little house. Whatever. It was all ours for four days. Along with this rental car in the driveway.
I never did end up doing a post about the quick weekend trip to Dublin when I met up with Piro who was there on business. I did tell a few people about it, but the general gist was simply that I didn’t really care for the city very much. Or maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for it that weekend. Anyway, we think our instincts worked out for the best because we had a very relaxing time in the beautiful area of County Clare.
Continue reading "Ireland"...
I’ll get to the Ireland post soon, but I wanted to show you some of the 2006 Zurich Street Parade first. We knew about the annual street parade and had heard it is pretty wild but we were out of town last year and we missed it. Not this year.
Essentially, one day a year every single night club in Zurich and others from around Europe set up camp outside. It is a monster rave on the straight-laced streets of Zurich. It is insane. People dress up in full night clubbing gear and hit the streets. Not streets on the outskirts of the city. For those who have been here; it takes over the entire heart of the city running from Hauptbahnhof to Bellevue from north to south and from Limmatquai to Bahnhofstrasse east to west.
We were just out for a couple hours around 3 pm on Saturday. We know we only saw the tame stuff and were only catching glimpses of what was to come later. And in case you don’t know us that well; no, this is not our scene at all so we didn’t try to make it back later in the evening. We’d take a pub 100% of the time over a night club if we were ever asked while taking a survey.
Imagine coming unsuspectingly into Zurich that Saturday afternoon on a train to this main station.
The sound. I didn’t have anything to capture it with, which is unfortunate because it was a huge part of the experience. Zurich was pulsating. Like I said, the clubs just moved outdoors and tried to make it as loud as it would be indoors. As we walked, each time we were getting a little too close to conversation level din the music from a new mobile dance floor took over where the last one let off. They ranged from huge party trucks to spontaneous street dancing circles. You have to add the repetitive thumping bass to each of these pictures. We heard it from our apartment. I’m talking loud.
There was a lot more skin around than these already risqué pictures suggest. I am proud to say I didn’t capture anything too bad on camera. Here are some of the partiers decked out in clubbing clothes on the street.
The bratwurst vendors even seemed different this day.
And don’t try to claim Jesus can’t party with the best of them. Same techno bass going on here too.
These pictures didn't fully caputure it. If night clubs and partying is your thing you should try to make it out next year. It is not world famous for nothing. You have a place to crash.
We just got in the door from a very long travel day to finish up the visit from Chizzy's parents. They are packing as I type this and will catch the plane back to Seattle tomorrow morning. We had a really great trip and I'll do posts on them very soon, but for now I just wanted to leave you with the two views we had during our stays.
The view from our hotel room in Venice.
The view from our cottage on the west coast of Ireland.
Had the camera on the wrong setting, but you get the idea.
Been back a week or so now and have been slow to update. Here are some things that have been happening (or at least being thought about).
Just like it seems each flight back and forth is getting easier it feels like the jet lag that accompanies them is as well. The only side effect we each had this time was waking up at around 5:30 am for a couple days. Big difference considering the first time we came out I was waking up at 5:30 pm (or 17:30 if you prefer the European way – I don’t. Although, I will admit to actually preferring the date format of putting the day before the month like 25/7/06. Common sense and whatnot.). I think the heat wave we are going through may have played a roll in this as well. Not really possible to sleep much past 9:00 when it is already 80 degrees (27 Celsius) in your room. I know you are all going through this right now about 5255 miles (8457 km) from here.
I hate to keep apologizing for it, but I just want you to realize I am fully aware of the increased spamming to the comments. I finally put a call in to the big guns on this one. Imagine The Wolf from Pulp Fiction rolling in and taking care of it. Yeah, it’s J.
Speaking of J, he let me borrow the second season of Arrested Development on my way out of town and it is possibly the best comedy show ever created. I tried to catch these on TV back in the day but wasn’t fanatical about it. Check them out on Netflix or something if you haven’t gotten into it. Tobias alone is worth the price of admission.
One other quick thing about DVDs. I think one of my long standing hypotheses officially transitioned to a theory with this box set. Never turn on DVD commentary for a show that is being done by the actors. It is beyond painful to hear them pat each other on the back during each scene and comment on how good/bad they looked that day and how great/poorly they delivered a line. No matter how cool the character appears on the show, you will lose all respect for this actor once you listen to them do DVD commentary. Find commentary done by the writers and directors and you might have a chance to prevent ear bleeding.
Chizzy is doing great. I know you never hear from her, but it is just because she doesn’t have blog updating anywhere near the top of her priority list. What she does have at the top right now is Top Model. Actually, it would probably be work first. Here she is on the beaches of Grayland.
Grayland? What an amazing segue into my next topic. The Chizrents are coming! They arrive on Saturday and are staying for a couple weeks. Highlights will include Irish countryside and the canals of Venice. Of course, there will also be lots of fun in Zurich as well. The big ferris wheel is up in Bellevue and Chizzy promised she would go on it this year. This is all going to be very exciting.
In a more blunt transition. I mentioned to everybody who knew him that I ran into one of the “neighborhood kids” on this trip back playing in a local band, but I also want to plug them on the site for anybody interested in that kind of thing. Mark is the drummer for the Ian McFeron Band and it was really great to catch up with him. You may have heard of the band if you are into KMTT. Good stuff and I’d recommend checking them out if they are playing near you. If you don't know him and awkward conversation is your thing just go ahead and approach Mark during the set break and tell him that you know me. “Oh you know Bryan? Cool… cool…. good guy… yeah… knew him growing up… so… nice… thanks for coming out.”
Pulled the trigger on a medium sized Weber grill this weekend. Since I don’t have the slightest interest in cars or power tools, I sometimes try to compensate with hot coals. Actually, I enjoy BBQ/grilling a lot and I’m sure Chiz will appreciate it as well once I figure out how to work with the type of ‘lump charcoal’ they use over here. Haven’t seen any briquettes here, but the Internets are telling me that natural charcoal is the way to go so I’m going to figure it out. The inaugural meal on Sunday was shish kebabs but I just didn’t have a good handle on the heat and Chizzy stubbornly refused to eat raw meat so the oven had to be embarrassingly called in. Unfortunately it is not cheap to experiment with meat here. Two chicken, two beef, and two veggie kebabs cost 45 freaking francs ($36). That's only like a pound of meat tops (500 kilograms). Of course, we did buy the pre-made ones from the swanky market so we are not totally blameless.
Here are some long shadows to end the post.
The trip back home seemed like a long one. I guess almost three weeks would make it feel that way. Seemed like we got in a good balance of work, play, family and friends and we had a really great time.
