Friday, August 29, 2008

Keyboard Twisters from Y to Z

Recent IM conversation with Jace...

Jace says: Yellow yaks yell at your yoyos

Jace says: when you have mastered that sentence I can pass you to the next level
Jace says: Zack zooms to the zoo on his zoomer.
Jessica says: Yellow yaks yell at your yoyos
Jace says: that will help as well
Jessica says: Zack zooms to the zoo on his zoomer.
Jessica says: Yes! I did not even have to backspace once!
Jessica says: Zack zooms to the zoo on his zoomer! Yes!
Jace says: Jolly Jessica juggles jam
Jace says: hehehe
Jessica says: that is not z or y!
Jace says: all these tongue twisters

Um, let me explain. The German keyboard is a bit different than the English keyboard. In addition to having all the letters with umlaut (ä, ö, and ü...), there are a few keys in different places as well... for example the question mark and the number sign and other random punctutation marks.

But the one that will get you every time is the placement of Y and Z on the German keyboard. They are swapped. So all day I end up having to backspace out of ridiculous spelling errors like, "Are zou going to lunch now?" and "Wow du hast ein sehr speyialer Yoo?" Ok that last one I made up, but you get the picture. It's a pain.

So Jace found some fun tongue twisters for me to practice during a particularlz... damn particularly slow period on Friday afternoon last week, and they helped. I think.

Yello yaks yell at your yo yos.
Zak zooms to the zoo in his zoomer.

Now if only I didn't have to switch back and forth for my work and private laptops! Doh!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Exposed: Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte

Repeat after me... "Not all Black Forest Cakes are created equal."
Remember this. Be this.

When we were in Lucerne for my birthday, we all had cake, and Jace and Ingo had Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte, or Black Forest Cake, or literally Black Forest Cherry Torte.

I had a bite of Jace's - the fact that this was allowed to occur should be a post in itself, as Jace is usually pretty protective of his food - and it was really good. Here is the cake from Heini's now.

I mentioned the yumminess factor to Ingo and he immediately told me how I had no idea what I was talking about, and that coming from Germany he knew what a Black Forest Cake should taste like and from eating his own piece he told me that this was not it.

So disappointed, I said, "Oh... ok..." and waited for the faithful day in which I would experience the real deal, and being a true friend, Ingo didn't make us wait long.

When we were in Memmingen, Ingo's family purchased 5 slices of the Scharzwaelder Torte for dessert for us to try the real thing, and let's just say... although I hate to admit it ... Ingo was right.
This piece that was created by a German Conditorei was lightly chocolately with really delicious, fluffy whipped cream, and the cherries - the telling part of all real black forest tortes - were tart but sweet and laden with Kirschliquor. DELISH. It wasn't as dense as the one from Lucerne and the flavors were much more intense.

If you get a chance to have the 'real deal' - most likely from the Black Forest region in Germany or Bavaria, please do. It is a treat. Thanks again, Ingo!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Switzerland... The Second Happiest Place on Earth!

Shining Happy People in Switzerland.

Are you feeling happy?

According to Adrian White, "an analytic social psychologist that used the responses of 80,000 people worldwide to map out subjective well-being," if you live in Switzerland you should be feeling pretty darn happy because according to his results Switzerland is the second happiest place on Earth (close on the heels of Denmark and of course Disneyworld, hehe).

And what makes one happy in particular? Lots of Swiss wealth via those Swiss banks? Prosperity in the form of a shiny, black BMW? 12 kg of premium chocolate per person each year? Cheese fondue waterfalls?

Nope. According to Mr. White it's healthcare, high GDP and education.

Imagine that... Healthy, wealthy and wise... equals HAPPY.

Those really are the three pillars of a happy life. Read the full article to see how Mr. White mixes his whole happy index elixir into how politicians are shifting their focus from making countries richer to making them happier. Interesting Stuff.

(Click on the happy map to see it in detail.)

Of note, America is happy but comes in at 23rd. UK is 41st. Word.

Originally read on BBC News | Health - Thanks to Stu for the tip!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A European Wonder - The Murse

I see them more and more often here in Switzerland lately. The murse. What's a murse you ask?

The urban dictionary describes a murse as:
"a man-purse. very fashion-forward right now, seen on many hipster guys. the line between a messenger bag and murse is very fluid - typically a murse is a bit smaller than a traditional messenger, and may have a slightly more stylized look to it. a murse can also be used to carry a laptop computer - one of the reasons it is so popular right now."
I particularly love the urban dictionary's example sentences that show one how to use the word correctly:

"Wow, Mark's new laptop fits perfectly into that small bag he carries"
"Yeah, that's a great murse. It matches his American apparel shirt."

