15 February 2014

My Special Valentine Princess

In the better late than never category, I am noting that my special Princess Butterfly apparently had a nice Valentine's Day celebration all told.  Earlier in the week, she accompanied Proud Papa S to the store to purchase Valentine hearts and other seasonal goodies and posed, hat and all, for a photo.
Like her daddy before her, the Princess LOVES hats!  She is now a proud seven-year-old, in the latter half of first grade, posing proudly with a classmate in front of her school last fall.
Never one to remain "flitless" for long, Princess Butterfly is already thinking ahead to the next seasonal celebration
by making good friends with potential Easter bunnies.

11 February 2014

Xenophobia By a Nose

Shock waves are still reverberating here in Switzerland over the narrow (50.3%) approval on Sunday of the anti-immigration measure proposed by the right-wing so-called "Swiss People's Party" (SVP aka UDP in la Suisse romande).

France and Germany in particular have voiced deep concerns about Switzerland's bringing back strict quotas on immigration from EU countries and effectively invalidating Switzerland's agreement with the EU on free movement.

Switzerland has managed a clever balancing act in recent years.  It has obtained all basic benefits of EU membership, without actually being an EU member, thus avoiding less beneficial consequences.  It has done this by entering into a series of bilateral agreements with the EU.  Now the results of Sunday's vote threaten to endanger all of those agreements.  Several Swiss politicians had believed that the measure would fail and appear somewhat nonplussed by the results.

I am proud and happy to note that the measure did not succeed in my own little corner of Switzerland. Much good as that will do to the outcome, it is still nice to know that xenophobes are not all around me.  This was also a very narrow win and the Swiss are essentially a pragmatist and idealistic people.  The actual results may be softened somewhat - at least everyone I know believes so, including some of my Swiss students, who announced themselves "embarrassed" by the result in yesterday's class.  Well, politics does "embarrass" us all at times, as much a certainty as death and taxes.

More importantly, it is encouraging to see that the radical right does not hold as much sway in Switzerland as it seems to in my own country.  Another measure on the ballot, also proposed by right-wing groups, was to drop abortion coverage from public health insurance, i.e., that all abortions should be paid for privately by the mother.  !!

Because I have never understood the absolutist fixation on an unborn fetus (pre-birth baby) to the detriment of any actual person - including a post-birth baby, as seems to be the case so often - I am very happy to say that that the measure was resoundingly defeated by about 70% of voters.  So, while sanity may have wobbled somewhat insofar as the anti-immigration vote is concerned, there is still hope generally among the majority of reasonable people.

Those same reasonable people surely can find common ground rather than to "blitz" a whole set of mutually beneficial agreements.  Let us hope so!

08 February 2014

April Treat Ahead

Although most people seem focused on the Sochi Olympics right now, I was cheered to read in today's news that Swiss tennis champions Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka are due to play their quarter-final Davis Cup matches against Kazakhstan at Geneva's Palexpo in April!

The Swiss team, led by Stan, a Vaudois "neighbor," who won this year's Australian Open for his first tennis Grand Slam victory, won its matches in Serbia last weekend, thus earning a berth in the quarter-finals, giving them a real chance at ultimately making it to the finals for the first time in many moons.  Of course, the Kazakhs likely have other ideas.  But a Roger-Stan duo is always a potent threat, especially as both seem to be on a roll right now.

Stan is having some well-deserved moments in the limelight.  On his return from Melbourne, he was greeted by lots of well-wishers at Geneva's Cointrin airport, while most, if not all, communes in Vaud hoisted congratulatory flags on their main streets, as shown here in my own little Swiss haven.
Perhaps the opportunity for this stellar two-fer will lure HWMBO over here earlier than this summer ... fingers crossed!  

07 February 2014

The Opening Ceremony

I've been watching the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympic games that are officially beginning today in Sochi, Russia.  Interestingly, the French spelling for "Sochi" is "Sotchi" - without the addition of the "t," the word would be pronounced "So-shee" in that language.  Maria Sharapova, one of HWMBO's favorite tennis players, passed the torch to the runners who just lit the Olympic Cauldron.  Spectacular fireworks are now shooting into the skies to strains of glorious Tchaikovsky music.  No one does romanticism quite like the Russian composers, IMO.

Beautiful spectacle, yes!  Beautiful symbolism, yes!  If only the symbolism could carry over into Real Life.

Let us all hope that the young athletes who are representing their countries are able to do their best - whatever that may be - and that all will leave with renewed enthusiasm and hope for a future that is, at best, clouded.

May they each return home safe and sound - and with new appreciation for the wonderful world that exists beyond the borders of their own nation as well as for the peoples that inhabit that world!  Wonder-full indeed!

That was the vision of Pierre de Coubertin in reviving these games!  May that vision flourish!

05 February 2014

Slippery Slope to Theocracy

Well, it's been over a year now, so perhaps it's time to begin posting again.  Nothing has been wrong, thank heavens.  The hiatus has been due to nothing more than sheer laziness.  In fact, life has generally been treating me well, although more and more family members and friends seem to be preceding me to the Great Beyond.  This is perhaps natural in this "sunset phase" of my life.

