Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Avoidance of all sorts…


Getting the «Christmas Letter» finally written – oh well, there’s always next year should I not finally buckle down to it; sorting out 2014’s boxes, papers etc. – hmmm… not motivated; cleaning up my computer now that it has been deemd to be just fine – doesn’t much amuse me either; going back to any number of blog ideas – not exciting enough; writing that last profound blog for 2014 – not happening.

So I will continue to avoid all those unfinished tasks from 2014 and carry them over into the New Year with me: two days of peace and quiet (no mail service, no newspapers except what one can get online, no stores open except the grocery stores on the 2nd) might just see me make a stab at some of these. Then again, « avoidance » seems to follow me : the main problem is that there aren’t any deadlines on the continual business of «keeping up» so what can be let slide, I simply do!

Here’s to the Old Year – almost gone ; here’s to the New Year – almost come.

Moon set Dec. 26, 2014

Monday, December 29, 2014

Trivia, quizzes and totally unimportant knowledge


    OK we all know that I like to play computer games, that I enjoy blogging, love taking pictures and am lucky enough to have a wonderful, large circle of friends and family with whom I get along very well indeed.

We also know that I love to read, have fun watching an English program called « The Chase » (and must I admit it ? watch rom-coms and bed-time reading is not at all on the serious side, but rather what my spouse used to call « love trash »), enjoy walking, love renting my summer flat in the mountains, will travel on most any excuse and in general enjoy life.

However, I have also been known to spend a couple of hours jumping from one cute Facebook video of small animals, children or most anything at all once started to another dozen of the same.  Then there are the days that I get caught up in the «quizzes».

I have just successfully 15/15 passed FB’s version of « grammar » ; have found out that in a former life my lover was an Italian of whom I have never heard (and whose name I have not retained); that I am a good candidate for German citizenship, i.e. 95% correct or 19/20 (not sure why I would want to be as am rather happy with my Swiss citizenship and still have my American citizenship as well; that my general school knowledge is also excellent (95% and the one I missed is probably the German population, which I suspect is also the one I missed under being a good candidate for German citizenship : hmmmm… the fact that I am living in Switzerland is perhaps having FB slant my quizzes towards anything German?). There is however one fly in the ointment – I am now annoyed that I wasted so much time on FB trivia so the last quizz « Can you pass the agression handling test» was not the greatest success. I wonder why?


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Let’s swap cubicles or...


Life in the corporate world.

I will never forget the first time that I actually saw a room full of cubicles as a normal work space: not to mention names, it was in Caterpillar’s new building here in Geneva, Switzerland. I was there to have lunch with a couple of friends and had to go find them in the maze.  I then realized exactly how fortunate I had been never having had to experience the corporate world.  But that is only one element of many : I systematically get called on the carpet by my sister for what I say as so many things are no longer « politically correct », but then again as I said the last time she corrected me on whatever « sorry, I have only ever had to answer to myself and certainly won’t at my age be learning to change my language just to suit the corporate world that I am not – and never will be – part of » (note to D-L… dangling preposition and I choose not to correct it !).

But I digress : cubicle swapping seems to be the latest corporate craze – I had an e-mail from a friend who has recently had to endure this fun, grown-up version of musical chairs and as he wrote « … but got sidetracked with the continuing moves of the other people around me.  I was quite literally the first of 30 or 20 on this floor to move cubicles. » I was imagining in my mind’s eye the old Charlie Chaplin’s « Modern Times » where he was caught in the cog wheel of a machine.

I imagine that they call it progress, but one could get as dizzy on this type of progress as one does on the « Mad Tea Cups » at Disneyland and surely productivity does not improve.

Glad to be in my non-cubicle world: oh dear, am I in danger of resisting change ?

Scott Adams - Dilbert and his cubicles

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Winter Wonderland


« Sleigh bells ring, are you listening… » Frankly no, I was still sound asleep and haven’t seen a sleigh in years, never mind heard bells through my new windows.

