Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Time on My Hands

What to do when you've set your alarm clock wrong so you wake up, get dressed, and discover it's an hour earlier than you expected? Though it would be nice to miss most of the morning rush traffic, that means getting to the conference at least an hour, maybe closer to two hours because of no rush, before the speakers begin. Can only consume so much tea and croissants - certainly not enough to fill all that time.

Could check Facebook. That'd kill an hour ... or two ... easily.

Could read the Colin Dexter Inspector Morse novel that I'm halfway through, but it's getting to the really good part so I'd have to put it back down to leave and be wondering what happened to the murdered Swedish Maiden.

Worked a bit on my to-do list but had done that a couple days ago so only slightly different. Can cross off new watch battery; did that yesterday down at a little shop on Confederation. Another occasion when I had unexpected time on my hands.

And why is the idiom time on my hands? Why not time on my shoulders? Or does that imply more a burden and less a "freedom" to do something useful with the time?

If you say it of someone else, it's usually "too much time on his/her hands," as in they're using their time to get into some sort of mischief.

I've decided to "split my time," part to these thoughts, part to leaving a bit earlier than planned so as to miss some of the Geneva traffic grind. Wonder what time they set out the croissants?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Dear NSA

I have to assume that the US National Security Agency (NSA) has me on one of their watch lists, probably has had for some time. After all, I have been consorting for about three years now with a former American who renounced her citizenship and occasionally posts tweaky-cheeky "Dear NSA" blogs; no doubt they started monitoring our emails when I was still in Texas and she in France and Switzerland - at the time, the NSA was already tracking any electronic communication between US-based persons and anyone outside the States. Now, of course, I am also in Switzerland, once the bastion of secrecy (no longer), so what clandestine activity might they suppose I / we are up to?

Recently, as I am a freelance journalist (specializing in aviation-related subjects), I have been conducting extensive internet searches on topics at the top of the NSA's radar: Iran, Cuba, Turkey, Ukraine, Russia, China, hacking and cyber attacks, aircraft tracking, passports, wildfires, drones, military training, and, from time to time, golf. (Golf, without question, is a code word.) It seems that aviation tends to be in the middle of world economic and political activity, and of course is a prime target for terrorists. (I also get to have some fascinating conversations with world aviation leaders.)

And I tend to look up internet sources with other cryptic code words: most recently breast cancer, migrants, FATCA (a lot of FATCA).

Oh, and there's those cute dog / cat videos - with their embedded secret messages.

Just a minute ... I think I hear a knock on the door ... 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Close Shave

It wasn't quite O Henry's 'Gift of the Magi' short story - she sold her beautiful hair to buy him a chain for his watch while he was selling his watch to buy her combs for her hair - but we couldn't miss the bizarre irony that we had walked out of the Manor department store five minutes earlier after buying a hair dryer ... and now Donna-Lane was having her head shaved.

We definitely had not planned the timing of the two events. 

The hair dryer had been on our to-buy list since the last time we had been in Geneva in early August. We just hadn't yet been near a store where we might buy one, and there didn't seem to be any urgency since we towel-dry much of the time.

When we decided to go to the wig-maker today ... because D-L's hair had begun coming out (a little), now 15 days after her first chemo treatment ... we sort of expected Michel - le specialist en perruques medicales, recommend by the hospital - would take measurements, select a hair style from one of his hundreds of mannequins, match Donna-Lane's hair color, and create her custom wig over the next few days.
We didn't expect Michel was going to go ahead and shave her head today.

I like her response: her hair didn't fall off; she had it taken off. The timing was her decision.

The shaving process took a little less than two minutes. Once it started, it would have been a little difficult to change her mind, unless she wanted to try the mohawk look for a few days.

So now she's got a new 'do, which looks rather like her old 'do. Except this one has no roots to color and does not need to be trimmed periodically. So that'll save a few francs over the next several months.
Despite all she's been through since April, seeing her bald, to me, was one of the first visible confirmations of her battle with cancer. Yes, I've seen photos of lots of bald women on the internet, holding the heartwarming "last chemo" poster. But those women are not my wife. And until today, she's weathered the two surgeries, numerous shots, and a heavy dose of toxic chemicals dripped into her system with remarkable good spirits and varying degrees of fatigue.

She won't show it, at least not yet, but I think her hairless head is quite beautiful. It's a courageous head. Goes with her caring heart.

No doubt, she'll be blogging the experience, either on http://theexpatwriter.blogspot.ch/ or http://breastisyettocome.blogspot.fr/.

Where Would You Like Me to Stick It?

One thing the doctor advised us to watch for during Donna-Lane's between-chemo-treatment weeks was that she doesn't get a fever. After all, the chemo is not only destroying potential cancer cells, it severely reduces her white blood cell count and her immune system. Ie, stay away from potential sources of bacteria, people who are sick, etc.

So I bought a thermometer.

Couldn't find one of those new digital roll-it-across-your-forehead versions, so settled for the traditional stick that they had at the pharmacy.

Alas, someone in the house picked up a contagious, short-term illness. So we decided to start taking D-L's temperature periodically as a precaution.

