Tuesday, June 30, 2009

1-Year Anniversary

Exactly one year ago our family arrived in Geneva, wondering if we'd really made the right decision. (Of course we had - it was the jet lag.)

Boy, that year went by fast.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Doctors, Ducks and Dokies

A conversation I recently had with a Swiss co-worker:

CO-WORKER: Why do Americans say “okie duck?”

GREG: What?

CO-WORKER: What does that mean? “Okie canard?”

GREG: It’s not “okie duck.” It’s okie dokie.

CO-WORKER: What’s does that mean?

GREG: "Okay."

CO-WORKER: Yes, but what’s a dokie?

GREG: Nothing. Nothing is a dokie. It’s like saying, “Oui, oui, Marie.”

CO-WORKER: Who’s Marie?

GREG: No one. I just made that up. But “okie dokie” is just a cute way of saying "okay."

CO-WORKER: But isn’t that what Bugs Bunny says? “What’s up, duck?”

GREG: No. He says, “What’s up, Doc?”

CO-WORKER: But he’s always talking to a duck.

GREG: You mean Daffy?

CO-WORKER: I don’t know. The black one who’s really loud.

GREG: Yeah, that’s Daffy.

CO-WORKER: But he’s a duck, no?

GREG: Yes, but Bugs Bunny says, “What’s up, Doc?” to everyone. Even if they’re not a duck.

CO-WORKER: What’s a doc?

GREG: A doctor.

CO-WORKER: He says, “What’s up, Doctor?”

GREG: Yes.

I’m not sure whether or not things were clear at this point, but the conversation ended, apparently having run its course.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Châty Kathy

I have no idea what this is or where it came from. She just appeared one morning in our neighborhood. Kind of a guardian of Avenue de Châtelaine. I thought we should call her Châty Kathy. The kids just call her Big Head.

Her head's already been knocked off and replaced once. Now her nose is missing. Guess we live in a rough patch of town.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pretty pictures of last night's sky

These clouds were so much nicer that the fly swatter, the empty soda bottle, the neighbor's laundry the wind blew away and the flock of pigeons, all of which are semi-permanent fixtures on the apartment roof just below our balcony. I'm just glad the neighbor's diaper from last summer eventually decomposed. Or a pigeon flew off with it. Whatever, I'm just glad it's gone.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


There are a lot of stories I wish I could post on this blog, but can't due to the confidentiality agreement I signed when I joined.

I keep several personal entries in a file hidden within a file that will only see the light of day at the end of my employment. I call them my anti-posts. And I recently had a major one. Sorry, you'll have to wait.

Without divulging too much, I can tell you that some anti-posts include people with erratic and flamboyant punctuation, organizations that couldn't possibly go green attempting to do so, and strategic briefs that earnestly use the words "goodies" and "faecal matter" in the same sentence.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Mentor

Last night our family drove to Interlaken to meet up with my high school humanities professor. He's one of those people who had a profound influence on my life, and I'm very glad we've kept in touch.
Every year, he leads a tour group through Europe. I went on it after high school graduation, visiting Germany, Italy, Switzerland and France for the first time. If you've never done Europe, you should consider signing up for the tour here. You can also follow the blog of his current tour here.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Open the blast door! Open the blast door!

"A storage room is usually provided in an apartment, and a lockable storage room in the cellar of the building, which doubles as the mandatory nuclear shelter (no joke)."
- Living and Working in Switzerland, 11th Edition

Switzerland has the highest ratio of nuclear shelter space to national population of any country n the world. Here's a quick tour of the nuclear shelter/storage space in our building. This first picture is main hallway. Take a right at the end and you go to the laundry room. Take a right and you end up in the Hydra Station.

In the event of nuclear attack, take the door on the right, please...

When Armageddon is at your doorstep, will your empty storage boxes, hiking backpacks and Christmas decorations be as secure as ours?

Behind each blast door are wooden fences dividing the shelter into multiple storage spaces. I just hope that if we're forced to live underground for a while, the wooden fences will be strong enough to keep out the C.H.U.D.S. and Mole People.

Two things I love: 1) that the subterranean shelters are called "CAVES" (which technically makes us troglodytes, and that is a word I've been waiting years to use legitimately), and 2) our storage space is #42.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summer day

My office is a couple blocks behind those trees.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Just sayin'.

There is no reason why someone within my line of vision should consistently choose to call me on  the office phone or contact me by email.

Play it again, Jean-Pierre

Coming up with ideas with your art director at an outdoor cafe = very cool.

Coming up with ideas with your art director at an outdoor cafe while a street performer plays the according in the background = not as cool.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sinalco or disel?

Sinalco is basically a Swiss version of orange Fanta. 

But I have to drink it from a glass so I can see the artificial coloring. Unseen, drinking something called Sinalco makes me feel like I'm drinking petroleum. 