« In the lane, snow is glistening » … actually that one’s true – I awoke to a beautiful blanket of the white stuff (for once as predicted, but I had totally forgotten the fact) with snow flakes still falling in the light of the street lamp.

And even if we only dreamt of a White Christmas, someone finally got it right a couple of days later !



Friday, December 26, 2014

The silver lining is sometimes very hard to find…


And only diligent searching and assiduous application to small things provides one.

This tale of woe had its beginnings over a year ago when my housemate’s daughter was fined as she was leaving Switzerland for having overstayed her Schengen visa: now who knew that even if one was visiting one’s mother who is a Schengen citizen (o.k. part of the Schengen “space” – they are not strictly speaking citizens), wasn’t working and in fact was actually contributing to the economy by buying groceries, albeit with her savings and with the assistance of said mother.

Still apparently she had no rights.  They paid the fine and thought no more about it.

This year as her Christmas present, housemate’s husband paid for the daughter to join them.
As housemate and husband were housesitting in Ireland, they arranged for L to join them for two days in Dublin then all three flew to Barcelona where L was arrested. The saga is to be found on D-L’s blog http://theexpatwriter.blogspot.ch/2014/12/the-christmas-from-hell.html and

The first I knew of it was at the tale (o.k. tail, but tale does work) end of my skype session with the nephews when I received a phone call asking that I try and find out a contact or telephone number of the authorities in Zurich. I tried several ways and was able to call the airport in Geneva where they gave me good advice. It did take a few minutes however and meanwhile they had also contacted the US Embassy there in Spain.

As the day wore on everyone was scrambling to get any information at all, then I booked a hotel room in Dublin so she could at least get a decent night’s rest on her way back being deported.
That in itself was a saga as of course I could book a room online giving my credit card as a guarantee, but couldn’t seem to pay.  In the end I used my VOIP Cheap to call the hotel. The first person decided very quickly that it was complicated at that her colleague in reservations would be much more capable. Silver lining #1 – Joanna at the Radisson Blu Dublin Airport hotel was not only efficient – sending me via e-mail the reservation so that I could return it and pay as a third party: I had given her my cc number on the phone so didn’t need to write it in the e-mail, which would have been very insecure, but she was also pleasant on the telephone.  I was able then to e-mail the number directly to L as she did have her laptop (her cell phone was dying with all the calls and they hadn’t even let her mother return her suitcase to her!): silver lining #2 in between the lap top and the cell phone we were able to have news of her sporadically.  D-L and R finally took a train to their home where cell phone reception is spotty. But never mind, I was still able to stay in touch with her for several hours by e-mail. This would not have been possible just 20 years ago.

Things got worse before they got better when the guards in Barcelona “forgot” to put her on the connecting 
flight back to Dublin. So had a hotel room, but she wasn’t going to be able to use it. 
Sent Joanna an e-mail informing her of the situation and the fact that I was entirely aware that my 
credit card would be charged (normal). Silver lining #3 – I received an e-mail the next day saying 
that as she was a “no show” my card would not be charged.   
There are still decent people in the world and although I wouldn’t expect this to happen to anyone else, 
the fact that it did once means that I can – and will – highly recommend this particular hotel to all and 
everyone: with a bit of luck someday I may just go visit Ireland and stay there myself! 
 
Radisson Blu Hotel Dublin Airport  t: +353 1 844 6000  |  d: +353 1 812 7182  |  
f: +353 1 844 6001  |   joanna.piotrowska@radissonblu.com  Dublin Airport, Dublin, 
Ireland  |  www.rezidor.com  |  www.carlsonrezidor.com 


It does restore my faith in humanity and thereafter we were able to find other silver linings to the situation: L did finally sleep a bit – no bed, no sheet, but she was exhausted; she did arrive safely home; she will be going to spend the next few days with good friends – ever so important under the circumstances; no one died, no one was injured. In time the awfulness will fade.




Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Time


Found this wonderful line :
« Every noon as the clock hands arrive at twelve, / I want to tie the two arms together, / And walk out of the bank carrying time in bags. -Robert Bly, poet (b. 1926)”.

