Monday, October 31, 2005

Scary Wrong

Beate Uhse has a policy that is coming under fire because it is illegal here. Beate Uhse is a chain of stores that sell adult lingerie and videos. In Switzerland you have to be 16 years old to enter such a store. Beate Uhse's policy is that all children under the age of 16 have to be accompanied by an adult. Now; I am quite certain that children are not asking their parents to take them into this store. That is weird. I think it is more that their parents are stopping at these stores while they are out running errands and taking their kids in with them. That would be a horrifying childhood memory for me as I am sure it is for many of these kids. It is just crazy wrong. I wonder how old these kids are that are being accompanied by their parents into these adult stores. I guess this experience would just be really confusing for younger children. Older preteens and young teens will have to recount these horrifying visits to psychiatrists. I am not saying it is wrong to be open about your sexuality, but some things should not be experienced with your parents.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Written Communication

Many of my teachers of past and not so long past seem to have the idea that length is a contributing factor to how well a essay is written or how well an idea is communicated. This I have long believed is a very bad thing to be passing along to students. The length of an essay should be determined by the topic and the ability of the writer. The fewer sentences required to communicate an idea, the better the writer. Assigning an essay and then assigning a length is anti-productive to learning. The student is then thinking, “how can I fill one or two pages with this topic?” instead of thinking “how can I best communicate my ideas?” My faculty to communicate my ideas with few words hurt my grades during my education more than it helped them but now this belief of mine is a advantage.
Two students write an essay. One student writes one page and the other student writes two pages. THe two students papers have, for arguments sake, the same content of ideas. The student with the one page paper is the better writer and communicator. Assigning an arbitrary length of two pages would hurt the student with the ability to write a one page paper. The student would write a good paper, and then fill it with a page of filler.
The problem is most English teachers in America have never had real world experience in written communication. They are great with explaining Frost and Shakespeare, but a business memo has to be written with length and clear communication in mind. A memo should not be a literary work of perfection. It is an entirely different skill to write a memo as opposed to writing a literary essay in secondary school or university.

Herbst in Zürich

Nur eine törichte Person würde Herbst mit Wörter beschrieben versuchen. Wenige Dichter können Erfolg haben. Herbst, wie alle Saison, müssen Sie Erleben. Sie müssen die farbigen bäume sehen. Sie müssen die heißen Kastanien riechen. Worte sind gar nichts. Keine Mann kann mit Buchstaben etwas so kompliziertes als eine Saison erklären.

Friday, October 28, 2005


Hurricane Wilma hit Florida causing widespread power loss. On the 26th of October, 2005 people were standing in aid lines waiting for their water and Ice. It was 63 degrees that day. What do they need ice for. Yes, in the middle of the Floridian summer, for elderly without power, ice is a necessity. It is however October. 36 degrees F (17 C) is not hot. Why are they passing out ice? Or even better question is, why are people waiting in line, some people twelve hours, for ice? Should or government be providing people with their needs after a disaster, or luxuries. Yes I consider a bag of ice a luxury, I cannot get one here, I would love to drink my beverages cold but it usually is not an option. IT is three degrees Celsius warmer here, I have no ice, I have no air conditioning, I am doing just fine. Since when is not having electricity for a few days an emergency requiring state aid?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Homeland Security (cough)

The United States of America is now one of the least popular places to study English now. This is no surprise to me. The requirements to stay in America, if only for a month or two to brush up on your language skills; are outrageous. The fear of letting terrorists in is undoubtedly severely hurting many private and public education facilities in America. The operational cost of the homeland security department is not the only cost of Americas new found paranoia. The cost to American businesses should also be factored in. My brother in law just returned from Indiana where he spent two months studying for and then taking the TOEFL.

I remember my favorite part of the American Visa application was the one inch by two inch box were you are to write in every country you have traveled to in the last ten years, and when. This is probably easy for the average American but if you grew up in central Europe remembering every time you left your country is hard enough; and it is even more difficult to fit it all in a tiny box.