Monday, June 15, 2009

Where are the other three?

Took this picture in a very upscale, trendy grocery store in Geneva. It's a butchered lamb leg in a vice with the hoof still attached.

Not very-well framed. I took it on the move. Didn't really want to stop and gawk.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Another hatch

If you're driving outside of Geneva near the French border, the countryside looks like this:

So when you suddenly come upon CERN's Globe of Science and Innovation, it makes the building all the more bizarre:

Disconcerting even.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rome vs. Geneva in the Battle of the Tours

If you've read the book or seen the movie Angels and Demons, you know some of the story takes place in Geneva and most of the story takes place in Rome. Apparently, both cities are trying to take advantage of the movie's release.

You can take an Angels and Demons tour of Rome, which will take you throughout the Eternal City visiting Renaissance masterpieces.

You can also take an Angels and Demons tour of CERN, which apparently takes you into a hole in the ground.

I give full props to CERN for recognizing and seizing this adventure in capitalism. But it's got to be tough pitting a particle accelerator that didn't work the first time around against the Ecstasy of St. Teresa.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Home with the kids

Nutshell story of owning a home overseas:

  1. Had the house on the market a year ago before moving. The competition was two foreclosures in the neighborhood. Very slow going.
  2. Found an ideal renter. Decided to rent instead. Renter signed a two-year lease.
  3. Fast-forward 11 months to a couple weeks ago. The renter decides she can't afford stay anymore and is moving to her sister's place in Colorado.
  4. We decide to put the house back on the market. My wife books a flight to Chicago to clean up the house and get ready to sell.
  5. Fast-forward to last week. The renter contacts us again. Her ex-husband says he gets custody of the kids if she leaves the area. She's desperate to stay. We negotiate a new (slightly lower) lease. We have our renter again.
  6. My wife can't cancel or change her flight because she booked through Orbitz.
  7. Fast-forward to this morning. Dropped my wife off at the airport for a week of playing with friends in Chicago, shopping at Target, and eating the best sandwiches the world has ever known. Probably getting Krispy Kremes, too.
  8. I take Wednesday - Friday off to stay home with the kids. I really want to take them on a picnic today, but the weather forecast calls for playing Mario Kart Wii most of the afternoon.

News from the North Sea

I have never had an ad appear in Scandinavian Oil-Gas Magazine. Until now.

According to Wikipedia, this is the oldest oil and gas magazine in Europe. If you need in-depth information on devlopments within the North Sea oil and gas industry, this is your magazine.

The illustrator on this ad is Andrew Baker, and he's a great guy to work with. Really cool style. I've seen his illustration for the next piece and it's pretty cool.

Thoughts? Comments?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Triple conversion

I'm writing a script about people playing a dumb game of trying to see how close they can get to closing a door while still keeping it ajar.

First I wrote "The door is ajar - but only by a couple of inches."

Then I realized I had to write, "The door is ajar - but only by a few centimeters."

Then I realized I had to write, "The door is ajar - but only by a few centimetres."

I overcame jetlag about a year ago. But culturelag is still hanging heavy.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Missed the deadline for the Communication Arts Advertising Annual.

Truth be told, I didn't have anything to submit.

Trying not to beat myself up as I haven't even hit my 1-year mark in Geneva.

I don't mind not winning awards. But not having anything to even enter bothers me.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The best post in the world

I just finished Paul Arden's book. Read it over the course of two lunch breaks. Loved it. If you're in advertising, marketing, business, or just need a little inspiration, pick up a copy.

How I learn French

Some people use McGraw Hill textbooks or Rosetta Stone. I ask coworkers to draw.

Here's how I learned the French words for grape, raisin, vine and vineyard. Click to enlarge. Thanks, Frank.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Alfa Romeo

Our agency just won the Alfa Romeo account for Switzerland. I'm very excited about this. Looking forward to the research/test drives.

I've always wanted to work on a car account. I've had friends who've worked on BMW insist, "No, you don't."

We'll see. Always happy to prove people wrong.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

ça calm

Here's a pretty entertaining campaign that shows the Europeans know how to step away from the 30 second spot, too.

It's a series of online spots that show annoyingly hyper-enthusiastic people ranting on about about things like biking, being eco-friendly, and going to America. In each spot, a Swiss-looking protagonist hands them a stick of Gruyere cheese and says, "It's the calm," which immediately calms down the humanoids.

Not a bad little campaign for some tasty cheese.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Happy Pentecôte, everyone!

It's another national holiday! This one commemorating the highly Swiss and very secular Pentecôte!

The nice thing about being an American expat in a country that celebrates so many Catholic holidays is not knowing how they're supposed to be celebrated and therefore having no guilt about grilling and watching episodes of Battlestar Galactica on my iPod instead.