The 4th at Ned’s consisted of the usual hijinks. Even though some past winners were engraved on it, the presence of the official trophy was too much for some to handle. The desire to be immortalized on it left too many people thinking about what it might take. When you get down to it though, it is really quite simple to win the award. You just need to fall down drunk a couple times. Or you can take the fast track and win with just a single fall but you must end up in a.) the lake b.) the fire or c.) the bathtub.
Despite that bit of background and the following damaging photographs, we really are just a bunch of aging wimps who mostly retire to our tents around midnight relatively sober. It was great to see everyone and we are glad we returned for the festivities. And to answer the inevitable question that always comes up with the topic of beer bonging… no, we are not in college anymore. It’s a tradition on the 4th. Deal with it.
That’s right. Get a bit of food in first.
Now let the foam die down just a bit.
Finally, pour it down your throat to the amazement of your friends and the embarrassment of your family.
Ned watches on like a coach waiting to admonish The Warrior at the first sign of any sub-par technique. I think this attempt was met with a resigned “that’s respectable” from our host.
Fresh from the Northeast, Marlo prepares for her job interview with a respectable law firm.
Canadian Adam is generally upset with the quality of the beer.
More Canadian representation. What can you do?
“What’s that, Warrior? You want me to do two?”
“Fine then. I’ll store the second one in my cheeks for later.”
A true spectators sport.
Things getting a bit more civilized as the sun goes down.
It isn’t all drinking. We got out on the boat as well.
A crazy mist was covering this part of the river.
Wacky stuff. Wacky wild stuff.
Other events included competitive ping pong, fireworks, Spiffy’s, swimming, naps, and talks around the fire.
That can only mean we are back in Washington at the moment. Been having some good times so far which is nice since this first week was primarily a work week. Came into town during the heat wave weekend and met it head on at Chizzy's sister's place for a day. Been in Fremont since Monday and commuting to the eastside. Big weekend in Mossyrock and then a few days with the folks is coming up. Chizrents are officially living in Grayland now so there will be a visit to the new Crandberryland garage.
Bern and I went to see Superman yesterday at Cinerama. Chiz and I made a half-hearted attempt on opening day with J and CM but we missed the cut. If nothing else, this movie will remain memorable to me as being the first movie I’ve ever attended with a 5lb block of pepperjack cheese. I’m being literal there. I didn’t come out of it thinking it was great, but the itch to watch it again is growing fast. There is some very cool stuff in that movie.
World Cup watching has dropped off, but was able to catch both games live today and was pretty happy with the results. The George and Dragon was in full swing. Very cool to see it completely packed at 8 in the morning with soccer fans watching Germany v Argentina. I decided not to watch it there, but the Bergomery’s (not a real name) live two blocks away so I didn’t miss anything.
We have the camera, but haven’t used it at all. When we packed we felt like we should be taking pictures. I think that we haven’t means it feels like we are home.
Very bummed about the World Cup exit, but the team simply didn’t look good. They may have ‘outplayed’ Italy and Ghana in those games, but it’s hard to argue that they don’t deserve to be heading home after this round. It’s pretty clear the US still has a few more years of catching up to do. I had a ton of stuff going through my head during the past couple weeks that I think could make for good blog posts later down the line. For now, I just have to leave you with some photos since we are busy packing to catch a plane back to Seattle in a few hours.
By the way, Nuremberg is a great little city. Of the handful of cities I have now visited in Germany, Neremberg is at the top of the list of places I would recommend visiting. We would have liked to stay another day, but it just wasn’t possible. Cologne was a very cool city as well, but I think the soccer revelers helped that city look livelier than it usually is. Nuremberg seemed like a great place to visit regardless of what was going on around you. Don’t bother with Munich if you ever have to make a choice between these cities.
For the US v Czech game, we had a very difficult time getting to the stadium on time. It wasn’t our fault. We were just trying to use the public transportation to get to the stadium from the city center (4 miles). We gave ourselves over two hours to make this trip and we barely got to our seats before the national anthems were played. When I recounted this story to Chiz, she got worried and made me promise we would give ourselves plenty of time in Nuremberg to get to the stadium. It worked out really well because the Fan Fest was being held about a 25 minute walk from the stadium, so we chilled there for a few hours and took in the scene which Chizzy described as “mini America”. If any of you ever find yourself in a situation where you are trying to defend American ambivalence toward soccer you might remember these photos. I’ve never seen such an enthusiastic patriotic display in my entire life.
A lot more photos...Continue reading "At least the fans came through"...
Going to be in Nuremberg by tonight.
Players taking the field for the national anthems at the US v Czech game.
Don't wait to get to Germany to buy your USA gear. I think the only country in the tournament not represented in this display is the US.
Keep up to speed with Tobin Blog to get better game commentary.
Even though I realized a tie last night would probably technically leave a glimmer of hope for advancing, I didn’t realize until later that the scenario for moving to the knock-out rounds isn’t too insane.
You would think with just a tie and a loss after the first two games the scenario would involve a minor miracle. It doesn't. If the US beats Ghana and Italy beats the Czechs, the US is in! Not completely unimaginable those two results could happen. Those games, by the way, will be played simultaneously on Thursday (it will be morning for you in Seattle).
So, my dejection of last night has been replaced by sheer and utter joy with the fact that the game we are going to will have significant meaning. In fact, all four teams in the group have scenarios in which they can either advance or go home. I feel a bit sad if you don't care about this.
The revolution is happening. This shot was also taken in Gelsenkirchen. That is the image of US coach, Bruce Arena, if anybody was wondering.
The day after the US v Czech game, Reid and I saw ourselves on BBC World in a still photo they showed. We hoped we could find it online and when I looked at my email right after the previous post I see that Reid came through. He found it at ussoccer.com here.
I'm the one with the red shirt holding up the scarf a bit below the flag. Reid is in the blue garb next to me.
I may have more to say later.
Two quick ones
1.) The two tackles that ended in US players being sent off the field, in both cases, the players’ feet touched the ball before any contact was made. For those of you who are soccer fans, you know what I’m saying. For those of you who aren’t, I think you can figure out the difference.
2.) Why the F******CK was Keller kicking the ball to the other keeper or the defense of Italy during the last 10 minutes of the game?
I didn’t have the energy to post immediately about the great weekend trip to Cologne/Gelsenkirchen/Munich so I will just do one post about my World Cup adventures after the US v Ghana game next week.
