Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ski de piste

Most of my department went downhill skiing on Friday afternoon. It took a little bit over an hour to get there. Here is link to a web cam of the specific part of the resort we went to. It was the best snow I've ever seen, but I can't complain.

Edited to Add: I have received a few questions regarding if I actually went skiing. The answer is yes, I did ski. I did 7 or 8 runs during the afternoon.

Is my secret account no longer secret?

Articles like this are being printed in the newspaper with increasing frequency. As far as I can tell, the only people who are impacted are either non-Swiss or in the banking industry. Most people don't seem too concerned with the issue.

I guess we'd be among the first to get sucked in

Here is an interesting article about some work being done at CERN and the lawsuit in US Federal Court to stop it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Power of the Franc (or the lack of power in the USD)

I am sure everyone knows how the the dollar is doing against the Pound and Euro, but I don't think the Swiss Franc to USD numbers show up in the nightly news. The chart below (from shows how the Franc has increased in value over the last few months.

The exchange rate is a daily topic of conversation here because most the people I know either have expenses in non CHF (Swiss Francs) currencies or are paid in USD.

Swiss map

Here is and good map of Switzerland.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Three Year Anniversary!

Today is Rowan and his bunny's three year anniversary. The first picture is them today and the 2nd picture is when they first met.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Santa didn't come last night

Rowan came into our bedroom at six this morning and announced that Santa didn't come last night. He was very disappointed.

Here is the first of what I am guessing will be many letters to Santa this year


Dear Santa,

Please bring me a car carrier for Christmas. I realize I have to wait for 9 months until Christmas.

Please also bring a tanker truck and more cars.

I would also like books, big trucks, trains, legos, and lincoln logs.

Thank you,

Time Zones!

Here is a good web site for calculating the time in different parts of the world.
On a related topic, Europe has sprung forward as of this morning.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Saint Patrick's Day Info

from swissinfo

When Irish history met Swiss hospitality
During the "Great Winter" of 1608, a group of Irish nobles passed through Switzerland on a journey of exile which marked a turning point in Irish history. On March 17 the Irish celebrate their national day, and this year Switzerland has a significant place in the celebrations which are linked with the 400th anniversary of the "Flight of the Earls".

Tadhg Ó Cianáin, the scribe who was accompanying the Gaelic princes, said of the Swiss people that they were "the most just, honest, and untreacherous in the world, and the most faithful to their promises".

The Irish group had set sail from Donegal in the northwest of Ireland in September 1607 and later left some of their party in Louvain in Belgium.

A group of 30 men and women arrived in Basel in March 1608 and travelled from there to Lucerne. They then crossed Lake Lucerne heading for the Gotthard Pass. Their aim was to reach Milan, then under Spanish control, and seek military assistance from the Spanish.

On St Patrick's Day 1608 the party, led by earls Hugh O'Neill of Tyrone and Rory O'Donnell of Tyrconnel, crossed the Devil's Bridge near Andermatt in the lower reaches of the Gotthard Pass.

This part of the journey did not go smoothly, as the Irish ambassador to Switzerland and keen historian James Sharkey explained to swissinfo.

"A packhorse belonging to O'Neill fell down an ice-bound ravine in the middle of a winter storm. They tried desperately and succeeded in getting the horse up but they lost a substantial fortune in gold."

"It has never been found to this day. I sometimes joke to my Swiss friends that it's only a coincidence that Zurich in the years afterwards became one of the great financial centres of Europe."

This year the Irish Nobel Peace Prize Laureate John Hume will join the ambassador, members of the Swiss-Irish community and descendants of the Ulster families that took part in the Flight at Andermatt to retrace the steps of the ill-fated travellers.

The timing of the Irish chieftains' journey was unfortunate. A rapprochement was taking place between Spain and England as France began to emerge as a greater mutual enemy.

Far from returning to Ireland to reclaim their lands and re-establish the Gaelic way of life, they all died in exile.

"Although the Irish were greeted with great honour when they arrived in Spanish-controlled Milan, the secret order of the day was that they were not to be allowed to journey to Spain and the group was diverted to Rome," Sharkey said.

Extracts from Ó Cianáin's account are on display in the Flight of the Earls exhibition at the Zurich James Joyce Foundation.
Cultural ties between Switzerland and Ireland stretch back much further than the 1600s.

A thousand years before the Flight of the Earls, a band of Irish monks, led by St Columbanus also crossed through Switzerland on their missions, founding European monasteries, notably the abbey of St Gallen.

As a result of the wave of Irish monks and their disciples who passed through and lived in Switzerland throughout the Middle Ages, Switzerland is now home to a significant collection of Early Irish manuscripts, including the eighth century Irish Gospel Book of St Gallen, which is ranked among the greats.

Edel Bhreathnach of the Micheál Ó Cléirigh Institute in Dublin told swissinfo that one of the principal sources for scholars of Old Irish is a Latin Grammar housed in the Abbey Library (Stiftsbibliothek) of St Gallen.

"The St Gallen manuscript is important because we don't have many surviving manuscripts in Ireland prior to the 12th century so we look to the Continent for the first evidence of written Irish."