Australia and England are the two most popular places to study English. The US has fallen behind Canada in the rank of popular places to study. CANADA!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Animals I have eaten

I decided to post this after eating at SagaKhan and adding five more to the list.
I will try to keep this list up to date.
Crocodile steaks are the best; with just a little seasoning. They are like a cross between a good red snapper and lobster. I bit chewy but I like it becuase there is substance to this fishy white meat. I really wonder who supplies SagaKhan with kangaroo meat in the Swiss Alps.

Antelope ( springbok)
Chicken ( + egg )
Cow ( + calf )
Fish ( many species )
Horse ( + foal )
Quail eggs
Rock Hen
Shrimp (many species )

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


I read here today that Rivella was test lauched in Florida and failed. I think whoever decided to test launch Rivella in Florida should be fired. Florida is where the United States keeps many of its elderly. Now, I don't want to promote stereotypes, but I don't think the elderly are the most keen on trying new things. Rivella, for those of you who don't know, is made from whey. When cheese is produced it is compressed into large blocks. As this happens the liquid runoff is collected. This is whey. It is mixed with sugar and carbonatd and then bottled. I like to drink it. It however does have a unique taste. It is not as sweet as most all other sodas sold in the US and I think many closed minded Americans would be put off drinking a sweetened carbonated milk product.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

truth in media

Ok, only a short thought today. News agencies are reporting that the United Stated Air Force bombed an estimaded 70 insurgents today in Iraq near Ramadi. My imediate thought was this. Does this mean they estimated the body count or estimated if those dead were insurgents or not?

Monday, October 17, 2005


I do not drive here in Switzerland. I use public transportation or my feet. I have however noticed differences in the driving stile over here in Europe. It is not simply different traffic laws; it is a whole other driving approach.
In America you have stop on go traffic. Busy intersections, for the most part, have either a stop sign or a stop light. The preference over here in Europe is the roundabout. The idea is a flow of traffic instead of stop and go traffic.
Another aspect, at least here where I live, are the narrow roads here rural Switzerland. If two cars pass, usually one of them has to pull on to the side of the road and let the other pass. That or both of them hug the edge and narrowly miss each other.
There are no hard set rules to say who must yield the center of the road on the narrow back roads. That is unless one side is unable to pull off to the side.
The way it works is the first to inch a bit from the center is usually the one who has to pull to the side and let the other pass. This creates a game of chicken every time two cars meet on a back road.
Here is what happened today. My 18 year old sister in law was driving down one such road with another car approaching. My sister in law Silvia rarely ever yields the center and today was to be no exception, despite the fact there was ample space. The approaching car did not want to scrape the paint of her car in the bushes on her side so she did not yield the center either. So she lost her side rear view mirror.
Many might inappropriately say that is what you get with teenage drivers, or that is what you get with woman drivers. I say, that is what you get in this society. In my experience I think that most people over here would have done exactly the same. This is not to put anyone down in any way. It is merely a cultural observation. I have much worse things to say about American drivers.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


The level to which many people get involved in watching sports boggles my mind. I simply do not understand it. How could people who have never even met these athletes on the stupid box (TV) care which side wins. I can sort of see the concept if one of the teams is from your city, but in most cases this is not so. These contests last hours. How these people can maintain interest for so long is mind numbing. Why don’t they do something else until the game is over and then go back and find out who has won. After some reflection on this topic I figured out why I don’t watch sports. I still have no Idea why other people do
I am too apathetic. I just don’t care who wins. I don’t think I will ever care who wins and furthermore I cannot see how other people do care. This is a multibillion dollar industry and I don’t see how they make a single penny.
Sports are meant to be played. I enjoyed playing pick up games growing up. I played some intramural sports in college. If I am actually playing a game I care who wins. I want to win. If you are not involved in a game what does it matter who wins.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Camellia sinensis

A while back my mother in law asked me if I would like some tea. I said “sure.” I like tea but after taking a sip of it I realized it was like no tea I had ever tried. It was a bit minty but other than that it was bad. I leaned over and asked my wife what kind of tea it was. “oh, just normal tea” yea right.
It turns out that her family doesn’t usually drink tea with the leaves of Camellia sinensis in their tea. They drink “herbal tea.” Herbal tea is not really tea. It is water that had some weeds boiled in it. It has no tea flavor what so ever. It is amazingly popular here. I don’t understand it. If you want “TEA” here in Switzerland you have to ask for “black tea” or “green tea.” The fifty or so other varieties of tea in the grocery store are all “herbal tea” Yuck.

