Sunday, January 31, 2010

Piano Lessons

M1 is taking piano lessons now, and from my vantage point under the piano, I can testify that there appears to be no lack of motivation to practice. I can also tell you what her lessons include: most notably she has learned to play "Happy Birthday" this week. Over and over. and. over. And often between the hours of 7 and 8 in the morning, which I know is permitted under the "10pm to 7am" quiet hours custom, but it is still considered an ungodly hour of the morning by those of us who seldom go to bed the same day we got up.

Other than the serenades at the first crack of dawn, M1 continues to be a bright spot of joy for me--the cheery sort of little friend who stops in her tracks to jump up and down and wave when she spies my bus rolling by. Or if she's playing at a friend's house and sees me coming up the road, she and her friend will both stop playing to yell hello and ask me just where I think I'm going, or where I've been, and what's in my bag. M1 goes bouncing off to kindergarten every day, all bundled up against the weather, and the picture of anticipation and contentment. It's too bad you can't all meet her...she really is great, even considering the piano playing.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A mountain. I don't know which one.

Yesterday I drew a house warming gift for my friend Joan's stylish new flat. As usual, I didn't make much effort to take a nice photo of it before I wrapped it up and hustled out the door to the party...but here it is anyhow. I drew this from a photo I took last year in Bürchen in the Wallis. (I've been informed it's the Bietschhorn, by the way).


Monday, January 25, 2010


Yesterday Richard and I took pictures in Basel, and since i haven't ever put proper pictures of Basel up, I thought I'd post a few for those of you who haven't seen the city.

This is the Basel Münster by the Rhine. On warmer days, people float this stretch of river with their dry clothes in a bag, but on overcast January days, there's hardly a soul near the river, let alone in it.

These pictures were all taken in the afternoon, but the early mornings on the river are really nice. I used to have class at 8 am in the second building from the right, where I sat by the window and watched the sun doing it's morning calisthenics each Thursday while the barges slipped up the Rhine. It's a nice place to watch the city wake up, and--oh, about a Wordsworth poem to help you imagine it:

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This city now doth, like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie
Open unto the fields and to the sky,
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendor, valley, rock or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

Are you feeling the moment now? (Yes, he did compose that on Westminster Bridge, but I'm sure he would have said the same had he been standing on Mittlere Brücke).

One of several Ferries. That's Klein Basel on the opposite bank.

Steph Chasing pigeons at Barfi...I was trying to encourage them to fly for the picture. Uncooperative little so and sos.

A street in one of the older parts of town.

Arches in the cloister connected to the Munster.

Richard (Nixon) in the Rat house. Really! :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

job apps

I've been very busy hunting down work possibilities lately.

In the past week, I've applied to be...

-a first grade classroom assistant
-a technical writer for Day Software projects
-a documentation writer for IBM for pharmaceutical software
-an office assistant/technical writer for software projects of unspecified sort
-an Assistant for Engineering Documentation Management
-a Zebra fish care-taker at a scientific lab
-an Internal Communications Associate at a pharmaceutical company
-a study-skills workshop leader for college students
-a translator and writer in the education sector
-a house and cat sitter
-a baby sitter of twins
-a cleaning lady/laundry lady
-an English teacher
-an Editorial Assistant
-a warehouse worker
-and of course, a painter of master pieces (but that didn't require an application)

Whew! That's a lot of applications. I'm relatively qualified for all of them too, except I have no experience caring for Zebra Fish.

I'm reminded of this Big Bang Theory episode where Sheldon is out of work and, in his down time, starts experimenting with injecting fish with luminous jelly fish DNA to make them glow in the dark so that he can sell them as night lights and make billions.

Consider yourselves warned, Zebra fish.

And in other news, I wish you could smell this perfume I'm thinking of buying. I have a little sample on a card...mmm...smells good. I've been advised I should consider buying it BEFORE my interviews. Could help.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Peace and Conflict in Africa book review

Check out my first published book review on page 23 of the SGAS newsletter (first pdf on the list).

Zaccheus, you come down! And the cold war.

My monkey little brother, climbing to the very highest places in Pfeffingen.

Ben and Dom, on our way to Storm the Castle and conquer the world. They're both kinda making funny faces here...

Castle successfully stormed; world more or less conquered.

Colmar, France, with Diana, Gina, and Daniel, who was kindly taking the photo. (My, what nice scarves we have, Diana!)

Thanks, Gina, for sharing your pictures!

Good news on the art front! It seems I will have two painting commissions in the very near future. Of all the kinds of work I do, from cleaning toilets to correcting people's sentences to writing executive presentations, this is one of my favorite paid activities.

