Mr Splashy Pants

I found this through a post on Boing Boing, but the direct link is here.

I don’t know why, but this just made me laugh. For several minutes. Then I’d cough and mumble “Mr. Splashy Pants” and laugh again. If they make t-shirts I will definitely buy one. Just to laugh. Again.

“Mr. Splashy Pants”

–update 11.29.07–

http://weblog.greenpeace.org/makingwaves/archives/2007/11/mr_splashy_pants_fan.html

Well it looks like Mike the cynic is wrong, Mr Splashy Pants is not a cold, calculated move by Greenpeace to increase traffic, it is a click-hack. Much better.

And best of all it gives me the change to write a little more about Mr Splashy Pants.

Alternative commuting

A colleague sent this on the cycling alias at work. I liked this a lot, it really shows how inefficient cars are. One of the nice things about living in Zürich is not driving. And it’s not avoiding driving because I care about the planet (although I do) or I am cheap and gas is expensive (which I am and it is). I am avoiding driving because it’s actually easier to jump on a tram or train or walk. I do have to admit thought that I don’t like riding buses. I don’t know, but somehow the “cool” factor is there for a tram but not for a bus.

 

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One month

Wow, it’s been one month already. Looking back on my pre-move post I see a bunch of stuff that was correct and a bunch that was off, at least so far. So let’s dive in with the good & the bad.

Good

  1. We’re all here, doing okay, starting to get involved in life here.
  2. We have solved our connectivity issues so we can Skype with family and friends at home. For those who haven’t tried Skype, it’s invaluable. We chat every night or two and it really helps bridge the gap. It’s not the same obviously but it helps.
  3. Outdoors. Getting outside is easy with lots of walking. Getting farther afield is just a few train rides away. We like taking trains and it works very well for us. We have a loaner car and it’s been parked for 2 weeks now.
  4. I’ve  lost a little weight. No idea how much since we have no scale but at least a belt buckle.
  5. Job is good, nice people, nice office, good to learn a ton of new stuff.
  6. Trip to Barcelona broke up the time for me, Susan might have a different opinion.

Bad

It’s not always great, the move has been tough at times. One thing that has caught me off-guard is how living in a temporary apartment feels so transitory it bleeds into everything else. You don’t want to get a doctor or dentist or barber since you know you will be moving. This leads us to the biggest downers since moving.

Apartment hunting

We have found several apartments but so do other people. We know in one case we didn’t get the place because we have kids. The others we applied to never responded at all; we knew there were tons of applicants. This is a tough market, we knew that coming in, but we’ve never really experienced this before.

Update 23 Dec: yeah! we found an apartment. It’s a little further out of the downtown area than we wanted but it’s big, it’s comfy, and the kids love it. Casa Steckler is now open for visitors!

Smoking

Coming from a region which is now smoke-free this is a tough adjustment. Many restaurants are okay; you can smell the smoke but it’s not bad. Some places are thick with smoke though and often standing around waiting for trams and trains is an exercise in learning which way the wind blows. I had forgotten what it was like to come home from a bar and need to wash all of your clothes and take a shower.

According to one survey I read 2/3 of the Swiss would like to move to a smoke-free public environment. It is something of an oddity that a country which is so concerned about health in general would have such a high rate of smoking. From what we have heard a few years ago a smoking ban would have been inconceivable but now apparently some people are talking about it.

As a guest here of course I have no say in the matter. Even when the initiative was being voted on in Washington I abstained since I was torn between a public policy “good” around smoking, second-hand smoke, etc. vs. a public “bad” of taking away a person’s rights. I will continue to do here what I did there and then; vote with my feet and dollars francs.There is a list of smoke-free restaurants we are trying to use. It’s pretty limited (Migras and Starbucks figure prominently) but we are willing to keep trying and will spend money in those places.

Conclusion

Good month. Homesick at times. Not taking German classes more seriously was a mistake (yes, everyone speaks English but sometimes you want to go with the flow).