However, it probably isn’t the time itself that is so important but what one can do with it that makes life interesting. We talk of “wasting” time when we telephone someone, visit them or in general spend a day catching up with family or friends: so why do we perceive getting the ironing, cleaning, vacuuming, book keeping, bill paying etc. as being more valid of our attention when in the final run it is the people in our lives that make them a valid life?

This was brought home to me big time yesterday from events both positive and negative.
First of course was my morning coffee up in the village where I have several acquaintances with whom to discuss this, that and the other ranging from how to plant flowers to world affairs in China, via the latest in cars or laws (we certainly never limit ourselves in the subject matter).
As it is the holiday season everyone is just that much more relaxed – we were even greeting those who normally restrict themselves to a simple hello so got a bit later than usual. Then once I had turned on the computer I saw a message from one of the USA nephews that led to the wonderful ringing of my “Skype” bell announcing the “call” of my nephew in California. If that wasn’t fabulous enough, his older brother was also there and we had a talk fest lasting over an hour – my younger son being in the house I even thought to have him come say hello. Modern technology can be useful.

At the tale end of that, another call came on the normal telephone this time with very upsetting news the details of which are way too long for this blog. Needless to say though I was up until around midnight fielding text messages and receiving and sending e-mails. Hopefully L is now on her way to friends and a halfway positive Christmas.

Finally lunchtime, a few errands, coffee with another friend, e-mails with yet others and the day was done. Did I get much crossed off my “to do” list? Nope – did I have enough time to interact with family and friends – Yep.
So I’ll take any time that I can get; time to connect with the other humans sojourning here on planet earth for whatever time we have.

Hamburg

Paris

Geneva

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice or…


The shortest day of the year, which also turned out to be the sunniest that we have had in a long time. Does the sun make even the shortest day seem longer? I’ll give a resounding yes to that.

Not to miss a minute of it I had a hurried lunch then went for a gloriously long walk without a hat, without gloves and the entire time under the sun: unusual enough to invalidate the fact that the day is so short –
The sun here arose at 8:15 and will set at 16:52.

In pursuing my knowledge of useful (some would argue that it isn’t, that’s their problem) information concerning our own winter solstice, I discovered that actually tomorrow the 22nd  (at 00:03 to be precise) is the day in which we lose less than a second of sunlight thus making tomorrow our winter solstice, albeit in the middle of the night so personally I will choose to celebrate today (it does vary from year to year as much as three days).

More trivia:
  • This particular day – winter solstice – in Geneva is 7 hours and 10 minutes shorter than the June solstice (for those of you who think we are just imagining the shorter days)
  • Daylight today is 8 hours and 36 minutes making it just a bit more than a third of a day (no wonder we feel like we are living in the dark).
  • Although we always think that then we start gaining time rapidly, in effect it will not be before next year that we will have seen even one minute longer to our days.
  • Entertaining that the shortest day is also officially the beginning of winter (of course by our temperatures this year, that may well be true as we have not yet seen normal cold and won’t for a bit as we are due the hot “foehn” winds Tuesday.
  • There are also a nautical twilight, a civil twilight and an astro twilight…
  • Solar noon is not at noon: 12:33
    Today Moonrise and moon set are within minutes of sunrise and sunset – guess that’s why we don’t see it currently. 

Scenes from today's stroll through the countryside 


sorry about the quality: taken into the sun..

probably cable barrels, but I like to think of them as kegs

only a bit of haze in the sky

not sure what grain but back-lit by the sun it was beautiful

grainy as some 100 feet away: still not every day that I see a Great Blue Heron!

Friday, December 19, 2014

It’s the clouds that make life interesting…


Not the unspotted blue-azure skies.

Never a sun coming up over the mountains or ocean – never mind a city or man-made spires – is as beautiful as the one coming up amongst the clouds, reflected in a lake, seen through the branches of a tree or from anywhere that gives a different perspective.

