Monday, June 30, 2008

RIP, Deutschland

I am (mostly) sad to report that España has triumphed over Deutschland in Euro 2008. I happened to be far-sight-impaired during the game, but I have it on good authority that Deutschland wasn't putting up much of a fight. The nearby DFB fans, of whom I have much familiarity due to excessive people watching, held out hope for a long time. The trekkie contingent of these fans never gave up; they may still be exchanging football chants on message boards somewhere. So I am sad for these guys and for my Deutsch buddies, but secretly happy for my second homeland.

I am also (mostly) sad that Euro 2008 has ended. 20:45 in the evening just won't be as fun. But to take the cheery view of the mayor of Vienna: "[We] celebrated King Football and put on a peaceful and glorious festival of sport." Sport, glorious sport! Long live the King! Come back and visit our museums!

I must also remind myself that there's always La Ruota della Fortuna to fill up our evenings after cocktail hour.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Euro 2008 Update

Who ever thought I would be a sports reporter? Wait, I mean sport reporter. I feel more comfortable with the European term now. Yet one of a million tiny transformations changing me from the hearty down-to-earth American I once was. I'm sorry, I will be unrecognizable soon.

But back to the sport – this is starting to sound like a Mitch Albom column.

Last night Spain cleaned up Russia pretty well. I have to say was expecting this – when you send in 12-year-olds to play against grown men, they can only sustain themselves so long. Okay, before I go much further I need to disclose that I was unable to watch the game last night. I will have to stick with existential truths about the teams and sport conflict and avoid detailed analysis of plays (which no one cares about anyway).

Both teams went into this match with all of their hearts. Neither team underestimated the other; they were prepared for a tight match. Any team that reaches the semi-final is a worthy opponent. In the end Spain achieved a stunning victory by way of some incredible teamwork, great technical skills, and wet hair. A joyous pile-on would be the only sufficient way to celebrate this victory; later, a tearful moment facing the crowd would show the Spanish team's deep appreciation of their fans. There was hardly a dry eye in the house, from the world leader trying hard to look composed down to the crazy fans wearing face paint.

For the Spanish, a moment more sublime there could not be – unless they should pull out a win against the Germans on Sunday night, in which case we will all be grappling for more intense descriptions. But that is yet to be seen, as this German team has really come together in the past few weeks. It will be a fight to the finish, and one we shall not soon forget.

This reporter is heading to Germany today to check out those notorious football fans personally. If my editor calls, tell him I'm going for the scoop on the German football songs. I'll be back next week.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

RIP, tree

I had been putting off declaring it (you know, like the perfectionist surgeon the nurses are prodding to declare the TOD but who won't, because it means so much to him, more than we can ever know) until now: Our little pine tree is dead, killed by devotion and bad decisions. Alas, thy leaves were not unchanging.

It is a special tragedy that this fair and lovely tree, verdant symbol of eternity and life, should die at my well-intentioned hand. The nurturing and cheap side of me was determined that this tree would make it to another Christmas so I gave it special, loving care. It shouldn't have happened this way.

Early on, worried that I was making the rookie's mistake of under-watering to avoid the even worse rookie's mistake of over-watering, I asked an expert in making up fake Latin names for tree species how much I should be watering it. "Feel the dirt a few inches down and if it feels dry, give it some water," he said. Huh. Easy enough.

After a few months of this, however, I noticed that I was sweeping up more and more needles. So I watered more. Who needs an expert to tell you that? But nothing I did (add more dirt, add more water, change location) could slow its transformation first into a hopeful Charlie Brown-style sapling and then later into a sad little burned out stick.

It turns out the actual COD was the half-gallon of water its roots had been sitting in for the several months during which I had upped the waterings. I figured this out only because I started to smell something wasn't right. My sheer lack of critical reasoning is somewhat disturbing, as is the fact that, so it seems, smell is my best and only useful sense.

I am getting very tired of trying to grow – but wait, this was about the tree, not about me. The tree that brought us so much joy and holiday happiness. The tree that gave the world some oxygen, just because it could. The tree that will very shortly be recycled back into the earth whence it came, to continue giving life elsewhere. Oh, Christmas tree.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Too hot for anything much today.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Swiss Miniatur effect

My older sister – I'll call her "Heidi," like the Swiss milkmaid - has always been my hero (cf. the 7th grade character sketch I wrote about her, calling her my personal hero. One of my reasons was that she'd never taken drugs "even though she's been offered." Also around this time, though I did not put this in my paper, she told me that this really mean kid who harassed me on the bus would probably get "stuffed in a locker" once we made it to high school, a bit of perspective which gave me great comfort that year.) Lately I've been thinking about how hard it is to be the oldest – she has to be braver, more determined, more responsible, more forgiving, and more patient than the rest of us. We're generally twenty steps behind and totally unaware of what happened while we were catching up.