It is worth returning to Ó Cianáin's words, translated from the Irish, for his final summing up of "the country of the Swiss".

"It was strong, well fortified, uneven, mountainous, extensive, having bad roads, and no supremacy, rule or claim to submission by any king or prince in the world over the inhabitants."

Happy Belated Saint Patrick's Day!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day
The holiday doesn't seem to be celebrated too much here.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

How did I miss that?

March 10th was our 1 year anniversary of arriving in Switzerland.  I don't think we've traveled as much as we originally hoped for, but I think it has been a successful year.  Only 11 more years until we can apply for Swiss citizenship.

Niamh has spent more of her life as a resident of Switzerland than of the US.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A family outing

Here is a picture from our hike on Sunday.

You want coffee with that?

We (the McCann 4 plus Emily's parents) went to Aigle yesterday and checked out the castle. It is still closed for the off season, so we just looked at the outside. We then headed to a restaurant that Gary had found in one of the guidebooks. We navigated to it using the GPS and it was a good learning experience.

Emily had Rosti, Rowan and I had pizza, and the Winchells and Niamh had fondue. They only got fondue for two, but should probably have had fondue for three given how much Niamh ate. Gary ordered a coffee to go with the fondue. The waiter got a big smile on his face and validated that Gary really wanted coffee. He then explained that the proper beverage choices to accompany fondue are white wine or tea. The Winchells had tea.

Emily, Krista and the kids headed back to Morges after lunch, while Gary and I headed up the mountain. We took the ASD train to Les Diablerets.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Daylight Savings least for the US

Just a reminder that even though the US starts daylight savings time on the 9th, it won't happen in Europe until the end of the month.  

This means that Morges will only be 9 hours a head of Alaska and 8 hours ahead of the West Coast for the rest of March.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Je voudrais...

Je voudrais du sirop pour la toux svp .

That is how I started my conversation at the pharmacy. Luckily there weren't too many follow up questions and those that did come I was preapred for thanks to our department admin.

End result: I think I have the proper cough medicine. It tastes really bad, so it must be doing some good.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

2007 Taxes: Step 1

One of the benefits included in the relocation package is that the company will pay for an accounting firm to do both my US and Swiss taxes this year. I had to fill out the online questionnaire and submit scanned copies of all necessary documents by the 29th. It was sort of like using Turbo Tax, but not as user friendly.

I believe the Swiss return must be submitted in March. We get an automatic extension for the US taxes, but I'm not sure how long it is.

Next year I want to try to do my own taxes, but I'll really need to work on my French. The government provides software to use to complete the return, but it is only in official languages.

My first warning from the US embassy

I had heard that the US embassy will send out warnings if needed, but this is the first one I have seen. I'll have to check the web tomorrow (no paper on Sunday-at least the one we subscribe too).
Saturday, March 1, 2008:

A pro-Serbian group has been granted permission to hold a demonstration in downtown Bern on Saturday, March 1 2008 between the hours of 1500 and 1700. The demonstration will take place on the Bundesplatz and is expected to involve up to 2000 demonstrators. The group has not been given permission to leave the Bundesplatz or to hold a march. The group is protesting the government of Switzerland's recent decision to recognize Kosovo's independence. Several demonstrations have been held by pro-Serbian groups throughout Europe in the last week and some have turned violent resulting in injuries to police officers and protesters. The possibility exists for the group to focus its attention on U.S. interests. The U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that American citizens avoid the area near the Bundesplatz on Saturday afternoon and early evening. A large police presence is expected and if the situation deteriorates, the police will use rubber bullets and teargas against the demonstrators.

Although the demonstration is not directed at the U.S. Embassy or U.S. interests, pro-Serbian groups view the United States Government as a leading supporter of Kosovo's independence. We wish to remind American citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. American citizens are therefore urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations. If you encounter any problems, the police can be reached at

For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet website at <> , where the current Worldwide Caution and Consular Information Sheet for Switzerland and Liechtenstein can be found. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays)

The U.S. Embassy in Bern can be reached at 031-357-7011; the after hours emergency number is 031-357-7777; the fax number is 031-357-7320. The Embassy's web site, which includes consular information and the most recent messages to the American community, is at <>

A trip to the dentist

I have been putting off going to the dentist for a couple of reasons:

* I had bad experiences with an evil* dentist as a child
* I was told that the dentist speaks English, but the dental hygienist and receptionist do not.

*My mother believes my first dentist qualifies for sainthood.

The experience was much better than I expected. I had to fill out a medical history, but no insurance information. I believe that many people do not have dental insurance here and I'm not sure how much Agilent's insurance covers, so it will be interesting to get the bill.

This dental office is a bit different than the dentist office's I've been to recently. My last dentist had five chairs and seemed to keep them all full. This dentist only had two chairs - one for the dentist and one for the hygienist. I'm hoping that is just how it is down here and not an indication that he can't get enough business due to his skills.

All in all it was a good trip- one cracked filling which was replaced earlier this week.