So it is in life: those who have suffered no loss can not understand the loveliness of someone’s presence; those who have had no pain can not imagine how wonderful the absence thereof can be; those who have had no sorrow have also probably not known great joy; those whose paths have always been straight and narrow have not known the beauty of the interesting things around the bends or over the rocks; those who have not known love, can not appreciate its absence; those who have not experienced the dessert will not have known the beauty of changing patterns in the sand; those who have not been in the mountains will not be aware of the solidness and energy held therein; those who have not known cold will appreciate less warmth and those who have not known heat will not remember the loveliness of cold.

And it continues: for almost every sight, sound, taste or touch there is a ying and a yang; one without the other is not as interesting.

 
Sunrise December 19

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Une lumière dans… Light...


La grisaille ambiante. In the ambient gray 


Non, je ne parle pas des merveilleux arbres de Noël dont voici deux exemples: quoique

très lumineux et toujours les bienvenues, je pense plutôt à notre grande nouvelle : la route est de nouveau ouverte!



Pour ceux qui ne le savent pas, la route entre moi et mon village a été bloquée depuis longtemps suite à des travaux pour le changement du système des eaux-usées. Combien de kilomètres en plus j’ai dû faire ces derniers mois – dans un sens c’était 4 km, dans l’autre presque 4.5. Chaque fois qu’il fallait chercher un paquet à la poste, chaque fois que j’allais voir deux amies habitant au-delà du fameux croisement des chemins, chaque fois que j’allais faire des courses en France, chaque fois que je voulais aller à la décharge, chaque vois que…. Bien vous voyez c’était devenu très embêtant de toujours devoir faire le tour.



Maintenant grâce à Noël nous sommes du nouveau libérés de ces contraintes – ma journée et mon avenir sur les routes à Noël sont ensoleillés, malgré le ciel gris et le temps pluvieux.


As I don't think much sometimes of the translations, here is the text also in English - if anyone who reads English wants to amuse themselves  they can have Google translate the above and see how close it comes to my own English verions.

Corsier
St.Maurice


Light …

In the ambient gray.



No, I am not talking about the lovely Christmas trees (two examples here): although luminous and always welcome, I am thinking more of the latest BIG news to us in my community: the road is again open!



For those who were unaware of the situation, the road linking me to the village has been blocked for quite some time as they are working on the new system of transportation (underground pipeline) for rainwater. How many kilometers did I have to drive every time these past few months: 4 in one direction, 4 and a half in the other. Each time that I wanted to pick up a package at the post office, each time that I went to see two of my friends who live in the village, each time I went to get groceries in neighboring France, each time that I had items to take up to the recycling center, each time that I … As you can see we were mighty sick of having to always go around.



Now, thanks to the holiday season, we are finally free from these constraints – my day and my future on the roads at Christmas have suddenly been “lightened” in spite of the gray skies and wet weather.

Sunrise Dec.17, 2014

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sisters or…


I wouldn’t exactly call them “dumb” animals.

If one is lucky – and I am more than blessed – one has a sister with whom to share life, all those memories going back to well-I-can’t-remember or do-you-remember times.

I was even luckier as I got two blood sisters and several more that although we may not be directly linked by blood, surely we were at some point in the past – how else to explain our connection?

Humans are simply animals (I know, I know, we would prefer to think that we are some higher level of animal, but as far as I can see we are perhaps being egotistical to think so) and I would swear that most animals of the supposedly lower order have memories, have emotions and are even capable of planning.

How else can I explain the fact that although most of the time my two cats live separate lives – each with her preference for sleeping place, staring-out-the-window space and it’s my side of the bowl – occasionally they communicate: mainly by cleaning each other, but around 19:00 every evening they both go crazy dashing after imaginary insects, their own tails, each other and anything else that moves. What is the reason? Where is the link? I haven’t a clue.

That’s interesting enough, but imagine my surprise the other day when I came into the office where I have two identical baskets, one for each, to find them entwined in one. Was one or the other sad? Lonely?  If only I could read their minds I would dearly love to know why they felt that they needed to be together.