As a teaser, here is a photo of some US fans at a small square in Gelsenkirchen a couple hours before the match. I love the Gadsden flag mixed in there (“Don’t Tread on Me”). The dude near the bottom right just flipping the bird to nobody in particular is pretty good too.
I’m just about out the door for my first World Cup weekend. Have fun with your lame NBA finals, chumps.
I don’t keep a personal journal, but I wanted to remember this very odd thing I saw the other night. I’ll probably find some way to eventually preserve these posts for my future amusement and maybe reading back on this in a few years will give me a laugh.
The yearly event is called the Eurovision Song Contest and it is one of the most surreal things I have ever seen. Chizzy watched it last year and thought it was great TV so I had to watch some of it this weekend to see what the buzz was all about. I really won’t be able to do the spectacle justice with words so try to catch it if you ever have the chance. It is essentially a song contest for all the countries in Europe. Chizzy likes to remind me that ABBA were once the winners of this prestigious award as if that makes it beyond criticism, but criticize I must. The production itself is top notch. They set up an amazing stage with every light effect and pyrotechnic trick you can imagine. It is viewed by millions and millions of people and it is obviously a huge deal to be crowned the winner.
I have never much thought about why American music seems to prevail here in Europe, but I’m starting to get a better understanding of why after watching that show. The variety of music represented in the contest was fairly diverse, but it isn’t like they are playing traditional music from their country. They are playing questionable pop and rock. The winners this year were from Finland and they were a ‘death metal’ band that dresses up like monsters. The song was called “Hard Rock Hallelujah”. GWAR they are not. Don’t think I need to say anymore about them.
Russia finished second with a ballad from a pretty-boy and is really upset about the voting scandal. They feel they are being picked on by the other European countries.
The highlight of insanity though, came when Lithuania took to the stage with this song:
We are the winners
We are, we are!
We are the winners
We are, we are!
We are the winners of Eurovision
We are, we are! We are, we are!
We are the winners of Eurovision
We are, we are! We are, we are!
So, you gotta vote,
Vote, vote for the winners
Vote, vote, vote for the winners
It was sung by a bunch of dudes wearing suits in a style that pretty much matches what the lyrics make you think. It was just a kind of playground-style taunt with one dude shouting “We are the winners” and the rest of the group backing him up with “We are, we are!” Watching it made me feel really sad for the people of Lithuania who possibly didn’t realize these guys were really embarrassing their fine country. But when they ended up finishing highly (6th) in the rankings I felt like the only sane person on the entire planet. I was Mugatu struggling to understand Blue Steel and Le Tigra.
Another fun moment was, once again, the refusal of France to participate in an international setting using the international language. It’s fantastic if you sing your song in your own language, but when the entire show is being conducted in English by everybody else, you look like a whiny little baby when you refuse to speak it to the hosts who are talking to you in English (which is not their first language either). You look doubly childish when you finish almost dead last. You know you know it.
Speaking of English, we watched on some British station and they were carrying the show live, but they had a commentator who just talked over the top of it. And it wasn’t like a play-by-play guy who is filling you in with stats and information. It was like a color-commentator who chimed in with the most ridiculous things. The hosts would be talking to somebody and the guy would just interject, “can we get on with the show?” He was really bitter about the voting process when geography seems to play a more important role than the actual songs. He would say things like, “Oh big surprise! Sweden gives Finland the top score. What a shocker.” It really added to the whole amazing experience.
It seems like a lot is going on, but there really isn’t. I guess that is the feeling you get when you have a lot of stuff planned out. We pulled off the quick Paris trip this past weekend without a hitch. We did virtually zero sightseeing this time; only stopping at Sacré Coeur since we hadn’t been there before. We were warned to stay away from the little tourist area behind the church where the portrait drawers were very aggressive, but we are proud tourists and would never be able to resist something that has been described to us as touristy. That isn’t to say we actually get our portraits drawn but it is fun to see the scene. My new thing is to just babble incoherently to people who approach me. Not a big difference, I know.
We spent one evening at apartment of co-worker with a small group of his friends. We were told to bring some wine. We’ve been getting a little bit more into wine, but we still might only be on par with the average 5 year old in France for wine knowledge. When Chizzy asked what type of wine to bring the dude replied that he was pretty easy but he preferred wine from ‘the south’. Forget Spanish, Italian, or Australian wines here. We also knew the boyfriend of the sister of the co-worker fancied himself a bit of a wine connoisseur so the plan was obvious… ask the apron clad owner at the local wine shop. He was disappointed he had to break out his English, but ended up being very helpful and led us to some bottles that he said were very well respected and famous in France and that we would be the hit of the party. I wouldn’t go that far. The first thing the boyfriend did after examining the bottles we brought was to pull out a huge map of France to find the location of the vineyards. I don’t mean to give the impression that he was being a jerk about it. He wasn’t. He was just continuing his wine education and my theory is that there are just way too many wines in France to know them all. We drank a lot of wine that night. And to continue in true stereotypical fashion, the cheese plate was introduced into the fray at some point. This actually ended up sending a massive shock wave through the apartment because the host didn’t have any bread. Not only did he not have any bread, he declared he doesn’t even normally eat bread with his cheese. I tagged along with one of the guys for a late-night bread run, which I was really fascinated by because I wanted to see how people deal with food emergencies in a land where everything closes early. I thought his first instinct was absolutely hilarious. He could only think to try the ‘tourist’ bakery that was really popular with the visitors but loathed by the locals. Of course it was closed. It isn’t like French people don’t own and run the place. That must have been his last instinct as well since he had no other ideas for bread, but figured we might as well get some more wine while we were out which did end up being pretty easy to find.
I also am pretty sure I saw my first celebrity sighting on this trip. I didn’t get 100% confirmation with an approach and confront, but if the dude sitting in the café outside the apartment was not Tim Roth it was his identical twin.
Chizzy finally got her wish and we spent a decent portion of Saturday actually shopping around Paris. She was on the hunt for a business suit and found a very nice one at the monster Printemps department store.
In other news, Tobin has come through in a big way with those World Cup tickets and I am now joining him, his lovely wife Paty, and Reid (another Seattle soccer buddy) to see the US vs Czech match on June 12th in Gelsenkirchen. We are making base camp in Cologne that weekend leading up to the game. Very exciting. Very, very exciting.
But the next trip is actually just around the corner where I have been invited to meet up with Mr. Piro in Dublin for a weekend. He is there on business. It took some creative travel plans by Chizzy to find something reasonable, but it’s officially on. I suspect Piro will just want to walk around and take in some art museums and stuff. I don’t anticipate he will want to check out any pubs.
