A bit of exercise

Last night I joined Anke at her health club, Holmes Place in Oberrieden.
There, we did a “body combat” class—essentially a martial arts-inspired aerobics workout, with lots of punches, kicks, blocks, and jumps. It was exhausting and fun. Afterward I was glad to sit in the sauna for a while, and I slept like a baby once I got home.

Today I’m feeling the aftermath of that workout. My back and shoulders are sore. I think I might be out of shape! I must return to a regular regimen of exercise. I’m not sure whether I’ll sign up for Holmes Place though. It‘s a very nice place, but it’s a bit out of the way. Maybe it won’t be so far out of the way once I am living closer to the main train lines.

Speaking of that, I will rent a car tomorrow to facilitate moving into my new place. I plan to move my stuff there after lunch. My belongings—all seven cubic meters of them—will be delivered on Monday.


A quick update from Zürich

_MAL2335, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

The big news is that I have found a place to live. I found a charming house in Zollikon, the ground floor of which I will share with a woman and her husband. They spend much of their time abroad, so I’ll often have the place to myself.

This past weekend I finally got out and saw a bit of the city. I joined new friends both Saturday and Sunday night, dancing on Saturday, and taking a walking tour of the old city on Sunday. The photo above was taken on that walk.

I’ll move to the house on Friday and have my belongings delivered on Monday. Exciting times!


Whassup 2008


The incomparable Peter Sellers

I wanted to share a couple of videos that made me laugh.

Peter Sellers sings “Cigarettes and Whiskey and Wild, Wild Women” on The Muppet Show.

Peter Sellers plays both the U.S. president and the title roll in this scene in the war room from Stanley Kubrick’s classic, Doctor Strangelove.


Buy Nothing Day

A friend recently invited me to participate in Buy Nothing Day, which this year falls on Saturday, 29 November. Normally I would be a supporter of campaigns like this, just out of sheer rock-the-boat rebelliousness. However, this time, the idea got me thinking:

How much trouble would it be for me truly to buy nothing for a day?

By the end of November, I will probably have been in my new flat in Zürich for a while. So I suppose I won’t need to buy furniture or furnishings on that particular day. I can easily forego entertainment and luxury items. It’s a Saturday, so I can prepare my own food. But that means I’ll have to buy the food and kitchen supplies ahead of time. And of course I’ll still need to use water and electricity. I can’t very well ask the utility companies to take one day’s worth off my bill. Lighting my apartment with candles and cooking over a campfire in my backyard would be worse for the environment than simply purchasing electricity from the grid.

And what about the people paid though my taxes, to send a fire truck, police car, or ambulance in the event I should need one? Can I decline their services for a day and request a refund? Clearly, the idea can be taken to ridiculous extremes.

Conspicuous consumption is obviously destructive in some ways. But I wonder to what counterproductive lengths people will go in service of the idea of buying nothing for a day. I wonder too, what the unintended consequences would be if everyone took the idea to heart? If buying is an evil to be thwarted, then the the perfect world would be a world where not much gets done.

As a symbol, Buy Nothing Day is a useful tool. It helps us realize how dependent we have become on things that we don’t really need. But interdependence between people on the goods and services offered by their neighbors is also the way the world works. It is thanks to the free flow of people, ideas, and things that so many have been able to lift themselves out of poverty.
In order to change the world for the better, we must move beyond theatrical demonstrations of our concern. We must be cognizant of our impact on our world and our neighbors, and must put this knowledge into action on a daily basis, not just once a year.

Food for thought. Speaking of which, it’s close to dinner time here. I think I’ll go buy a bite to eat.


Don’t vote


What’s so great about Swiss banks?

I opened a Swiss bank account this morning, and was shocked by the dismal interest rates offered. On balances of less than 15,000 CHF, one earns a measly 0.125%, compounded yearly. It’s hard to see this as anything but paying the bank to keep my money. Larger balances earn only slightly more—still less than 1%. Oh, and the Swiss government insures bank deposits up to just 13,000 CHF, a pittance compared to the new 250,000 USD in deposit insurance now provided by the FDIC.
I don’t plan to keep any more money in my Swiss bank account than absolutely necessary. 


First day at ZRL

I'm just wrapping up my first day on the job at ZRL (here’s another photo).
Yesterday morning, I woke up to an empty apartment in Stockholm. I had consigned my stuff to the moving company the previous day, having spent the preceding week packing all of my belongings. The last two days were the busiest, and I probably wouldn’t have managed without the help of Lotta, Janaki, and other friends. I brushed my teeth, packed a few last things in my suitcase, and tidied up the flat a bit. I caught a taxi to the airport at eight o’clock, and arrived in Zürich around lunchtime. I caught the S2 train from the airport to Thalwil, and took a cab from there to my hotel, the Gästehaus Niedelbad, located just 5 minutes’s walk from IBM.

After leaving my bags in my room, I bought some groceries and had a late lunch at a picnic table in a park overlooking the lake. I met some American expatriates playing with their children in the park. It was nice to talk with some of my countrymen. One of them was even from Texas (Houston). After a walk around the neighborhood, I returned to my room for a nap. I had just a snack for dinner, chatted with a few friends online, and then crashed for the night. I don’t think I’d gotten a proper night’s sleep in two weeks, so it was nice to be able to catch up a bit.

My first day of work has gone very smoothly. I now have a badge, office, telephone, and a new MacBook Pro. Actually, I’ve had the Mac for a while now. My colleague Stefan sent it to me in Stockholm a few weeks ago so that I could move my files over to it from my old ThinkPad before handing that computer back to IBM Sweden.

My new workplace is situated on a hillside overlooking Zürichsee, above the village of Rüschlikon, and just 15 minutes by train from Zürich’s main train station. One of my primary tasks in the coming two weeks will be to find a place to live. I already have one apartment to look at, and I have a feeling I’ll see several before making a decision.

In the coming days I will open a Swiss bank account so that there will be some place for my salary to be deposited. I’ll also register my presence with the local government, through which process I will obtain my Swiss residence permit.

That’s all for now. I’ll post again soon, with photos!