Post scriptum, Do you think “minty” is a word. MS office spellchecker doesn’t think so. I disagree.

Friday, October 14, 2005


We are taught that private citizens should not use violence to solve their problems? It is however acceptable, by many, for governments to do so. Why ??? Why is it that committees are better able to decide when violence is appropriate than me. It is my experience, as well I suspect most others, that committees and bureaucracy impairs the ability of every one involved to make a good decision. So, groups of people with a history of bad decision making are the ones that get to decide when violence is appropriate. Myself, well I have a good history of decision making, and I am not ever allowed to decide that violence would be the best way to solve my problems. This is not logical at all. Though that being said, I am discussing politics here, logic is very seldom brought in to play in this arena.
This brings me to my favorite recent quote I have read. It is dated the 18th of September 2005 from The London Observer. On the third Page they have an article entitled ”How the Penguins Life Story Inspired the US Religious Right.” The Article quotes at the very end Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London. He is speaking of the actions of the religious right in America in the support of what he finds illogical. “It appeals to ignorance, which is why there is a lot of it in American politics today” Despite the fact that the quote is in reference to a different aspect of US politics I hold his statement to be universally true about American politics.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Age, commonly used across the world as the best indicator for maturity/wisdom is really just that. It is only an indicator. Many People unfortunately think it is more of an absolute rule of maturity/wisdom.

In the long stream of jobs I had working my way through college. I seemed to have the works luck with bosses. Every last one was somehow less intelligent and less mature than the last. At first I thought that my experiences were exceptions to the rule instead of a true measure of what it takes to acquire a position of authority in the private sector. Government jobs and incompetence is going to be a complete other post. Unintelligence and immature behavior does not seem to impede people from gaining success at all. This seems contrary to logic but it is empirically true. Just because you reached the age of thirty or forty does not mean you have matured. The opposite is also true, that simply because someone is young, does not mean that they are not yet mature enough to make difficult decisions.

Companies that promote people just because they have been with a company for a certain time period are breeding weakness into their company. Companies, especially those with unions, will have rules like you cannot promote someone above someone else that has been there a longer time. This is very bad, especially for stockholders. This promotes the idea that if you are able to just maintain employment for a long period of time, you would be a good leader. This to me is ridiculous. Companies should be promoting people who are intelligent, charismatic, and can move a goal forward. Just because you have been employed longer than another coworker doesn’t mean you are going to be better at the job. These Ideas however are not in line with many businesses today. Their workers feel it is unfair to promote someone younger than them higher and that they are entitled. Now this statement would anger most old Americans but age does not equal entitlement. If you want something you should work for it. Simply aging should not entitle you to something.

In today’s world age does not equal intelligence. In the past, to make it to an old age you had to learn from your experiences and by the time you made it to old age your survival equaled wisdom. It doesn't take anything special to make it to old age in today’s modern America or any "first" world nation for that matter. Forty years of watching TV does not in any way give you any life experience and wisdom. I treat every human being a common dignity. My respect is however earned. If you want my respect you have to have accomplished something. Age does not necessarily mean you have accomplished something. In all likelihood you have spent your life watching TV and you want me to respect your wisdom.

Post Scriptum, If you are an employer or boss that has employed me since I acquired my BS this article does not apply to you. The company I currently work at does not really apply to anything stated here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


I saw a blind man walk into an upright support today. I feel bad because I said nothing. I just stared at him as he collided with the steel I-beam. There were about two seconds were I could have said something to warn him of the obstacle. I don’t know why I didn’t. Here’s how it happened.
I was walking to my train via an underground connection under the Zurich HB. This wide tunnel has support beams lining the middle of the passage. This section of the train station does not have the white bumps in the floor that the sight impaired use to navigate most Swiss train stations. As the blind man was walking with his cane, swinging it back and forth to find obstacles, he approached the pillar, which was to his left. Unfortunately, as he approached the support, his cane swung to his right side. The tip of it just missed touching the corner of the support. With his cane to the right of him, he stepped forward into the beam. The left side of his body smacked the support. He bounced back with a smile and walked around the obstacle to catch his train.
I wonder if I had said something would it have made a difference. It still takes several seconds for my brain to convey anything into German speech. I think the lesson to be learned here is not to ponder what may have occurred. The lesson here is that when God, fate, Pech, or chance smacks you in the face with an I-beam. You should just smile and keep on going because there is nothing you can do about it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Who is responsible?