I only know that sisters often do.

keeping one eye on the world - don't bother my sister!

togetherness

I'll watch - you sleep.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The marathon or...



Christmas baking.

It has started, the annual baking marathon.  Every year at some point I feel the need to make Christmas Cookies: this year it was today.

I grew up in a family where baking was something that happened every week at least once, my mother although a dietitian, hadn’t learned that sugar was evil and even if we didn’t have a dessert with every meal, we always had cinnamon rolls on the weekend – usually Saturdays – and waffles or pancakes slathered in brown sugar and syrup on Sundays. For our birthdays we got to actually chose our cake from her repertoire (I still have the little booklet) and we not only had our mother, but also our Aunt, her younger sister.

She was single, a surgical nurse and lived most of our young lives not more than a mile away.  Come Christmas she started the cookie baking early and on Christmas Eve we had no limits – my mother, astonishingly enough as she was rather strict otherwise – never made any comment: it was understood that we were allowed as many as we wanted and if that led to some of us getting upset stomachs, we still loved it and never would have said stop.

I have obviously carried this particular trait over into my own life – much prefer baking to cooking and Christmas is mine: even if as a family we were often either in the USA or in Germany, I still baked cookies. One famous year when the older son was 2 we lived in an apartment in between selling the first house and moving into the second and I could only make a very limited amount due to lack of freezer space.

Imagine my astonishment when I went to make up the Christmas Eve platter to find only 20 left!
Husband and son had known that there weren’t too many hiding places – I actually pulled rank that year and
had what I wanted before allowing them more.

In 8 hours I managed to produce two types of cookies and the Christmas cakes. Now for the clean up: a much less attractive task. 

It won’t be the end of the cookie baking, but I have made a dent in my yearly marathon.




Saturday, December 13, 2014

Winter compensations



Those of us who live in countries and latitudes where the weather gets cold and the sun almost disappears learn to appreciate the alleviating climate changes, which allow us to appreciate the beauty of winter even before the world is turned into a fairyland of ice and snow.

These past few days have had more than their share of lovely as the following photos will attest.

setting moon Dec.8, 2014

The saying may well go: "red at night, sailor's delight; red in the morning, sailor's warning", I say red in the morning is a photographer's dream - three mornings in a row there have been varying shade of orange, pink and red.

Dec.10
Dec. 10

Dec.12


Dec.13

Dec.13   
Then it isn't only the NSA that is spying - someone has managed to put eyes in the sky!

Dec.12

Dec.12

Friday, December 12, 2014

Pure Indulgence is…


the fortuitous combination of lunch with good friends followed by a full-body scrub in the afternoon.

Wednesday I meet with the old and the new treasurer of the association for whom I have done the data basing and book keeping for over 20 years to hand off this years things up-to-date: I am now officially retired.

That meeting meant changing a long-planned luncheon date and I was extremely lucky that my three friends were able to do so. We returned to the Bristol Hotel’s restaurant as over the years have found that it really can’t be beat, as much for the space between the tables, allowing for non-shouting conversations, as for the delicious concoctions of the chef and the attentive service.

They have recently changed a few things (new interesting swirly carpet for one) and one addition is intriguing and a very good idea: a small round token that one places either on the green “classic service” side or on the “red” more discreet service side.  What a wonderful idea for that serious business conversation or tête-à-tête. We left ours on the green, but I am tempted to return and use the red side to see the difference.




From the delectable turnip with nuts “mise en bouche” (an appetite whetter served before the first course), through the salmon with avocado sauce starter to the main, fish with its “foam” and mashed potatoes over artichokes and vegetables, all was delightful.  Going back out into the cold and gray from the warm and cozy with good conversation was a shock to the system.



Later I went to the Clarins care center to use the coupon that I had received for my birthday: a full-body scrub with the application of lotion thereafter had me oozing back into my car – just barely capable of driving home, where, in order to not break the mood, I indulged in squash soup and a taped game show before floating up to my bed and sweet dreams. Putty would have had more energy than I at that point.

Not many days can beat that one.