Friday, July 31, 2009

Flashback Friday: Banking in Switzerland

A long time ago, I lived for a few months in Geneva, Switzerland, and came to know and love the city.

A few years later (in the mid-1970's), I worked for awhile at a Swiss bank in Geneva.

A decade later, in 1987, on a Friday as it happened, I was checking into a hotel in Geneva.

The hotel didn't accept credit cards. Moment of panic. But, wait, no problem. All I needed was to find an ATM and do a cash withdrawal. But (unlike everywhere in the UK and France) the city did not have a single ATM! More panic. But wait, no problem. Just find a bank and get a cash advance.

The only problem was that none of the nearby banks accepted credit cards.

I was very surprised. Swiss banking has such a reputation, but they weren't up to (the then) modern standards in the credit card area. The banks were all very luxurious and classically furnished. But, it was clear there were two banking systems: the modern and the traditional.

As the afternoon wore on and bank closing time loomed, I got more and more panicky. Finally, I found a bank that had a relationship with a bank somewhere else who could do it for me. Got across the city just in time, got an advance, and was able to pay for the hotel for the weekend. Whew!

Now, fast forward to the present. I was reminded of this when I tried to stop an automatic transfer at my current bank. This isn't one of the transfers that I can manage myself at their internet site, so I phoned. After identifying myself and asking about the transfer, I asked if I had caught it in time to stop the next one (tomorrow). The girl said, "Oh, no, we need fourteen days."

Fourteen days?!? The Internet website has gotten me used to quicker responses. Fourteen seconds* would have seemed too long to wait.

So, 22 years later, again on a Friday, I discover that there are still two banking systems, even here in America. The modern one and the traditional one.
*Coincidentally, the phone call itself took 14 minutes (much of it on hold).

Friday, July 24, 2009

Don't get old

Such was the advice my father used to give when talking about the frailties of his aging years.

It was partly an attempt at humor to change the subject. Dad didn't like to complain. Even though his health deteriorated pretty steadily over the last 22 years of his life (after a stroke) until his death from (officially) starvation. There was a long way to go from the vibrant, healthy, strong man's man that I knew growing up, and that few of his grandchildren can remember.

Sometimes, I find myself telling my own children, "Don't get old." But, I always try to catch myself, because the only alternative that I am aware of to growing old is to die young. And that is something that I honestly can't wish upon any of my children. Or nieces, nephews, and grandchildren.

Writer's Block

Okay, I really can't claim to be suffering from writer's block, which is an affliction of professional writers.

During the time since my last post, I have been suffering not from a lack of ideas for things to write about, but rather an over-abundance. And, there isn't a lot of time to indulge in this anyway.

Today, I followed the wikipedia page (linked to above) to these places (in the order of my exploration), which I found all to be fascinating. Now, I have to get to work.
  1. asemic writing
  2. lorem ipsum
  4. greeking
  5. metasyntactic variable
  6. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
  7. esoteric programming languages
So, with all this interesting stuff, where is the time to write?

I did a little digging through old computer files*, because, once upon a time, I created an esoteric programming language myself, for the amusement of my children. It was named "dust".

*If you do a "View Source" you'll see that the dust.htm web page was generated from Corel WordPerfect 8. I was tempted to clean it up and get rid of the extra vertical space, but decided to leave it just as it was generated from my original recounting of one evening's experience.