I’ll also randomly throw out that I went to an Iggy Pop concert here. I know nothing of him or his music. The solitary bit of information I had in my head before going was that I thought of him to be shirt-averse. That turned out to be true. He doesn’t strip down as the show progresses either. He just comes out shirtless from the start. The show was really great in a small venue. If you have any Iggy Pop information you want to share, I’d be happy to hear it.
What is Chizzy doing while I have all this fun, you might be asking? Working, of course. At least she got a new suit.
The annual burning of the snowman was yesterday. We went down there, but I never ended up taking any pictures of the festivities. It probably looked very similar to last year’s. It was a great day with an enormous turnout and we weren’t in the mood to fight through it all so we just plopped down at a sidewalk café a few blocks away and contented ourselves with just hearing the exploding head. It only took about 10 minutes for the head to explode this year, which indicates we are in for a hot summer. No groundhogs predicting seasons here, folks,
The real action this year though came a couple days before the big event when the snowman was stolen from the garage it was being built in. Check this out:
The group, calling itself the "1. Mai – Strasse Frei" (loosely translated as Retaking the Streets on May Day), claiming responsibility for the theft, saying the 3.5-metre tall snowman "had had enough of putting its head on the line for capitalists".
Hilarious. These guys are pretty hardcore if they think Sechseläuten has a capitalist feel to it. Unless you count the makeshift tents that dare to sell drinks, snacks, and balloons. Seriously, it would only take a couple drum circles to go along with all the costumes and they could just call it The Burning (snow)Man. In fact, the entire event has historical roots with the spring equinox when the church bells would chime at 6 o’clock for work to stop. Telling someone when they have to stop working isn’t a real capitalist idea last I checked.
The drum circle reference was because this whole thing reminded me of that hilarious South Park I saw the other day where the hippies invaded with a “jam band music festival” to fight against the Corporation.
Hippie 1 – Right now we’re proving we don’t need corporations. We don’t need money. This can become a commune where everyone just helps each other.
Hippe 2 – Yeah, we’ll have one guy who like makes bread and one guy who like looks out for other people’s safety.
Stan – You mean like a baker and a cop?
Hippie 1 – No. No. Can’t you imagine a place where people live together and like provide services for each other in exchange for their services?
Kyle – Yeah, it’s called a town.
Here's a hint...
Starts with Chiz and ends with rents.
Still don't know? Click to see.Continue reading "Guess who's celebrating the big 4-0!?!"...
Not a whole lot been going on lately, but I feel the blogging duties pulling at me so you get a miscellaneous update.
Chiz was supposed to report on this first issue, but she has become permanently tethered to the iPod and doesn’t have time for these trivial matters anymore. Oh, and by the way, she has become a model customer for iTunes and is even paying for television shows, audio books, and music. Anyway, she made a fantastic discovery the other night and wanted to share this with everybody at some point. You see, she bought a winter coat a few month back but was totally bummed when she got it home and found that the pockets in the front were just for looks and didn’t really open. She suffered through the entire winter with no place to put her cold hands. Now spring is upon us and she runs out to buy a trench coat only to get it home and find the pockets on this garment are also only for show. Or are they!? Thinking this was more than mere coincidence, she gets under the light to really explore the new coat. There sure feels like extra material under the lining that would indicate a pocket. Are the pockets really sewn shut? Is this the way coats are sold here? Did she really go all winter looking awkward with her hands under her armpits and being uncomfortable for no reason? Did people she openly lament to about having coats with no pockets know that coats were sold like this? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Complete with photo evidence on the winter offender.
We went to a show last week. It was the future Mrs. Brown that introduced us to Nada Surf a couple years back. When we saw they were playing a little music club here, we bought the tickets right away. It was a good show in a venue that is comparable in size to the Crocodile or Chop Suey. The venue is called Abart and is the same place Brandi’s friend’s band was playing a while back that we lamed out on. We are sorry we did now. It was a lot of fun. As an American entertainer, the lead singer did his sworn foreign policy duty about midway through the set when he stripped down to his FUCK BUSH T-shirt. They played all the greats, saving Blonde on Blonde for the encore so everybody would stick it out.
Operation: Mindcrime 2 was released here a couple days earlier than in the states and I had Chiz pick me up a copy the day it came out. I put it on repeat for the entire weekend so it could grow on me. Let's just say it is growing slowly. I guess you knew it couldn’t live up to the original. Probably not a good sign when the best moments are hearing some of the old riffs from the original in the new songs. Being an old Dio fan, I thought it would be cool to have him on the album doing a duet as Dr. X, but the reviewer who said the song was too "rock opera" was spot on.
The full beard is back and I've been going to the store in a bright yellow hooded sweatshirt. Picture it.
Major drama happening in World of Warcraft these days. The leaders of my previous guild got burnt out a while back so we decided to merge with a different one. Things were going great for a few weeks after the merge. We were raiding Molten Core, Zul’Gurub, and Ahn’Quiraj on a regular basis. You know… the high level instances that require massive coordination and skill. Then something that started out as petty bickering about some loot spiraled out of control and the entire guild fell apart in a matter of hours. It was devastating. So I was left stranded doing guild interviews and being grilled about my experience and my attitude and so forth. You know… real life stuff. Luckily, I found a perfect guild that is exactly the level I am at and I happily returned to Molten Core last night with them. You know… important things. You laugh, but did anybody see that article that said some businesses are seeking out RPG guild leaders for management positions in their companies?
I failed in my first attempt at bringing home eggs to color for Easter. Not sure the brown ones would do justice to the egg art we have in mind. I'll make sure to get white eggs next trip out.
My birthday is coming up and Chiz planned a weekend trip for us. She was pretty excited about it and didn’t think she could keep the secret so she was giving me hints. I figured it out a few days ago and now I am excited as well. The 'river' and 'blue' hints were given a couple days apart, but they were the ones that led me to figure it out. I never would have figured it out from 'furnace'. We will be back on Sunday and I’ll get a post up about it.
It's snowing outside right now. I normally wouldn't report this, but it was T-shirt weather the past few days. I wonder if this is a big marketing push for the new Ice Age movie?
P.S. - Happy Birthday to Steve and Andy. I can't even imagine being that old.
I happened to catch Donald Trump on Larry King Live the other morning. After listening to him talk for a while I wondered how living a day as The Donald might be. So I gave it a try and here is what happened:
I woke laying on the most luxurious of pillows covered by the finest quality bedding known to man. I brewed the world’s greatest coffee while I showered under water that was the scientifically approved temperature for maximum comfort and cleanliness. I adorned myself with clothes that were made to the specifications of the most important world leaders by the most well-known fashion designers on the planet. I walked outside into the greatest day that has ever existed and I patronized the finest supermarket in the city run by the most outstanding people you will ever meet. The goods I selected were grown, manufactured, or crafted under the highest standards of production the world has ever documented and I paid for them with a smile that passes as cash in most places because of its sheer brilliance. As I continued my stroll, I refreshed myself with my branded water that has been mistaken several times as the heavenly water that once flowed from the springs in the Garden of Eden. I say mistakenly, because clearly my water is better than that sludge. I passed a billboard that had not yet been painted on and I wrote my fine name in bold spray paint for all to see and applaud. It was a great location for a billboard. Perhaps the greatest location for a billboard the world has ever known.
At this point I realized I had just shoplifted an onion, a frying pan and a Twix from the store and vandalized private property while wearing my only suit. I gave up on my day as The Donald after that. I still can't figure out if Larry King or Donald Trump is more responsible for my actions. Either way... thanks for nothing.
Latest in the concert series...saw Van Morrisson last night. I only knew a couple of songs, but he was really great. Candy Dulfer was the special guest, wailing away on the saxophone. She rocks. Van played all kinds of music: country, Irish, blues, jazz, rock. One of the faves, Moondance, was a real treat. Here's another crappy picture from my phone. This place was much smaller than the previous venue we've been. Acoustics were great and he sounds fabulous live. I hear he's a real diva though.
goggles – check
gloves – check
head warmer – check
train schedule – check
alarm set for 5:30 am – check
Chizzy’s snowboarding lesson confirmed – check
camera – of course not
It took outside forces greater than I am capable of exerting to finally talk Chiz into hitting the slopes this weekend. Co-worker harassed her. It was a perfect day and this time we went to some place called Flumersberg. She finally gave in and took a two hour lesson. She seems to have enjoyed it too, which bodes well for a future return.
I wish I could show you some pictures of the day. Next time.
UPDATE: Chizzy took some pictures with her high quality phone on the Gondola ride down. Could be some good camping to be had around here in the summer time. We hear that kiwis grow on some of these hills.
Our third adventure in the Chizzy and Bryan concert series was again to Hallenstadion. We saw the UK wonderboy, James Blunt, most famous for his song “You’re Beautiful,” which was a slam dunk at the concert. The Swiss are wild for this guy. He did a GREAT cover of "Where Is My Mind" by The Pixies. "With your feet in the air and your head on the ground...." Perfect.
I managed to get a couple of really blurry, bad shots from inside the venue with my phone. I was testing it out and yes, poor quality. But wanted to share anyway.
Opening for this guy was a beauty by the name of Nerina Pallot. We can sum her up by saying she is Rainier’s soulmate. No kidding around here…the girl is dark, mysterious, writes intelligent lyrics, plays piano and guitar and had a funky fashion sense. Her music was a mix between Tori Amos and Fiona Apple. We dug her and know that one day her and Rainier will meet up to make sweet poetic music over an Americano and Macchiato sans whip.
Next up in the concert series, Van Morrison on Feb.22 (sadly Bryan will miss it because he’ll be hanging out with all of you).
Then in April we managed to get some tickets to Nada Surf at a smaller club venue. We’re super excited about that one. Shout out to “blonde” KS for introducing us to this band. We know that song was written with you in mind.
Bryan and I happened to do posts on the same day so don't forget to read his big news below. Sorry baby, didn't mean to overshadow your news with my nonsense. :)
Look at this little fun bit of news waiting for me this morning in my inbox
We are delighted to inform you that we have been able to allocate you individual tickets for following match as a result of a draw at the end of sales phase 3 of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany (TM)
Yeehaw! The game we got was the US v. Ghana match in Nuremburg on June 22nd. Chizzy is making travel arrangements as I type this. The wheels are in motion.
That’s it. Just gloating.
Got this from a friend, who has visited us in Zurich and loved it so much, she thought you all might also like the experience. It's short notice, but I thought I'd put it out there in case anyone considered coming to see us (or any of the other places on the list) Really great fares right now & you have a place to stay!
PORTLAND/SEATTLE--JANUARY 24, 2006-- United Airlines just
slashed fares from Portland and Seattle to more than 300
destinations across Europe and beyond.
Fares start at $230 each way.
You must book by February 7. You can travel through March
31. We found the lowest fares when traveling Monday-Thursday
and staying over a Saturday night. Weekend fares are
Sample fares (each way):
- Seattle-Frankfurt ... $230
- Seattle-Zurich... $230
- Seattle-London ... $253
- Seattle-Amsterdam ... $279
- Portland-Paris ... $284
- Seattle-Barcelona ... $309
- Portland-Rome ... $362
- Seattle-Cairo ... $449
- Portland-Johannesburg ... $748
Sample fares already include fuel surcharges, but taxes and
fees are extra.
For full details on this sale and to book directly through
United Airlines, click the link below. When you search on
United's site, prices will be roundtrip and include all
applicable fees and taxes.
Not a whole lot going on worth writing about these days. One bit of new news is that Chizzy has managed to squeeze in a couple days off in March and is now coming back to Seattle for the big wedding. Yippee. She will be in town from the 2nd through the 7th I believe.
Nice job yesterday, Seahawks. Although it's hard to verify the victory by reading the Web this morning. I guess the 81 points by Kobe has officially elevated him a couple notches above human. Frankly, I was surprised the ball hog hadn't already posted a number like this, but thankfully ESPN was there to put it in the proper perspective for me; "It will be talked about for decades. Where were you the night the Lakers' No 8 went for 81 points, the second-most in NBA history?" I am already eagerly anticipating the day, decades from now, when a wide eyed child will stop me on the street and ask where I was the night Kobe Bryant scored the second highest point total in NBA history. I’m not a sports nut, but I do enjoy a good Seattle bandwagon when it rolls into town. Too bad for us we can’t really jump on it over here. I’m pretty sure they will show the Super Bowl on TV. They did last year. I’ll be watching on the Internet in the worst case scenario and thinking about the excitement. We had a tentative weekend in Paris planned for Super Bowl weekend, which just may need to be scrapped now.
Had plans to go skiing this past weekend, but they fell through and have been pushed back to this weekend. I shall soon experience what a year of muscle atrophy feels like. I imagine it really really hurting.
Chizzy, however, had no problems following through with her plans of a girls shopping day. I managed to score a couple shirts out of that deal.