The inspiration for today's post is the "debate" that occurred in the US last evening between Bill Nye (aka "The Science Guy") and Ken Ham, a self-proclaimed "expert" on "creationism" and promoter of the so-called "Creation Museum" in Kentucky, USA.   This "museum" is not accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, by the way.

That there even has to be a "debate" in the 21st century in what is arguably the most enlightened nation in the world - a conclusion that is definitely in question because of events like this - is frightening, IMHO.  It indicates that the US is closer to becoming a theocracy than one might imagine.  There are well-funded corporate interests who would love for this to become a reality: a theocracy where radical right-wing Christianity would hold sway.

Mr Nye pointed out, "I just want to remind us all that there are billions of people in the world who are deeply religious, who get enriched by the wonderful sense of community by their religion.  But these same people do not embrace the extraordinary view that the Earth is somehow only 6,000 years old."  I fully agree with this statement.  There are plenty of deeply religious people who can reconcile their faith with science. Those same people also understand that the place for teaching religious concepts is in their religious institution, whether that institution be church/mosque/synagogue/ashram/whatever and the place for practicing religion is in their own personal lives - not in the public education or political systems. I have great respect for such people, even though I myself am agnostic.

That an overwhelming majority of those (at least 92% of those polled on the I-net) who watched the "debate" believed that Nye "won" restores my faith in humanity somewhat.  But learning that hundreds of religious schools in the US that receive public funds teach "creationism" in science classes does not!

Creationism is NOT science.  Period.

Unfortunately, this pervasive - and wholly incorrect - belief has found its way back to this side of The Pond as well.  Last week, stories circulated that seven schools in four cantons of Switzerland are teaching creationism in science classes.  Two schools are located in Geneva canton.  All these religious schools are supported by the Evangelical Church Association.

The Swiss educational authorities were somewhat nonplussed - as well as embarrassed - by this revelation and currently the situation is under investigation by the Department of Public Instruction.  It is true that neither the Swiss Constitution nor cantonal laws prevent the teaching of creationism.  The very rational Swiss had never foreseen such a preposterous need. In fact, the Council of Europe has stated that.the theory is "...hopelessly inadequate for science classes."  In the UK, some educators argue that laws are needed to prevent "indoctrination" in independent schools.

It is long past time for that in the US, IMO.

01 February 2013

Chocolate Wars

Perhaps fairly civil chocolate "wars" could happen only in Switzerland.  But it turns out that, unbeknownst to me, lost in my little cocoon, such chocolate warfare has been happening right on my doorstep.

According to today's Geneva Tribune, the little Confiserie de la Fontaine, quite visibly located on our quaint medieval main main street, is locked in a legal battle, referred to by the Tribune as a bisbille (squabble or falling out) with the recently-opened (Fall 2012) Chocolaterie Banchet.
As explained in the article, M Banchet (the father) was originally the owner of the Confiserie de la Fontaine, but sold his business in 2011 to another couple, the Bichets, who have been running the busines quite successfully since.  As one can see, there is already a small problem in that the names themselves are very similar at first blush - which should possibly have, in itself, raised a small red flag to the purchasers.

In any event, the sales contract stipulated that the Bichets would undertake to purchase chocolate produced by M Banchet fils for a five-year period, during which time no new chocolate business would be opened to compete with them.  When M Banchet fils opened his own chocolate business last fall not far from the local gare (train station), the Bichets promptly sued him for concurrence deloyale (unfair trade competition).

Unfortunately, the Bichets had apparently not read the fine print in their sales contract.  The court ultimately determined that the anti-competition clause applied only to M Banchet the father and not at all to the son.  The Bichets thus had no cause of action and no legal remedy.

It turns out that the relationship between the two families is even more contractually intertwined - at least for another three years.  The Bichets make their own chocolate in the same premises - rented from M Banchet the father - that M Banchet fils uses for his own business.

Still, because both establishments make excellent chocolates and we in the general area appreciate chocolate very much, it is difficult to be too dismayed at the prospect of more - and presumably even improving quality  - chocolate so close by.  There are enough of us to keep both businesses going.  And then some.  But, if one of them could develop a delicious chocolate that we normal people could eat without adding the commensurate poundage, that one would definitely "win" the competition so far as I am concerned.

In the meantime, we're - almost - all winners!  Mmmmmm!

31 January 2013

Approaching the Half-Century Mark

The other big event in January occurred one week ago.  It was the 47th anniversary of the birth of #1 Son, Proud Dad Big T.  I had to chuckle at Sweet Momma H who remarked that she had just recently realized that when Prince Tyger is 10 years old, she will be in her 50s!  I had to chuckle because Big T is fast approaching the 50th milestone and I don't even want to think about what that must make me.

Things certainly have changed.  When Big T was 10 years old, my mother - his grandmother - was still in her 40s, even younger than Big T is now!  And oh, did she adore her grandsons - ALL of them!

Here Big T enjoys some moments in Jackson Hole, WY last summer with Princes Lightning and Tyger both staying very close.
And here he is rollicking about on a floor mat with Prince Lightning and Sweet Momma H.
May they all have time to enjoy life and each other!  It goes all too quickly.  Much too quickly, in fact.