Oh, that kills me!

Here's a closeup of the murse that I saw on my way home the other day...

Boy that is a fancy murse you've got there, Mister. I think that's a LV, no?! Boy you are so stylish.... apart from the fact you are wearing a PURSE!

I have to admit, if Jace told me he was going to start carrying a murse, not that this would happen in a million years, I am sure, I think I might never recover from the gut wrenching laughing that would take place after I tried really, really hard to hold it in...wait, I would never try to hold it in... listen to me, it is just not manly in my opinion... IT IS NOT WRONG, just not something I will ever get used to really...

The murse. More proof that you are not in Kansas anymore Toto.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Theatre Spektakel ends August 31st

Last week we went to the Zurcher Theater Spektakel after work. Basically it's a two week long theater event on the Zuri See near Rote Fabrik. There are shows throughout the week, including dance, performance art, comedy and traditional theater... all sorts... And despite their rather macabre advertising, it is a good atmosphere for young and old and there seems to be a lot of kid friendly stuff to do during the day.
What is up with these? eh?

We didn't go to see anything in particular, although quite a few events still had ticket availability that night, but instead we just went to take in the atmosphere and have something to eat. There are all sorts of interesting bars and food stalls set up - Chinese, BBQ, Italian, burritos, pasta - you name it! It all looked good and the portions were huge.

The Chinese and Asian food tent.

Jace ended up having some yummy looking Chow Mein, and I had an Indian Thali plate that was delish. We also shared some dim sum and washed it all down with about a dozen beers - well, six each - but it could have been a dozen. The beer was piss weak for some weird reason.

We met up with some of Jace's work mates and had a great meal and just chilled with beers, taking advantage of the unusally dry weather that evening. It has been raining a lot here lately.

Cafes and bars at the Spektakel - this one above has the BBQ and burritos!
And HUGE burgers!

More of a fancy schmanzy bar... nice.
No idea what this was, but you can go up it... or climb up it like some crazy performer did.

I would highly recommend that you go down to the Spektakel before it ends on the 31st of August and at least grab a bite to eat. There are really great little seating areas with plush pillows and chairs too. And beware the smells of the waffles - I was able to control myself after eating half of India's rice and naan supply, but you might not be so strong and that is ok!

You can also check out all the buskers most of whom have something to do with fire (twirling, swallowing, spitting, throwing, you name it...) and seem to get quite close to the audience so watch out!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I've become a "Ciao" person. Oh Lord.

Immediate European style via "Ciao" - certainly not via this hat! :)

I never understood it before... people would walk around, flipping their hair, smiling with a glint in their teeth, saying stuff like, "Oh sure, we'll see each other tonight! I am looking forward to it! Ciao!" - usually into their mobile phones... even worse!

What is so bad, you asked?

You might not have noticed it, but that is how easily it slips into conversation. "The Ciao." For years, I have been adverse to it. Let me explain...

I could not stand how the words slipped into people's vocabulary, allowing them to masquerade around as suave, international, and elegant almost immediately, but at the same time making them sound endlessly fake and shallow. It was always the people that had never traveled overseas it seemed, not just those that perhaps spent a summer abroad in France or Italy or who knows where in Europe. And I always imagined that they were one step away from adding "Baby" or "Darling" or God knows what to the end and then I might just have to slap them.

But... without even realizing it... it has happened.

Oh if the world could just swallow me up now - it would do us all a favor.

I have become a "Ciao" person.
Am I not instantly more sophisticated?

I don't use it all the time. Oh God, no, I don't think I would be able to look at myself. But slowly it has crept into my daily German repertoire (not that it is German, I am sure!).

Lots of German speaking Swiss seem to use a lot of French and international words. I mean, who can blame them being a quad-lingual country. So I could handle the "Merci's" that get splashed around at the supermarket. Every once in awhile, I would remember to say "merci" instead of "danke" and feel pretty clever. But I avoided recognizing the "Ciao's." They were just not my style.

Yes, I know they are correct here. They are the equivalent of goodbye. It isn't like I am using foreign words out of place... I am using them correctly. But it is just becoming too much.

The "Ciaos" have crept in over time. I blame it on the fact that I am on the phone a lot at work, and everyone always says "Ciao" at the end of the call. And what would you know, now I initiate the Ciao. Man I am such a freak! And sometimes, in a really low moment, I use it more than once in a row.