I'm coming around to my point, which is that I always learn a lot from "Heidi" (and from her husband "Peter" for that matter.)  In addition to being my moral exemplar, she is my personal liberal arts tutor. So one thing I did not know before her recent visit was that artists used to paint themselves into their pictures (often with this queer look at you out of the painting). Now that I know this, I see it everywhere, of course. Anyway, this led us into a long discussion of "trompe l'oeil" effects, pictures within pictures, and how weird it is that took artists so long to use painting as a means of personal expression.

Here, art and science met in a weird philosophical way, as we considered the Swiss Miniatur effect – "probably our [my] most valid fear about living in Switzerland," according to Swiss Mr. That is, what would happen if we went to visit Swiss Miniatur and saw ourselves standing outside of mini Swiss-Miniatur, and then looked closer and saw mini-mini us going to mini-mini Swiss-Miniatur inside the mini Swiss-Miniatur... and so on. Would the world implode? Or would our minds fold in on themselves? If neither of these things happened, would we have physical proof of the multiverse theory? How fast would a paper about this get into "Science"? And would anyone care that artists have been thinking about this for more than a thousand years?

The Swiss Miniatur effect is everywhere.

Retro advertising at a bus stop in Lugano

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Dubiouser and dubiouser

Anyone detect an issue with this train advertisement?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

No comment

A Swiss worker near the San Gottardo tunnel....

Banana Bread

My sister recently requested this recipe, so I thought I'd just put it here for all to see. It is popular with most every taster due to its classic-ness and its special layer of tasty slime (sorry, couldn't think of a more appetizing alternative). The recipe came from my mom, who has been baking it forever, as far as I know. Not sure where it came from, but no other BB recipe has been able to take its place in my heart. Especially because it is easier than all get-out. (Try also freezing your old bananas ahead of time and then letting them defrost a bit on the counter before you bake – if you can handle the sensation of squeezing the banana from its "greasy black peel" you will avoid the mashing altogether. The texture is only slightly affected.)

Banana Bread

Preheat: 350 degrees Fahrenheit

1 egg
1 cup sugar
2 ounces (1/2 stick) melted butter or margarine
3 mashed bananas  
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup walnuts (I have never once added the nuts, but it could be good. I guess.)

Hand beat the egg; mix in the sugar. 
Add the melted butter and mix well. 
Mix flour, soda, and salt in a separate bowl (I sift them together if I'm feeling ambitious). Add alternately with the mashed bananas to the egg/sugar/butter mixture and mix well.

Bake 50-55 minutes in loaf pan. 

Monday, June 16, 2008

Euro 2008 Update

In case you aren't filling out a poster in your kitchen or keeping a pocket score card of the Euro 2008 football brackets (or just watching the games), you may not know that the Swiss have been already eliminated from competition. They lost the first two games but pulled out a last face-saving (but unfortunately meaningless) victory against Portugal last night. Now is a good time to buy Euro 2o08 merchandise around Lugano. 

Who is now my favorite team? If you mean "who's my favorite to win the competition," I'll have to admit that I have no clue (but if you made me guess I'd pick Holland). If you mean "who will I be rooting for," I'll have to say that I am not exactly sure about this either. So many potential allegiances among the European countries: Spain, Sweden, Holland, Germany, Italy.... Okay, I'll take Holland off the allegiance list to keep it simple. And honest. But it will be a tough decision if it should come down to picking among the others. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Either way, it's okay.

A nice melodious reminder for us all.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Festa della piazza

How many Swiss guys does it take to hang a salami in the tree?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Keeping busy

Little nephew D-B has been here visiting with his parents, enduring long hikes in the rain, quiet museums, and stinky funiculars like a champ. The kid is a born traveller. And sweet as could be. I highly recommend this combination if you are thinking of having a child. This week while his parents are in Florence, he is staying here in Lugano with me and the cranky cat. Four days of listening to Dolly Parton, acting as arm candy, and having wiggle parties may prove to test his agreeableness. In any case, I shall enjoy my company.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Learn as you go

A favorite purchase this week:

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Välkommen, Sverige!

The flags have been hung, the cheese has been branded, the stadiums are prepped, the old guys have taken up residence at the bars. Euro 2008 starts today with a match between Switzerland and the Czech Republic. At this very moment, in fact. 

You could feel the energy on the street this week – the Swiss are ready. Today there was pregame honking and gunshots. The Swedish football team is staying in Lugano, so the red and white around town is peppered with blue and yellow. Very hospitable, these Luganese. I'm keeping an eye out for kin, but I haven't seen any yet (other than the ones staying at my house, of course).

Bad news update: Switzerland lost its first game, 1-0.