CH-6003 Luzern, Switzerland
Merry Christmas. I hope the holiday season finds you all in good health and that you've had a good year.
Here in Switzerland life is much the same. It's the end of 1998 and also nearing the end of the 20th century. I've now been in Switzerland over twelve years! This is especially surprising as I arrived thinking that I would stay two years, then decided to stay another two years and now over decade has gone by. I'm now eligible for Swiss citizenship, though I'm not sure if I want it. Different friends recommend both sides of the argument, some for and some against. As for me, I'm not fussed much either way. In the meantime, I'll just wait and see if any pressing arguments come up in either direction. I can always apply next year. Why rush things?
For those of you who are a bit out of date with my activities: Four and a half years ago I started my own company to support my consulting work. This took place as I left my last 'normal' job. Since then I've been working as a consultant/contractor for a number of customers, specializing in software for the financial sector (Swiss Banks and Stock Exchanges), particularly for exchanged based trading. To my great satisfaction it's gone really well. I've got more than enough work and prospects for the future look great. I've had a number of false starts with some ventures, but so far the successes far outweigh the 'non-starters'. As they say: 'Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgement'. Let's just say I've collected my share of experience in the business world.
During the summer I ride my motorcycle, a Honda VFR750. I made a number of fun trips this year, the highlight of which was a four person trip down to Imola in Italy to watch the Motorcycle Grand Prix. After a wet and rainy start through the Alpine passes it dried up on the plain of nothern Italy and we battled crosswinds and hectic Italian drivers before finally making it to the Adriatic coast, where we took a quick dip. The race itself was great and we saw all the famous riders. It convinced me however that I'll never be a bike racer. Those guys are nuts.
Living in the center of Europe, especially as everywhere else is down hill, affords the chance to visit other places quite easily. This year's crop of long weekends included: Amsterdam, Nice, Brittany (my first trip in the French TGV trains. Wow, they're fast!), Budapest, Piemonte (The region near Turin famous for quite good food and wines). The trip to Peimonte was noteworthy for our visit to the Alba truffle market. At the market, golf ball sized truffles change hands for extraordinary low prices. A mere million Lira (!) will fetch a fresh good quality white truffle. Naturally we had grated truffles on everything we ate that weekend and we came home with a car full of the local wine, which we somehow managed to sneak past the Swiss border guards.
I also had a week-long business trip to Birmingham, which happened to coincide with the G8 conference of world leaders. Surprisingly, I wasn't asked by the world leaders for my tips on how to rearrange the world economy, though I did see Bill Clinton drive by in a limo. He looked fatter than he does on TV. Birmingham impressed me greatly. Everything had been cleaned up for the conference and the city itself was lively, the people friendly and there were lots of interesting things to see and many good restaurants. It conflicted with my earlier memories of the place, which were of a big dirty industrial city. Time has changed it for the better. An insider's tip: Book your next summer holiday there.
My summer holiday was to visit Stockholm's 'Water Festival', a week long extravaganza of live music, food, drink and good times. This was my fourth visit to Stockholm and it was nice to see old friends there. The weather was great, mostly sun, which I was told was rare for August in Scandinavia. For the trip I had my newly purchased digital camera and took over 400 pictures (hey, the film's free!). The quick feedback the camera provides and the ability to edit the pictures has improved my photography immensely. Don't worry though, there's little danger of me giving up my day job to become a professional photographer.
I invite you all to visit. If you are ever in the Luzern/Zurich area, drop by. Given that we live in the Internet age and I'm a computer geek, make a virtual visit by sending me an e-mail message. I'd love to hear your news. I'll even reply! I'm on the net at address listed above. This is my permanent e-mail address at home and you should always be able to reach me there.
Best wishes to you all for Christmas and the New Year,