"Ok, that sounds great... Thank you! Ciao.. Bis dann.. Ciao Ciao."

Who am I? What has this whole immersion stuff done to me?!?

I am going to go and wash my mouth out with soap now even after just typing it. I feel so dirty... I've become a "Ciao" person. Oh Lord.

(Photos by Nate on top of the mountain in Lugano.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Swiss Swap and Shop

I posted about Freecycle Zurich awhile back, a group that you can join to learn about free stuff that people are giving away - and then you can grab it - for free! - and take it home. Pretty good group.

But there is another one that I also keep an eye on that seems to be more active - Swiss Swap and Shop. The items on here are not all for free, but some are, and it's a good place to pick up a bargain from people that are moving overseas from Switzerland and need to lighten their load.

Another good place for moving sales and notices is the general Expats in Zurich Group, a Yahoo! Group. I have a special folder for this in my Yahoo! Mail and I check it daily for events, sales, news, or even just tips. Great group, very active, and way friendlier than some (that one) other Swiss Forum that seems to attract the Negative Nancy's. Good luck and perhaps I will read you on one of these forums soon!

The Art of the Swiss Greeting...

I have read a lot recently about the Swiss' almost obsessive nature when it comes to greetings. I have yet to experience the mass greetings of the Swiss in public settings, but I have noticed it at work.

Every morning, as my colleagues arrive, each person goes around the office sending friendly morning greetings.



"Hallo Jessica. Hallo Brigetta. Hallo Jan."

"Guten Morgen!"

It is a nice way to start the day, if I do say so myself.

Coffee? Check. Gipfel? Check. Morning breath eradicated and smiled warmed up for morning greetings? Check.

Then at the end of the day, the same. The goodbye greetings are spread, taken very seriously by those that visit each co-worker's desk to wish them a good evening personally and cordially. Others politely wish a cubical goodnight and good riddance - er, I mean good bye. Actually, the friendly atmosphere which is created by these greetings makes the office seem much more personal, coworkers less distant and more mindful of each other. (But don't expect the invites to dinner to come pouring in just because you got a "Goobye Susie"... this is another topic entirely.)

I admit - I am still not the greatest greeter. I merely send my 'Goodnights' into the Luft and hope that all the ears in the vicinity get the message as I bolt for the door. But I am trying. Each day I am a bit better with the eye contact. Each day I stop a bit earlier to do the rounds. The immersion is working... now if only I could remember their names!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

7 Internet Resources to Help You Find a Job in Switzerland

Searching for a job in Switzerland? This list should help!

Inspired by Zurika's list of 7 Internet Resources to Help You Find a Job in Germany, here is my list of 7 resources to find a job in Switzerland.

Boasts the largest reach wordwide when it comes to jobs and listed job seekers. Monster has a great website that is easy to use and easy to post your resume on. I love receiving the Monster Job Notifications via email. It is such a great set and forget system. (English, French, German)
(Ps. This is where I found my job... so I say go Monster! plus in an effort of full disclosure, I have a an interest in them... )

This is the largest job search network in Switzerland, meaning that more people are registered on this job board than any other in Switzerland. Does that mean they have better or more jobs? Not necessarily, just more searchers. But it is focused on Swiss jobs which is good if that is where you want to work! (English)

3. Jobs in Zurich
This job posting board is focused on English speaking jobs in Zurich - so this is perfect for expats that don't speak German, French, or Italian and nevertheless want to work and thrive in Switzerland. It is possible... so don't let the language barrier stop you. A lot of companies in Switzerland and Zurich have English speaking work environments. That said, there is definately not the volume of jobs on this board as there is on the first two. But check it regularly as they do get some gems - and again, they are English speaking job gems. (English)

Another job board, focused on Switzerland. I find it has some different jobs that the others don't post. Give it a go. (German)

5. Jobs at Google Zurich
These photos have circled the web a few times now, and who wouldn't want to work for Google, on top of all the benefits (free lunch, bring your pet to work, great pay), if you can also work in an office like this! If you can code or if you just want to work in a great environment, go ahead and give Google a try. Google has lots of offices around the world, but heck, if you wanna live in Zurich and you can work for Google this is one of the coolest environments I know. (English)

Yes, this is a meeting room in Google's Zurich office. I know! CRAZY!