I'm considering applying to become an Army historian in Virginia at the Army War College. Among other intriguing things about this job, it comes with top secret security clearance. I know people with top secret clearance are a dime a dozen, but sounds cool and entitles a person to read all sorts of interesting things. About half the jobs I'm interested in these days include security clearance, and somehow starting with that subject this week, Valda and I were discussing our relative potential as successful spies. I'd make a lousy spy myself. I'm a terrible liar, and worse than that, I'd probably just open right up and tell anyone who asked what I was doing. Valda, on the other hand, is a "worryingly good" liar when she wants to be, and loves extracting information. We both agreed that to be a good spy, she'd also need to maximize her aura of mystery and wear red lipstick. There's another reason I can't be a spy--red isn't my best color, and I hate the way lipstick feels. After that conversation, however, I got wondering about spies, what motivates them, and what distinguishes the successful from the unsuccessful, and spent an evening watching a documentary on youtube about Cold War spies. None of them wore red lipstick. Lots of them died. (Could there be a causal relationship here??) And as far as I can tell, the high possibility that a spy will be ratted out by someone else in counter-intelligence is the worst part of the job. The documentary is worth watching, though, and includes interviews with US, British, German and KGB people discussing their personal involvement in Cold War intelligence.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Es Schneielet...

It's snowing in my beautiful, cozy little village, and I have this children's song stuck in my head.

I'm trying to unstick that version. It's a bit redundant. This one is slightly better, as far as songs stuck in one's head go:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Canoe drawing in progress

I don't know about you, but I think painting at midnight is one of life's finest pleasures. Here's what I'm busy working on. I'm painting this from a photo I took last April when Raph and I went canoeing at the Bieler See. Your thoughts on it so far are very welcome. The background and grass are pretty much done, but the water, trees, boat and benches all need work. there will be some little people having a picnic on the edge of the shore, too, when I'm done. The drawing is 5 x 12 inches. Sorry about the kind of rotten photo.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sliding down Mountains and other Winter Highlights

I was very pleased to have Brian here with me for 12 days over Christmas. After my busy trip to South Africa, my project milestone presentation, and then company, Christmas, and New Years, I have lots of catching up to do on just about everything: vacuuming, laundry, photos, emails, thank you cards, bills...School is on track though. :) Here's just a bit of what I've been doing since I returned to Switzerland, and I'll try to post some further updates soon.

Here we have my wonderful little brother and my wonderful Christmas tree--my two favorite things in my apartment for the past 2 weeks! Dom and I picked out the tree just before Brian came. I was delighted to have such a tall tree (2 meters!) but when I got home and started to put the lights on, I realized it wasn't a proper* tree at all, but a cactus masquerading as a Blue Spruce. Even with gloves, decorating was a painful process, and that's why the lights look like I just threw them at the tree and left them where they landed.

We spent a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon careening down the side of a mountain toward Grindelwald. Skiing is a possibility yet for this year, but sledding is still my preferred means of transportation down steep white slopes.

I'm standing here around the corner from the cable car stop at First.

We came around a bend in the path and slid to a stop right in front of Restaurant Rasthysi, where the old man who made my Irish coffee had a wonderfully crinkly face, like many people in the mountains do, and he was playing Mark Knopfler in the background, and was kind enough to talk to me in Swiss German, though I could tell from his eyes my accent amused him. According to the trusty internet, his name might be Mr. Rolf Schneller.

This building is across from the Rhine Falls at Schaffhausen. This is the largest waterfall in Europe if I'm not mistaken, and so that you, too, can experience the falls, I've procured this video for you.

Imagine everything grey and dripping, and you'll have a good idea of what it was like the day Brian and I were there with Hans, Dom and Ben. Ben hopped on one foot the whole length of the footbridge that stretches across the waterfall, because I bet him he couldn't. I owe him a franc.

We took a day trip to Luzern with Janet and a new friend named Nargess.

Brian and Nargess and some kid we don't know were racing on a rowing simulator. I competed once too, but I fell off my seat and then my feet were stuck in the stirrups and everyone beat me while I was still trying to get back in the saddle.

We are standing at one end of the famous wooden bridge in Luzern. This one was made by the same guy who made the bridge I jumped off in the summer (remember that? they're very similar bridges, only the one I jumped off is longer). One more Bridge picture for the fun of it. You're sure to recognize this:

Annnd, there ya have it. Installment one of blogs about the holidays, the Christmas sight seeing, and my time with Brian.

*No, I do not consider cacti proper trees, no matter what your taxonomy book says.