Saturday, August 26, 2006

Midsummer's Train Dream

Drag cursor over each picture for the story and the "+" sign to speed up the flow...

Elevator: The Silent Killer

Despite some of the perks of life here in Switzerland, I have issues with my means of being here. Namely, the hours between 8 and 5 (who am I kidding, 9:30 to 5) where I have to both make a living and entertain myself enough to keep from putting a No.2 pencil in my ear.

To accomplish the latter, I find myself quite frequently satisfying my curiosities with a quick click to Wikipedia. Not only does it provide me with a dose of entertainment and a dab of self-improvement, it allows me to support fellow Alabamian-turned-options-trader-turned- WikimediaCEO, Jimmy Wales.

Figuring that others may be interested in some of the factual minutae, I've decided to blog my findings.

So, without further ado:


In my recent drive to gain a level of spoken proficiency in German, I've been turning to a that well-worn source of self-improvement, television. Despite frustrating the hell out of me because I realize how more I have to learn to actually get anything out of German TV, there are a lot of really interesting shows to pique one's interest. This is particularly true since my dad has been here. He regularly dines on healthy array of engineering shows on the SF2 (swiss german) and VOX (german) channels.

So this fine Saturday morning, we start watching a show about elevators. Straining to hear under the German voice over (so Ok, I cheat), I manage to catch enough of the under-English to see that he's talking about Elevator safety features, which is then followed by a series of newspaper headlines depicting various elevator tragedies.

This struck me as odd. I remembered an engineer (or more likely a Otis saleswoman) I met on an elevator ride, who told me it was impossible for an elevator to fall down a shaft like in the movies. For this absolute safety, we had to thank some counterweight device (and the provenance of the manufacturer, no doubt) that would prevent a fall even in the event that the cable was completely severed. Based on her reassurance, I've never feared that I might plummet to an early death just because I was too lazy to take the stairs.

It turns out, not only are elevators able of falling down the shaft ("Toronto - five people receive broken ankles and other minor injuries, as an Otis parking garage hydraulic elevator in a National Life building on University Avenue plummets five floors"), they are capable of much more disturbing things:

Michigan 1999. Woman age 56 on gurney became lodged between elevator car and shaft wall and dragged four floors.

Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan, June 2006 - a 16-year old high school student was killed as he was backing out of an elevator with his bicycle when the elevator suddenly rose with the doors still open, crushing his skull.

Texas, August 16, 2003. Decapitation of doctor in old Otis made elevator. [6] Internal investigation concluded that a wire in an electrical panel was incorrectly connected. Kone, Inc., which had recently been servicing the elevator was later dismissed.

The Bronx, New York, January 6, 1995. Runaway elevator in office building decapitated 55-year-old James Chenault as he tried to help fellow passengers out of a malfunctioning car. [15]

Hmm. This was a little dark. I'll try to keep the remaining one's a little more lighthearted.

See the new section "Post-Graduate studies" for additional Wikipedia articles and other curiosities.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Back to 2nd Grade

First tears (timid looking girl in white), first kid in time-out (kid in red holding the reading worm), first thought of "Whoa, that took them way less time to complete than I expected."
(teacher/photographer/tear-wiper). It was a good first day of school.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Home again, home again, jiggedy jig

My hour long layover in London on Thursday turned into a 30 hour layover. Had I waited for rebooking of my original ticket, it may have been Monday or Tuesday before I would have returned. Perhaps if I was more adventurous, I would have stuck around and explored a new city. But I already missed my first day of work and I would have missed Nancy's birthday dinner. I would have missed the Zurich street parade and a wonderful breakfast for the first year teachers at Sprungli's. But mostly I would have missed my Coys. It has almost been an entire month since I've spent two nights in a row at our apartment. So now I've hidden my suitcases in the basement and I'm determined to be here for awhile. My week-long visit to Memphis for Ashley's wedding was terrific- packed with people I love, so quick that I still missed out on a lot of folks. (The highlight was meeting two beautiful babies- Tirzah and Lindley both had little boys this summer proving that life does in fact continue without me around!) I cried during take-off and for the first few minutes of flying away from Memphis. But then I turned my thoughts to the relationships and responsibilities awaiting me in Zurich. And I had plenty of time stuck in lines in London amidst the confusion to review all that I have to be thankful for in my life. By the time I landed in Zurich and was found by my bouquet-wielding husband, I truly felt like I was coming home.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Kenny, Benny, Ronny...

We've just returned from Falköping, Sweden, home of our good friend, Lars Nilsson.

Lars is a good guy:
He educated us on Swedish history, gave us a tour of Stockholm and the Gotenburg mall and introduced us to his really cool parents and their Swedish farmhouse:

They fed us well on Swedish country cooking, supplied us with plenty of hot coffee and gave us a detailed tour of their local church. The Nilssons are a great family.

We also heard stories of the more country types that lived around town. Those guys whose names end in -nny: Benny, Ronny, Kenny, etc. In addition to contributing mightily to the local flavor, Lars told us having a name like Benny gives you a significantly higher chance of finding yourself in the local Swedish jail.

Instead of wasting words, we'll let the photos speak for themselves:

We were lucky enough to be in town on the annual Cruisin' Night, which was a mind-boggling display of Bennies, Ronnies and Johnnies and restored American cars from the 50's...

If a conferderate flag in Sweden strikes you as funny, well it did us, too. To investigate, We had Lars interview two Swedish kids wearing confederate flag t-shirts. When asked about the flag, they responded that if you want to be a true car fanatic, then you had to embrace the entire classic car theme. (Based on our evidence, this means fuzzy dice, maybe a dab of pomade, Elvis music, and the Confederate flag)

Lars continued, telling them about the confederate flags history and asked, "Are you trying to say that you want to separate from Sweden?" All of a sudden, they got serious and responded "When hell freezes over."

Apparently, we shouldn't expect a Swedish secession anytime soon...

Here are some additional shots of beautiful Sweden: