Tuesday, August 7, 2007

We Need Net Access!

I've had several people ask me why I haven't been updating this enough. To get this question, it is clear that i didn't complain enough about the spotty connectivity we have here until we get our DSL line set up. Let me begin:
  1. There is no DSL in the house
  2. There is no phone in the house
  3. There are no Starbucks in the area (Well, there is one downtown in Bern)
  4. There are no stupid neighbors who have left their wireless LAN open.
  5. There is one network that we can dip into wirelessly.
    • But there's a few catches
Köniz, the neighboring... uh... County (to put it in an American term), has a free wireless Internet. For a little while. And since we live right on the border between Bern and Liebefeld-Köniz, we are just barely in the wireless LAN's region. So this means, in order to get connectivity, one must get closer to the network. This also means that there's not enough oomph to get through the thick brick walls we have here. So in short, this means that the laptop must be on the balcony, or the wireless connection must be outside somehow.

Even if on the balcony, the signal drops out on all the laptops but Stacy's. The City wireless LAN isn't infinitely available. They have an hour-long duration per login. If after that one hour expires, you have to log in again. This can make web surfing sucky. It makes doing work for my office even harder; as each time the signal drops to zero, or each time the login expires, the VPN tunnel collapses, and I have to go through the tedious process of re-logging in through the wireless LAN, and re-constructing the VPN Tunnel.

Don't get me wrong, it's been really great having this wireless LAN to leech off of. But I would rather have had my own network, instead of having to leech. Soon this will be over.

The embarrassing photo the upper right shows the USB connection to the wireless adapter I had (good thing it was sitting around in my packed luggage), connecting my Linux laptop to the City WLAN.

The saga of getting the phones set up has required multiple calls to Swisscom, and several visits from an electrician. I'm not exactly sure what the difficulties were, but it appears that getting phones set up in a new building is quite a chore.

Now for something different:
I have been asked why my blog has so many religious advertisements. If you know me, I would never go into a church unless there is a funeral, wedding (and only for somebody I would really like. ) Please make sure to type the URL correctly. pietbarber.BLOGSPOT.COM, not pietbarber.LOGSPOT.COM. The guy on that site is a kook.

The Great Toe Episode
On 4 August, around midnight local time, Jake closed the balcony door over his right foot. This resulted in some sharp knife-like object slicing his baby toe pretty seriously. Seriously enough, that Stacy (the Registered Nurse), decided that he needed to go to the hospital. -- But we don't have a car!

So we had to call for an ambulance. The equivalent of 911 in Switzerland is not universal. You have a special emergency code for each Gemeinde (think of a Gemind like a county). In the case of Bern, that number is "144"

It's a good thing I speak German, because the guy on the phone at 144 didn't speak English. I've never been trained in German, how to order an ambulance to your residence, so it was winging it all the way. I didn't know the words for hospital or ambulance or even "toe" (so the word for foot had to suffice. (Actually, I did end up knowing the word for toe, but wasn't sure enough to say it in the conversation, so I didn't want him to think that Jake cut off his earlobe)).

An ambulance came about 7 or 8 minutes later. By that time, I had carried Jake downstairs on my back. The elevator was just a few inches shorter than the width of his knees extended on each side, and as I entered the elevator, both knees banged into the side of the elevator doors. Upon exit, the same slapstick was repeated. One of the ambulance technicians, (a very attractive woman), approached, and spoke perfect English. After a call to downtown headquarters, the two EMTs, Stacy and Jake got into the ambulance and rushed away.

I stayed home with the sleeping children.

Jake ended up getting three stitches, and has no signs of infection 6 days later. We visited a Pediatrician's office on Monday, who said all looks good.

Other Adventures in Health Care

At the same time we had Jake taken to the doctor for the follow-up visit, we had to take Joey to see a doctor, due to what was clearly a case of conjunctivitis. What wasn't clear, was if it was viral or bacterial. We met the English speaking pediatrician who had excellent bedside manner, and determined that Joey was just suffering a viral infection. Good news, no drama of the forcing antibiotics onto the kid for 10 days. There's Jake's ambulance to the right. Yes, it was dark, remember.

Still no Car
Somehow we're making it without a car. Getting the groceries home is a chore, and it looks like the trip to Ikea isn't going to be possible without a car. But outside of that, if we rented a car, it would site idle for 400 CHF a day. (yikes)

On Saturday, Stacy dragged me out of bed to go to Otto's, (...kind of like a Target back home, but with lots of furniture upstairs) she was sure that it was to close at 12:00. (It didn't, it closes at 16:00). There, I looked at desk furniture that I didn't like. (sigh) I guess my pickyness is going to force me to go to Ikea, after all.

Speaking of Pickiness
We are making huge strides in getting Cecilia to eat something other than the four food groups: Chocolate, noodles, Macaroni, and Chicken Nuggets. On Monday evening, we decided to go out to dinner at Eigerplatz, at a new restaurant. We all enjoyed the dinner; I especially enjoyed the Paulaner Hefeweissbier. Stacy had some sort of Spaetzle dish, Jake enjoyed a 250g steak. Cecilia did eat just a plate of noodles, and some chicken, but at least it was chicken that didn't come in the form of a nugget.

Internet and Phone Saga
Finally, after many phone calls, several trips to the house by a registered electrician, and getting to know the girl at Swisscom's front office by first-name basis (Melanie), we have gotten the house set up with Internet access. All of the laptops in the house can talk to the printer, and Jake no longer has to sit out on the balcony to play on the Internet.

Walking the Town Like Tourists
On Wednesday, there were no appointments, everybody was reasonably healthy, we set out to downtown Bern to see the sights of the city. Also on our agenda was to climb Gurten, the local high hill. We started with a short train ride into town, and started walking the streets. We made our way all the way down to the American Embassy. The orange line shows our path. The trip began at the main train station at the top-left of the map.

Along the way, we found two nice playgrounds, one with the biggest slide I have ever seen (near the bridge) the other with a great little man-made creek running through it.

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