Opened the thermometer box. The directions were in French, German, Italian (the three official Swiss languages) and maybe one or two other languages. None of them English.

I started trying to read the French, with which I'm somewhat familiar.

"Is this for oral or rectal?" I asked her.

She lost it. Odd combination of bent-over laughter with oh-my-god facial horror.

Turns out, it could be used in either cavity. As well as under the armpit.

Next thing we need to figure out is how much is 98.6F in Centigrade?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Mouse That Snored, Part 2

Laying awake in bed last night, I recalled a somewhat strange incident earlier in the evening. When I let in the sister cats, Clea and Babette, for their evening moist meal, Clea became quite interested in S's sneakers on the floor by the door. She was pushing and pushing at them, and even stuck her snout inside, which I thought thoroughly disgusting. (Don't be rubbing that snout on my hand in the future.) I finally had to pick her up and carry her downstairs to supper - most odd, as she usually leads the parade, and even scarfs Babette's uneaten food (whether Babs is trying to eat it or not). I couldn't imagine what sneaker aroma could possibly be so interesting.

Thinking back, I now suspect our visiting baby mouse (http://lovinglifeineurope.blogspot.ch/2015/09/the-mouse-that-snored-part-1.html and http://theexpatwriter.blogspot.ch/2015/09/mouse-safari-ii.html) was inside the sneaker, and from there later tip-toed into the living room while we were watching the telly.

Twice during the night I staggered downstairs to see if the cats had dismantled Mortimer. Not a chance. The first time, I found Babette casually lounging on the couch. The second time, Clea was enjoying the soft chair.

The mouse was no doubt holed up somewhere safe, hopefully having nightmares about being trapped in an old sneaker.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Mouse That Snored, Part 1

D-L will be blogging about this as well: http://theexpatwriter.blogspot.ch/.

We were watching an episode of House of Cards, Season 2, our fifth in two nights, when I noticed some movement near the chair next to the stairs. My first thought was that it was the gray swish of the tail of Clea, one of J's two cats, which we are watching for a few days in Corsier Port. I expected her to come over to the couch looking for some stroking, but she wasn't there.

I noticed another movement, but about that time S, J's younger son, was emerging from the kitchen, so I assumed the flicker in the corner of my eye was the shadow of his motion.

Shortly after he ascended the stairs, more movement - this time the distinct shape of a small gray mouse, scurrying blatantly across the carpet between us and the television and ducking between the soft chair and the end table. I warned Donna-Lane: "We have a mouse."

There was no way to get at the critter without major furniture moving, and there were plenty of places for him to hide.

"Cheese," D-L suggested, so we went into the kitchen. There were several choices in the frigo. "What kind do you think he'd like?" "I'm sure he'd like the gruyere," she said. Switzerland's finest.

I sliced off a small piece, opened the door to the winter garden, and tossed the cheese on the carpet, hoping to lure the little bugger outside.

(My insinct is to smash the thing dead. Donna-Lane doesn't like to kill living things, including bugs.)

After a few moments, I spotted Mickey padding across the length of the carpet - in the opposite direction from the winter garden and the cheese. Our luck to get a mouse with a sinus problem. He snuck under the big antique desk before I could intercept him.

For several minutes, we hovered around the desk. I saw the mouse scoot one way, then the other, but along the wall and with too many obstacles to get at him. I got the sliver of cheese and put it on the carpet with enough room around it to give me a chance to drop a towel over the unsuspecting mouse should his cheese-sniffer kick in.

Our strategy wasn't working. It was time to get the cats and let them earn their keep. (A few weeks ago, Clea brought a bird in from outside, which we rescued, though it was too injured to live. I understand Clea and her sister Babette have also had some mice conquests as well.)

The cats were outside, so we rang the bell to call them in, and shunted them into the living room instead of downstairs where they sleep during the night. "Okay, girls, do your thing."

Babette spotted the open door - the one intended for the mouse to exit - and promptly trotted back outside again. Clea, less adventurous, stayed inside.

I placed Clea in the vicinity of the desk behind which the mouse was hiding. She wandered to the other side of the room, completely unaware of the potentially tasty intruder. (Actually, my plan was to let Clea capture the mouse, then snatch it from her before she could eat it, and toss it outside to freedom.)

I picked up Clea and again placed her near the desk. She noticed the gruyere and calmly ate it.

Maybe the mouse protested because finally Clea became interested in the area around the desk. She managed to get the mouse moving back and forth but even she couldn't get an angle to put a paw on him. One by one I moved some of the obstacles.

Then Mickey made a dash around the corner and under the huge china cabinet. Clea pursued him underneath but then seemed to lose the scent. I tried poking underneath with a broom handle, but there was no detectable movement.

Eventually we went back to our program, Clea crawled up on the couch as well and tongue-bathed herself, and Mickey probably curled up in a box under the cabinet.

Rather than lock the cats downstairs, we left them access to the living room for the night, hoping they might get hungry for a Mus Muris midnight snack. We went to bed, all the bedroom and bathroom doors shut tight.

Part 2 tomorrow.