On a recent trip to London I went and saw the movie "The 40 Year Old Virgin." During the previews there was a public service announcement quoting a statistic that two teenagers die in London every day from crossing a street when they shouldn't and being hit by a car. I thought that was amazingly high. Then I thought, well when I first arrived in London, by train, I walked out of the train station towards my Hotel and the many other pedestrians were all crossing the street with don’t a walk signal and none were waiting. It didn't matter what color the light was; they would just look both ways then run. I myself, by the time I was nearing my hotel was doing the same. The green walk signals in London are way too seldom for the amount of foot traffic. Not to say there isn’t an equal amount of vehicle traffic. People don't want to wait five minutes or more to wait to cross a street so they run for it, myself included. The amount of vehicle traffic they are trying to control is a complex and difficult undertaking. However it seems to me they sacrificed the safety of pedestrians so the people relaxing in their autos can get to their destination a few minutes earlier.
Now comes a favorite American pastime, the “blame game." I have to admit, it may be my environmental (American) influences in my upbringing that makes me think it is the governments fault, or in reality, whoever has final say in the programming of the lights in London, rather than the people who cross the street in traffic. It seems on average most Americans would rather blame anyone but themselves. Despite my firm belief in personal responsibility, I really think it is the governments fault for these deaths. Yes, people should wait to cross the street until they have a walk signal; and they should blame themselves if they get hit. The government however has created a rule no one follows, which breeds unsafe traffic behavior. It is comparable to if the government set a speed limit of 25 MPH or 35 KPH for an interstate highway. Most would ignore this rule. The thing is that some people don't have good enough judgment to know by how much they should ignore a rule. They would drive to fast and hurt others. This is why you need traffics laws, but traffic laws that are safe for both pedestrians and vehicles.

My wife and myself

Unimaginative Americans

I just read an article here, about a beggar in Scotland the stands on his head in a bucket while he begs. A bit crazy, a bit smart. Beggars in America have no imagination. I'm not saying they should all start standing on their heads in a bucket but that they should come up with something original that entertains for a few seconds. The beggars in Paris are professionals at this. They work in groups running complicated schemes. I ignore most of them but the few that I find truly original I reward for their thinking. Some things I like are double amputees making crafts, dancing, and playing homemade instruments. I also have a soft spot for homeless with dogs. Things I dislike are intimidation, rapping for money, beggars working in large groups, simple begging and pressing on once I say NO.

On a side note, here is a great way to get a free souvenir from Paris. Find the beggars that are tying the wristbands. These people will probably be by any touristy place but they are most concentrated by the Sacrè cœr. There was about thirty there when I was. They will be very persuasive to ask you to give them your wrist so they can tie a bracelet around it. They all speak English. Right away when they are making your wristband ask them how much it costs, they won't tell you, they will switch the subject and go on asking where you are from how you are liking Paris etcetera. Don't answer their questions, just keep thanking them for the free present and telling them how generous they are to visitors of their city. With out fail, when they are done, no matter how much you asked how much it cost or thanked them for the free present, the will tell you to give them money. I always find this part funny. Tell them you thought it was free and that they can have it back if they want and all they say is "give me some money now." At this point walk off. I never give beggars who make their dough from intimidation of others. I have seen though that this is very effective begging. When they are finished most people find themselves faced with 10 to 20 big men telling them that they owe them money, and they fell obligated because of the colorful wristband they are wearing. Most will cough up a few Euros for something worth a few cents. These wristbands are tied on and don't come off easily.

Monday, October 10, 2005

An American in Europe.... Observations

First Post..

As I adjust to my new surroundings I feel a new sense of perspective. This Blog is dedicated not only to my observations about new and different cultures and people I encounter, but also what can be learned from both sides of the ocean. I read what I just wrote and think, man this is platitudinous, makes my stomach turn that I could spew something so trite. Don't despair, this Blog will also contain my pointed rants.