Finally had to join a guild in World of Warcraft a while back since I now have a level 60 character. There is simply nothing to do as a solo character when you reach the final level. The entire game now consists of joining into parties of 10 or more to fight for two plus hours to reach bosses that drop random equipment. On the off chance something drops that your character can actually use, you then have to randomly beat out anybody else in the party who needs it. It’s still amazingly fun though. I have now personally been to the site of the famous Leeroy Jenkins fiasco and it makes the video even funnier. That room they plan so carefully to enter can simply be walked through if you don’t step in the wrong places.
Saw Memoirs of a Geisha this weekend. Liked it quite a bit. Saw that Dick and Jane movie the weekend before that. Unbelievably awful second half. Saw The Constant Gardner the weekend before that. Pretty good, pretty good.
Actually managing to forget more German than I am learning. I may have already told you that.
Up to about 14 cups of coffee a day. Joking. 12.
Playing the piano daily and actually using the Coldplay and Keane sheet music that I got as Christmas gifts.
Going to Tornio, Italy for the Winter Olympics in a few weeks. Have secured tickets for the ski jump finals and the women’s half pipe events. That should be freakin incredible.
Giving up on pronouns.
The on again/off again cycle of raman noodles as primary dietary sustenance is most definitely on again.
Still no visible signs of becoming European that I can see, but then I probably wouldn’t be able to tell if they were there. Can’t say the same for Chiz. Any day now I expect to see her sporting the ‘boot roll-up’ or the ‘she-BOP’. These are names we have given to the knee high boot fashions here that involve the rolling up of the pants and tucking the pants into the boot (Boot Over Pants = BOP), respectively. The ‘he-BOP’ is obviously the male equivalent and is an extremely rare and exciting event. I have only seen it once and the boots and pants involved were both shiny black leather which required a very keen eye and a double-take to verify. I consider it to be my finest fashion spotting moment.
We’re still here. We wish a super-happy-fun 2006 to anybody who is reading this. Anybody who isn’t reading can just have a mediocre year for all we care. They had a pretty impressive firework display down at the lake. For some reason, the fireworks looked different than the kind I am used to seeing. Not sure how to describe it. Less circles, I think. Or it could have been the alcohol. You can drink outside so everybody brought bottles of champagne down there and some cups to toast. It worked out pretty well. Beforehand, we had a few peeps over from Chizzy’s work. She was in hostess mode all day long and did a ton of great appetizers. Nobody touched the stuffed chilies, but the stuffed mushrooms were a bit hit. Also, we put the Starbursts out that the Montgomery’s sent us to add a bit of American flair, but nobody commented on them. I don’t know why I am telling you any of this. There isn’t even a punchline.
We hope your Christmas was also good (unless you aren’t reading this in which case it could have just been average for all we care). Did you know that the Santa Claus figure here also has an ‘evil’ counterpart that travels alongside to scare children into being good? It’s true. Children are legitimately scared of this fellow. He is called Schmutzli and dresses in a black robe and even paints his face black (yeah, I know… wouldn’t fly in the US). It’s no wonder they are scared of him... look at the legend:
...if a child had been bad, Schmutzli would put him or her in his sack and carry him into the forest to be beaten. Other accounts speak of Schmutzli actually eating children for misbehaviour or tossing them into a river.
I hope nobody got hurt in the War on Christmas back there. There is no war here. Everybody seems to happily call it Christmas (or Weihnachten). The big debate was all about the fancy new lights they strung down the Bahnhofstrasse this year. Here is a very bad photo of them.
They just look like lame fluorescent tubes hanging side by side, but they actually were pretty fancy because they were rigged up to do light shows along the length of the street. Think downtown Vegas to get an idea. I guess the lights are normally more traditional.
I had big plans to do the whole 2006 prediction thing or maybe a top 10 list of 2005, but that isn't going to happen. Don't know why I'm telling you this. There isn't even a punchline.
We also use the calendar year to roughly mark the date that we came out to Europe. So, for those not playing along that would make it one full year that we have been here now. Time is so strange. It seems like such a long time ago that we were living in France or even the Attic, but it doesn't feel like a long time ago that we were sitting out on the patio at Nectar telling our friends we were coming here. I’m coming back in mid Feb. to ramp up for the culminating Lewis wedding on March 4th so that should be fun times. Chizzy’s contract has her on US holiday benefits still so she won’t be able to join. Nobody here believes two weeks a year is a normal vacation benefit in the states. Lazy mugs.
Well, we pulled the trigger on the electric piano a little while ago. Here it is:
It was on sale at the mega music store here, Music Hug, which brought it down to a similar price we could buy it in the states, so we were pretty happy about that. Then just a bit of a cab fare to get the beast home and Bob’s your uncle. It has a lot of different sounds and all that stuff and something called a Session Partner that lets you play along with a bunch of canned tracks, but we’ve pretty much ignored that stuff and went straight to banging away with the default piano setting. Even got a little pedal down there. It sounds pretty decent to our untrained ears and the key action seems realistic. You get a heavier feel on the bass notes than on the higher ones.
Chizzy plans on learning to play it correctly with sheet music and all that cleft and time stuff. I plan on just trying to teach myself without ever understanding a thing about reading sheet music. I figure it worked for guitar so it should work for piano too. For two days I just stared at it wondering how the hell your right hand can play something while your left hand is playing something else. After I gave up thinking about it, I sat down and gave it a try. I am big into Keane at the moment so I had a tune of theirs (Bedshaped) going through my head that I thought would be cool to play. So, I found the riff and put my right hand to work. Then I added the chords with my left hand after I got that down and… it seems to have worked.
I never had recording equipment when I was learning to play guitar, but I wish I did so I could have immortalized Brian Wilson from Barenaked Ladies as the first song I ever learned to play. This isn’t really the whole song, just an intro, but it is the first bit of piano I ever learned that involved two hands so that is what you get.
Ben Folds, I'm coming after you next. Coldplay, you aren't safe either.
Hopefully you can one day hear Chizzy hammer out a few tunes. Still looking for a singer.
I’m very much into the Christmas spirit right now. Here are some things I’m enjoying right now to indulge in the holiday cheer.
We got this wreath. The bow is my half-assed addition. I can’t tie pretty bows, but we really got the wreath for the pine scent, not necessarily to look at. Believe it or not I can't find a pine-scented candle anywhere. Bryan decided that the cons outweigh the pros on the “should we get a xmas tree?” discussion. This is our compromise.
I’ve been listening to this CD, which we got from a very lovely couple last year. I’m digging the jazzy tunes, especially “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Bryan puts his headphones on and plays his warcraft game so that he doesn’t accidentally get happy feet like it's a jolly good time or something.