Next month we hope to find an apartment and get settled. We need to tackle Christmas. We need to get our gear shipped over. We need to start traveling again (which we will do once our permanent visas come in and we can leave Switzerland).

Day 19: so much done, so few updates

19 days. I had to count that up on the calendar. It’s something like when you first have a kid and he is 2 weeks old, then 6 months and maybe all the way up to 24 months but at some point it becomes 3 1/2 an then after a while you lose the fraction and the kid is 10.

So 19 days…

We took a trip to Grindelwald. It was gorgeous. When you think of Switzerland Grindelwald is probably pretty close to what you think, except Heidi is not walking around in a dirndl. In fact I haven’t seen any “traditional” Swiss costumes. Which shouldn’t be a surprise; I cannot imagine many people travel to the US and expect people to where pioneer homespun or Pilgrim-wear.

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Susan and the boys Me having a beer Traditional Swiss fondue, sort of K playing with a tiny goat

 

Some notes about the photos:

  1. The mountains are pretty. And scary. You can see the north face of the Eiger. I cannot ever, ever imagine saying to myself “I’d sure like to climb that”. I can imagine sitting there and thinking,
  2. We had a picnic lunch in a park. And I drank a beer. In public. And wasn’t arrested. Or cited. Or an outcast. Amazing but true, apparently the Swiss think it’s okay for a grown adult to have a legally purchased beverage in public without ruining the moral fabric of the country.
  3. Fondue with tomato may not sound good, but it was really tasty. I had a lovely rosti mit speck (kind of a potato hashbrown with bacon) which I just love.
  4. We were hiking and suddenly these two tiny baby goats walked out of their pen and said hello. The mama goat was not very pleased with this but since she was in the pen and K was out of the pen he could pet the little thing. Very cute.

These photos are all from Saturday. I will post the spectacular shots from Sunday’s trip to Jungfraujoch soon.

In other news… no luck finding an apartment yet. We applied for two and were second-place on one, never heard back on the other. We applied for another today but there were 100+ people looking at it so we’re in the lottery again.

Two weeks (tomorrow)

Okay, we have been here almost two weeks. We’ve accomplished a lot in these two weeks. We still have a lot to get done.

Done

  1. Mobile phones. Susan has a prepaid card through Orange. She is now using my Blackjack. I got me new phone via Swisscom yesterday. The cool thing is it’s a re-branded HTC s710. This is a phone I tried to buy in the US several months ago but didn’t due to the price. Windows Mobile 6 is very, very cool.
  2. Kids are in school and doing well. Wow.
  3. Susan is taking “Living in Zurich” through the American Women’s Club. She has already learned a few good-to-know secrets.
  4. We have a temporary residency permit. Our permanent ones will come within the next few weeks.
  5. We understand the tram and s-bahn system.

Not Done

  1. Language. Ouch. We still stammer and stutter and the first phrase we use is “bitte, sprechen sie Englisch?” I start classes next week.
  2. Housing. We’re in our temp place but we really do need something a touch bigger. We’ve applied for two apartments. We didn’t get one. We were one of around 80 applicants for another. Not good odds. So we’ll keep trucking along.
  3. Internet. Our apartment has this weird USB device that only works with XP. This means Susan’s nifty  MacBook is offline for the time being.
  4. Banking. We have accounts created. We have a variety of cards. We have some PINs. What we don’t have is any PIN that matches any given card. Both sets keep trickling in. Usually we need to go to the Post Office to retrieve the mail. I appreciate the security but I am really looking forward to acting like James Bond and saying “transfer it to my Swiss account Zürich”.

It’s the weekend so what’s the plan? We don’t know yet. Due to an interesting requirement in our visa/residence status we cannot leave Switzerland without resetting the whole process. We’re thinking of perhaps driving south to the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland. Or maybe we’ll skip that and just go find a mountain somewhere to go climb. Interlaken sounds nice as does simply going to see the falls.