6. Future Watch International
I found this to be a very helpful job agency, featuring English speaking jobs in Zurich and Switzerland. Check it. They offered me a meeting to talk about opportunities, but I find that you should just go in if you apply for a job and they are interested. Otherwise, agencies tend to want to waste your time! (English)

7. Careerbuilder,,, etc. etc.
Don't forget to check the listings in the US, UK, or other countries for jobs in Switzerland. Sometimes there are some great opportunities on the local boards - you don't always have to look on to find jobs in Switzerland - they are often posted on the international boards as well! (those above in English...)

Happy hunting. ;)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Kiss Three Times...On the cheek if it's your Birthday!

Actually, I have that song in my head now and thought it would look super clever if I incorporated it into the title of this post. Did it work? Didn't think so.

I learned something new today that I wanted to share. If it is someone's birthday in Switzerland, you should congratulate them, naturally, and the best way to do it is to say "Graduliere!" (Congratulations!) or "Herzlichen Gluckwuensch zum Gerburtstag" (Happy Birthday!) or simply the ever so boring but popular "Happy Birthday" which works fine but doesn't show your super clever German skills... and then you kiss them three times on the cheek, more of an air kiss really... so left, right, left... or was that right, left, right?

Either way, small cultural phenomenon... the Swiss are three kissers. Not two, not four, three.Anyway, this led me to search for a guide to how many kisses you should do per European country, which led me to this French kissing map, which isn't what it sounds like but is rather a map of how many kisses you do for a particular French region which led me to the Strange Maps blog where what do you know is on the homepage but the Pop vs. Soda USA Map - another map I never knew I needed but can now not live without. (Ps. I grew up in Ohio, which I always knew was a pop sort of place...the coke regions have always puzzled me though - "What do you want?"... "A coke.." "Ok what type?".... "Sprite." Don't get it. Never will.)
Regardless of my ability to go off the topic. The point of this post... three kisses. Don't forget.

Great Guide: Prime Guide Zurich 2008 / 2009

I picked up this great little guide in the city when the girls were visiting. It is full of interesting and well designed places in Zurich to eat, shop, chill, grab a drink, buy a book and more. But mostly it's a great guide on where to spend your money in Zurich!

The book was only 10 CHF, and I think that is because the owners of the establishments featured in the book pay to be in the book, but in this case I don't think it matters. The book is awesome and I cannot wait to pick out a few new places to visit.

I highly recommend shelling out 10 CHF for this book. I bought mine at the coolest kitchen gadget store, featured in the book, Sibler - featured on page 110. Just be careful going in there, you will leave with more than this book!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Omnivores Hundred

This is such a blog thing to do, but I could not pass it up. I figure that amongst the expat community there is a greater chance that we have eaten all the things on this list - I mean, what better reason to travel than to try all the interesting, weird, new foods out there?

I read about this first on one of my favorite cooking blogs, Chocolate & Zucchini. Here's the deal as quoted from Clotilde, since she wrote it so eliquently:

"The Omnivore's Hundred
is an eclectic and entirely subjective list of 100 items that Andrew Wheeler, co-author of the British food blog Very Good Taste, thinks every omnivore should try at least once in his/her life. He offered this list as the starting point for a game, along the following rules:"

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.

In this instance, I have copied Clotilde's style and gone with the icons. Check out her post, too, for great links to definitions of some of the odder ones:

= I have eaten it!
= I have NOT.