I made cookies today without a cookie cutter, that's why some of them look pretty odd. I couldn’t find food coloring either so I used a confectionary-type jam mixed with your standard homemade icing recipe and they taste pretty good. It’s one thing that is guaranteed to be liked by Mr. K about the holiday season.
Well, he also likes opening the advent calendar everyday. That is a fun morning ritual for both of us. We got the one with chocolates inside. Sadly, none of the Swiss chocalatiers makes such a calendar. You would think that would be big business. Everyone seems to have an AC around here.
And I really would like it to snow. I’ll listen to “Winter Wonderland,” one of my all-time fave xmas carols and sit back with some cookies and hot chocolate and contemplate the year gone by.
We got a bit of snow a couple of weeks ago, but it didn’t stick around. Here's me enjoying what I call snow and what Bryan calls a layer of frost.
And in case you think I’m being unfair calling Bryan out about his lack of holiday spirit, just see for yourself…the ultimate Scrooge.
Last but not least, Tolsty wishes you a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year!
Chizzy had another food craving recently. Grilled cheese sandwiches. She had the same craving a few weeks earlier and my attempt to satisfy it didn't work out so great. It wasn't the cheese selection, because she knows full well that you can't get american cheese here (or any other yellow/orange cheese). No, you can make a fine grilled cheese sandwich with white cheese and she was resigned to that. It was the bread. Before coming out here, bread only invoked one image in my mind... sliced bread in a perfectly shaped square that could sit on your counter for a week and still be delicious. Think Wonder. Whereas bread over here means a ball or roll of freshly made dough placed in an oven to create irregular shapes that must be eaten in the next couple days. I'll admit this seems to make more sense, but it just doesn't work for the type of grilled cheese sandwich that we all grew up with. There must be some chemical reaction between the preservatives and buttered pan that enables a sandwich to bring such joy. So it was with a word of warning to her that I set out on my journey for the ingredient for the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. I found it...
I guess this confirms that this type of bread is truly an American thing.
Last night we went to our first concert in Zurich.
Venue: Hallenstadion, about the same size and setup of Key Arena.
Method of transport: Tram#14, total commute time all of 20 minutes in a full, but not crowded tram.
We arrived, checked my coat for only 2CHF, quite a deal. We thought we might have to bypass the beer because the lines were so long downstairs, but we started walking towards our seats and found a beer vendor with only 4 people in line. Bryan and I had a nice drink out in the foyer (you can bring your beers in during the concert by the way, but we didn't). We then went in to check out the opening act, which started early! We were loving the punctuality.
Seating plan of Hallenstadion
We were in section I1 and could not even believe our seats. We seemed to have scored arguably the BEST seats in the house. I had just bought tickets on a whim at a ticketmaster-type site online 2 weeks ago. The concert was sold out days after tickets went on sale, but somehow they had released more tickets and I just happened to go to the site at the right time. We were in the first row on the right side of the stage. The angle was perfect...at one point Chris Martin went to the edge of the right side (his left I guess) and we were probably no more than 30 feet away from him. We thought there had to be a mistake and we kept waiting for someone to come kick us out.
Goldfrapp opened and they were a blondie-ish type of band, heavy on the bass, kind of a clubby sound. I recently saw them on Top of the Pops, a weekly top ten chart show, and so I was definitely interested in their performance. I liked them, Bryan...not so much.
During the break, we went out to get another beer and talk about what everyone was wearing. Boots over jeans are big for the ladies right now. I can't stand the look, personally. Looks a little too cowboy for my taste. But I do like the high boots and skirt look, so yesterday I bought my first pair of high boots I've ever owned in my entire life. Anyway, not to stray from the concert topic, but fashion was on our minds since there were so many people dressed back up in their fall fashion attire. We were trying to decide if we would know we weren't in the US if you blindfolded us and dropped us right in the middle of that scene. Could we guess we were in Europe when the blindfold came off just by the way people were dressed? We both decided that we could be in a trendy US city and therefore probably wouldn't be able to tell just by the clothes.
Like idiots, we didn't even attempt to sneak in our camera, so we didn't get photos of the people or of any part of the concert.
The concert itself was incredible. I've never had that good of seats before. Since I'm such a shrimp, even floor seats really suck for me. So this was perfect AND we didn't have to stand up if we didn't want to since we were in the first row. We also got to see the floor crowd go absolutely insane during Square One, Clocks, Yellow, Speed of Sound and many other favorites. Also, they played GREEN EYES acoustic-style!! They also worked the crowd by updating them on the Switzerland vs. Turkey soccer match. People were going crazy. I'm not even sure what the significance of that particular game is, but people were very excited.
Bryan and I both decided afterwards that this has to go in the top ten of concerts. Neil Diamond is way up there on the list though. If he ever came to Zurich, Bryan and I could dress up as nuns and scream our heads off.
This site is partially to keep people up to speed with what we are doing over here. I’ve been playing a lot of guitar, for one. I mostly just play other peoples’ songs, but I occasionally try my hand at original creations. This is probably the third song I have ever written and I’m going to post it for your entertainment. The usual disclaimers about performance and singing apply. For some reason, being half a world away gives me the courage to post this. I’ll be embarrassed when I see you all again.
There is a back story to this song that I seriously hope some of you will get. I’m not even going to tell the story right now so those who will catch the reference can be surprised when you hear it. I’ll post a follow up in a while if nobody gets it. Or you can just Google the title character of the song to find out more about the inspiration (it would be the second hit - not the Evangelist).
Leroy (1,786KB MP3)
Make a casserole for dinner. It’s easy, convenient, and delicious.
Yes, Chizzy has turned me on to the exciting world of casseroles recently by telling me she was craving a tater-tot casserole. I knew of casseroles from my childhood, but I never stopped to appreciate the culinary miracle that they are. I’ve done three now, basing each loosely from online recipes, and they all turned out pretty dang tasty with leftovers for lunch the next day.
You really can’t go wrong, gentlemen. Just prepare it in the afternoon and stick it in the fridge. When the bread-winner comes home from a tough day, just pop it in the oven for 30 minutes while you cater to their other needs such as foot massages. The casserole doesn’t even necessarily have to come out in a solid form if you don’t want. Just dump the soupy mess in a bowl, add Tabasco to taste, and dive in. I’m going to have to figure out some veggie recipes now though because Chizzy is suffering from post-traumatic meat disorder after realizing she may have been eating horse sausage without her knowledge. I find it fairly tasty myself.
