Archive for July, 2008

Jul 24 2008

Orange squares of possibility

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Today we returned to the Swiss consulate in New York, where we had dropped off our passports last week.  Both times we were there, the receptionist, switching back and forth among many languages and computer/telephone/person standing in front of him, was really confused as to what we wanted.  It seemed that our visas were not being processed in quite the standard way. Fortunately, a very nice woman was taking care of our visas and somehow knew immediately who we were and what we needed.  So with hardly any trouble beyond initial confusion, we were handed back our passports this morning with bright orangey-yellow visas pasted inside.  I even got my silly regular white self-addressed envelope back (they asked for a self addressed envelope; I didn’t know what it was for!) but Seth did not (see Seth’s post, Visa Approved, if you have no idea what I’m talking about).  Another bureaucratic hurdle hurdled.  Check!  I put them immediately into a little ziplock baggy to protect them from the rain.

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Jul 23 2008

Bike Sharing in Lausanne

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Looks pretty sweet…

If you are in Lausanne and you need a bike, you can ask to Lausanne Roule. 3 stations are available, in Lausanne (under the Grand Pont), Renens (Railway Station) and Vevey (Railway Station). Bikes are given for free (a deposit of 20 CHF or 20 EUR is asked) for the first day (from 7.30 AM to 9.30 PM), then a fare of 1 CHF per hour is demanded. Bikes can be taken in one station and returned in another, but if this transfer involves Vevey station, an additional 10 CHF are required.

Bikes can be taken on Lausanne buses and metro and CFF trains. An additional ticket is required.

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Jul 22 2008

It’s official!

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We bought our tickets! Non-stop from a New York airport that’s actually in New Jersey (Newark) to the Geneva Cointrin International Airport—which is partly in France.

New York/Newark, NJ (EWR – Liberty) to Geneva, Switzerland (GVA)

Depart: 5:55 p.m. Fri., Aug. 22, 2008 New York/Newark, NJ (EWR – Liberty)
Arrive: 7:45 a.m. +1 Day Sat., Aug. 23, 2008 Geneva, Switzerland (GVA)
Aircraft: Boeing 767-400ER
Travel Time:7 hr 50 mn

After confirming the purchase, Continental helpfully suggested we buy some carbon offsets. They partner with Sustainable Travel International, which calculated that the two of us will contribute 1.1624 metric tons on our 3868 mile trip (that’s one way). I’ve heard a bit of the arguments for and against carbon offsets, including the hilarious Cheat Neutral. Obviously, conservation is ideal, but that’s not an option in this case (though we are flying non-stop…does that help?)

In any case, there’s other ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Two awesome ones I’ve come across recently are the PB&J Campaign, which makes the case for planty meals over meaty ones:

Every time you eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or other plant-based meal instead of one that features red meat, such as a hamburger, you save the equivalent of almost 3.5 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. Eating a strictly plant-based meal compared to the average American lunch still saves 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. That’s about 40 percent of the carbon you would save by driving a hybrid vehicle for the day instead of a standard sedan.

And then there’s Paradise Unpaved, in which a committed individual turns her paved driveway in Toronto into a green driveway and flower/herb garden. It’s all detailed with nice illustrations.

But I’m already a vegetarian (though the PB&J Campaign questions my pesco-ovo-lacto habits) and I don’t have a driveway to dig up.

So if you want to help, here’s the pitch. 1.1624 metric tons of carbon is 2,563 pounds. At 2.5 pounds per plant-based meal that’s 1026 meals—or just one person becoming a vegetarian for a year (assuming you eat carbony foods 3 times a day). So that’s the story. Either I buy the offsets or someone reading this decides to become a vegetarian. For just one year. You can have the ~$30 that carbon offsets cost, if you want.

P.S. Don’t book your tickets by calling Continental because they levy outrageous surchages. But if you do need to call them or any other large corporation with an automated prompt (say, to request planty carbon-lite meals) use GetHuman. The preferred method for Continental? Keep hitting 00 until it gives up and connects you to a person.

P.P.S. So much for entering the 2,000 watt society. Maybe in 2009?

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Jul 22 2008

August 22–it’s almost official

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Buying a one-way ticket to Geneva is all but impossible (wayyyyy more expensive than round-trip). Unless one flies Aer Lingus (Irish, also a hilarious name) and stops in Dublin, which my parents reminded me would be a terrible idea while we are carrying the maximum amount of luggage. So any of you planning to visit us, make sure you go round trip–no permanent couch surfing chez Jackie and Seth. Also, since my parents are going to South Carolina the week we want to leave and we were paralyzed by indecision, we haven’t bought tickets. But we plan to right now. Leaving on August 22nd, direct to Geneva. Round trip, doomed to be changed for round #2.

In addition, I discovered more Swiss paraphernalia from age 14. Namely, awesome cow and edelweiss socks. Here they are!

Cow Feet

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Jul 16 2008

Jackie, age 14. Also, cows.

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I was digging through old photos of our family trip to Switzerland when I was 14 (August 2000).  I found a full printed photo album, and a few digital photos!  It was our first digital camera, and not many pictures could fit on a card.  Here’s a sample:

In Gandria

Brienz Path

Swiss Cows

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Jul 10 2008

A bi gezunt!

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In recognition of our one and only commenter (so far), here’s an excerpt I enjoyed from Culture Smart! Switzerland: A Quick Guide to Customs & Etiquette:

Somewhat like the noisy Irish family in London who gave English the term “Hooligan,” the family name Bünzli provides the Swiss with a name that epitomizes “Swissness.” “Bünzli” can be summed up in the word conformist, even boring; someone who always does the correct thing and never rebels. Hardly a hooligan, but you get the point.

And in honor of that commenter, here’s the Wikipedia entry for “Hooliganism.” And here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the American version, “Joe Schmoe” (or is it “John Doe?”):

Joe Shmoe (also spelled Joe Schmoe or Joe Schmo) is one of the most commonly used fictional names in American English. It is used to identify the typical, everyday person who does not have any special status, frequently in contrast to some group. Adding a “Shm” to the beginning of a word is meant to diminish, negate, or dismiss an argument (for instance, “rain, shmain, we’ve got a game to play”). This process was adapted in English from the use of the “Shm” prefix, in Yiddish to dismiss something; as in fancy “shmancy”.

The Yiddish etymology (questionable, in my opinion—should I update the Wikipedia article to say that it’s not citing its sources?) reminds me of my favorite Yiddish joke:

Cancer? Cancer shmancer. A bi gezunt!

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