1. Venison - yup, with cranberries during my study abroad in Germany. Yum!
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros - thank you Houston. It is the one good thing you have - Tex Mex.
4. Steak tartare - wedding anniversary, Italian restaurant in the North End - very popular in Germany and Switzerland now, too
5. Crocodile -I think I have had crocodile and alligator. Tastes like chicken.
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue - Um... this is Swisstory if you are lost.
8. Carp - I think so. I ate some weird stuff in China.
9. Borscht - but I recently had a beet martini, does that count? Thanks, Explorica Christmas party!
10. Baba ghanoush - in Boston... at the restaurant next to the Middle East in Cambridge. Yum.
11. Calamari - Jace's favorite.
12. Pho - Ah, remember the days, Ben? If not, we used to eat weekly at Pho Pasteur in Boston. Remember me? I used to work with you... nevermind. ;)
13. PB&J sandwich - Um, I am American. And I like it crunchy!
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart - New York with Jace, but it was no papaya dog. I long for you still.
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle - have had truffles, but no idea what color.
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes - plum wine, yum!
19. Steamed pork buns - Again, can you say I lived off them in China for 8 weeks? Oh and they are Sarah's favorite when we eat dim sum. ;)
20. Pistachio ice cream - thanks, Nate, for introducing me to this in Venice
21. Heirloom tomatoes - grew up on a farm, and also went to the farmer's markets in Boston
22. Fresh wild berries - see 21. Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries - oh my!
23. Foie gras - Montreal 2007... thanks, Louise!
24. Rice and beans - Houston, and Ghana... Red Red. Yum.
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper - not interested.
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters - Boston and Australia. Yum.
29. Baklava - yes, yessss, YESSSS!
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas - Thanks to Grant at iiNet. He brought these babies to work once.
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl - Um. Boston. Need I say more?
33. Salted lassi - I have done the mango, but not the salted. I am intrigued.
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar - I would never do the cigar. Jace would though. I will let him have it.
37. Clotted cream tea - Thanks, Val. I believe we have seen a few scones with tea in my time with you. ;)
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O - I was in a sorority. Nuf said.
39. Gumbo - Down South. Yum.
40. Oxtail - Had this with Uncle Andrew, and some cow's tongue.
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects - Yes, in China I had grasshoppers and silk worms (they taste like peanuts). If you get me a bit tipsy in the Outback I have been known to show people how to roast and eat grasshoppers... or was that a dream?
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu (Pufferfish)- South Korea... I would probably not do it again though. I am only a one time risk taker... but that is all it takes I guess!
47. Chicken tikka masala - Yum.
48. Eel - Sushi
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut - ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh (said like Homer does it).... Krispy Kreme... in college, I would allow myself two (Oh, God, I know they are like 5235 calories each) glazed chocolates on a Sunday... and I seriously considered importing them from Sydney, remember, Rach? You could bring back 2 boxes on the plane! :)
50. Sea urchin - S. Korea
51. Prickly pear - I probably had this in Mexico, as we saw how tequila was made, but I cannot recal
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone - Australia
54. Paneer - Lots of Indian dishes include this, right? Looks familiar. I say yes.
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal - Amanda, remember - wo chez?
56. Spaetzle - Again, this is Swisstory... but I hadn't had them before 5 months ago!
57. Dirty gin martini - sorry ladies, but that one if for you!
58. Beer above 8% ABV - Sure
59. Poutine - Montreal twice.... thanks to Val and Louise for humoring me!
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores - In Girl Scouts. Nuf said.
62. Sweetbreads - This is not what you think. Thank goodness I looked it up.
63. Kaolin - I have tasted my clay mask a few times... does that count?
64. Currywurst - In Frankfurt a few weeks ago... it was delish!
65. Durian - I have seen this in Singapore and even in Australia, but the stories of the smell keep me from trying it.
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake - numerous carnivals and great beignets in Houston!
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain - Ghana... Houston...
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini - thank you for the invention of the canape
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu - South Korea... lots of Korean stuff on the list!
77. Hostess Fruit Pie - Sure. I grew up in the 80's... who didn't have a twinkie and a pie?
78. Snail - Thanks, Jace! Anything smothered in butter and garlic is yummy though, am I right, or am I right?
79. Lapsang souchong - this has to be that gunpowder tasting tea I had!
80. Bellini - I made Jace and his Mum travel far and wide for a peach bellini at Harry's in Rome, and it was WORTH IT!
81. Tom yum - ahh... I miss Boston's China Town.
82. Eggs Benedict - Dad's favorite.
83. Pocky - South Korea!
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant- definately on my list!
85. Kobe beef - South Korea!
86. Hare - No joke, they had this in the cafeteria at work the other day with ostrich too (!) and I tried it... not bad.
87. Goulash - just the other day. Thanks again! Yum!
88. Flowers - the day after the goulash we had them on our roulade and in our Nachtisch!
89. Horse - I showed this to Nate in the meat department at Migros when he was here... not sure if I could eat our long time family pet though... I wouldn't eat cats or dogs... why horse?
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam - I am sure I have, but I can't recall... so no.
92. Soft shell crab- Savannah
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfisih
95. Mole poblano - Spanish Class.
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

67 for me... Not too bad at all!

Unlike Clotilde, I would try it all at least one - except maybe the chili. I would rather keep my tastebuds.

My question though - the one I know Jace would ask - where is the Vegemite?!?! ;)

What do you think is missing!? And if you do the list, please post a link to it in the comments so I can check it out! Can't wait!

Also, if you have had something I haven't, comment! I would love to finish the list with Swisstory readers. ;)

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