I never actually found any tater-tots, but they did have these lovely potato balls that worked almost as well.
Yeah, updating has been slow. So it is with blogging. Sometimes you just don’t have much to say. We still owe a couple more trip posts and we will get to them pretty soon. Chizzy claims she will do the London post, but that will need to be seen to be believed. People are taking a trip to Europe and we are hooking up with them here in Switzerland for part of it. That goes down in only a couple weeks from now and we are really looking forward to that. We will finally get to see the Matterhorn when we meet up with them in Zermatt. They will also stop and check out our place in Zurich on their way out after riding the Glacier Express. Good times.
My desktop computer crashed early last week and it turned out to be a hard disk problem. I was worried I was going to lose all our photos and music files, but I was able to recover the data and actually get the disk up and running again. This was important because I only had a couple missions left in Grand Theft Auto San Andreas and I wanted to finish that. I have backups now. You care.
With GTA finished I had to buy a new game and settled on World of Warcraft after a bit of deliberation. Not that I was worried I wouldn’t like it, just that it was going to be a huge time suck and I was reluctant to get into a subscription based game. The game really is as good as everybody says it is (if you like those massive multiplayer role playing games). It’s also become a learning tool for me as well. I bought the German-only version of the game and there is a ton of reading to be done, so I sit there with my German dictionary so I know what I am supposed to be doing on the quests. Games are simply amazing these days. I read the average age of a gamer these days is 29.
Chiz is in Munich for work again for a couple days. The boss who is responsible for sending her to Zurich in the first place is in town and they are syncing up. The company is trying to save money so she had to hitchhike there.
I owe more posts from the big trip, but they are going to take a big time commitment that I’m not up for at the moment. Sometimes I work harder, you know? Why don’t you believe me? I’m getting even further behind the updates because we took advantage of another Chizzy work trip and parlayed it into a getaway weekend. It was London this time. Neither of us had ever been to London. I’ll make the time soon to write that up.
Anyway, what I do still have plenty of time for is thinking in general. Thinking and wondering. Jeff and I had a cat that went ballistic on us a while back. I mean, it was to the point where you actually dreaded coming home. The cat was not healthy in the head. The vet had no idea what was up because she would totally be fine in the office. So Chizzy buys a book the other day about cat behavior and there were tons of similar stories. Cats can simply turn on their owners for many reasons. Tolsty is starting to cry a lot more. We are getting scared.
Do dogs do this? Is it known to happen with dogs too?
I just came across Nookie after a long hiatus on my random playlist. For some reason, I decided to pull up the lyrics and read along. And now I have a new appreciation for it.
Nookie is an angry song about heartbreak. His woman left him. Not only that, but she took his money and cheated on him with some of his ‘friends’. And he isn’t hiding that he’s pretty upset about it. He says, “Dwellin' on the past (past). It’s burnin' in my brain (hot). Everyone that burns has to learn from the pain”. But there is also a touch of embarrassment, “It's kinda sad I’m the laughing stock of the neighborhood. Hey you would think that I’d be movin' on (movin') but I’m a sucker like I said”, a bit of denial, “And maybe she just made a mistake and I should give her a break. My heart'll ache either way”, and finally acceptance, “Why did it take so long. Why did I wait so long huh to figure it out but I didn't and I’m the only one underneath the sun who didn't get it”.
But wait. Don’t start feeling bad for all the wrongs that were brought against our innocent hero. Why not? Because he isn’t such a victim after all… his cheating girlfriend is. He "did it all for the nookie", fools. Joke’s on her. Dang, that is a good heartbreak song.
Has that ever to happen to anybody? When you think you probably know many of the lyrics to a song but then it seems different when you see it written?
We made it back on schedule which essentially means we lost a day. Leave on Saturday afternoon, sit in the strange world of airplane time for a while, make your way to the apartment, and immediately go to sleep on a Sunday night. Flying in on a rainy Sunday night then having to ride on trains and trams with a ton of luggage isn’t the best way to be introduced to a new city. This is the second time now we have brought visitors into Zurich under non-ideal conditions. The first was when Chizzy’s coworker came in on May Day to see deserted streets and boarded up windows. Now the folks come in on a rainy day of the week that is usually dead to begin with.
I’m not truly complaining. We are going to get to see some great stuff and a bit of rain isn’t going to slow us down. Everybody is now sleeping and I am barely able to keep my eyes open while waiting for a load of laundry to finish drying. Tolsty really couldn’t have cared less to see us (doesn’t that make more sense than saying “could have cared less”?).
It turned out to be dumb timing to state I was moving to more of a blog format only to disappear for a week. Actually, I haven’t disappeared as much as we have A-peered. It’s been great being back in Washington and seeing people. Of course, nothing has changed at all and that is just the way we like it. We really love it here and there is still no question we will return here when our ex-pat adventures are over. I guess we never really made it common knowledge that the initial 2 year commitment somehow got changed to 3 years during one of the contract revisions. We are already 8 months in though and time is screaming by.
Except for the super-fun weekend in Port Townsend for the wedding this has been more of a working vacation than anything else. Never really got bad jet lag in the sense of being completely out of sorts but we haven’t actually been very awake either. In bed by 10 almost every night is not exactly what we had in mind, but when somebody makes you get up at 5:30 in the morning I don’t feel like I have a lot of choice. We still hope to make everybody sick and tired of us before leaving though. Going to have to step it up a bit over the next week.
Me, Keith, and Gareth
How you like the new blog format? Does it work for you? Do you like the new way I just throw my thoughts out there?
I just posted that whole bit backwards to make the joke work.
I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately. It really is addicting. There has been a few times where I thought it would be cool to try out a more blog format for this site. I currently just view this site as a place where I do ‘posts’. I want to try to make it more of a place where I just throw my random thoughts out there too. Hopefully it works. Blog.
I used the word blog a few times now so far and I’d bet it bothered a few of you. People hate the word blog. I don’t know what it is, but people just don’t think blog is a good term for people writing their random thoughts online. I wonder if this the first time a new online technology simply just hated the name it was given. Was there a big outcry when the word ‘email’ came out? Hater: “Oh, no it’s not an email address, it’s just a little thing I give you to be able to send me messages. Email doesn’t define me.” Or what about when ‘browsers’ came out; Hater Software Dude: “This isn’t simply a browser foolish consumer, it’s an explorer!” Oh wait. Whatever. The point is that the word makes sense for what everybody out there is doing. They are blogging. They are bloggers. Even people who think they aren't blogging are blogging. Why can’t that just be the word we go with?