Switzerland 2022

Earlier this year, Alissa and I decided we wanted to take a big trip just the two of us for the first time since 2018 when we went to Peru together. With a son off in college and a (for now) empty nest, the world a bit more open since Covid, this fall seemed like the perfect time.

We debated a bunch of different destinations. Hawaii? Greece? Iceland? New Zealand? All sounded great but not quite right, and I threw out: what about Switzerland? I think we both latched onto that idea and it felt just right. Trains and villages and mountains. All things we love.

We flew direct on Lufthansa from Denver to Munich. Then Munich to Zurich, which I didn’t realize was going to just be a 35 minute flight. Haha.

We did not come into this trip with any pre-planned agendas. “Ride trains and look at mountains” was about all we had planned. We booked a hotel in Zurich for one night, and two nights in St. Moritz, beyond that we planned to play it by ear and see where the wind would take us. Here’s where the wind ended up taking us:

  • Day 1. Zurich. Rest in the hotel from jet lag, and exploration of the old town during the evening.
  • Day 2. Train ride to St. Moritz, via a quick stop in Chur. Beautiful lakes, spectacular mountains. St. Moritz has a beautiful lake and town.
  • Day 3. Bernina Express train to and from Tirano, Italy. Viewing the village of Poschiavo from above with the alps in the background might stick with me as one of the most spectacular villages I’ve ever seen.
  • Day 4. St. Moritz back to Chur for a single night here. I spent most of the 2+ hour train ride in the observation car taking pictures. Spectacular! And since I was taking pictures from a moving train, I had to be fast. The first time landscape photography felt kind of like sports photography! Had some local Chur wine with dinner, so good!
  • Day 5. Chur back to Zurich, to Bern, to Interlaken. Wow, what a spectacular little town Interlaken is! The mountains around the town remind me so much of when we visited Banff, Canada.
  • Day 6. Paid the money to see Jungfraujoch, the “top of Europe”. It involves riding a cog-railway train inside a mountain and a spectacular gondola ride into an environment that feels a lot like Hoth in Star Wars.
  • Day 7. Visited the Matterhorn. Uh. Wow. I thought yesterday was spectacular but this is even better. We took the lift up to the Klein Matterhorn and wow, just wow! We could see all the way to Mount Blanc on the Italian/French border which stretches up 15,774 feet high.
  • Day 8. A more low-key day. Took the Harderkulm above Interlaken. Then took a several hour cruise on Lake Thun.
  • Day 9. What better way to spend the day than to cross the entire country by train? Went from Interlaken to Bern to Geneva. Lake Geneva is cool and the town is old and beautiful. Got lunch and then headed from Geneva (the far south west corner of Switzerland, right on the border of France) to Zurich (on the north east side, closer to Germany).
  • Day 10. Airport and travel home, heart completely full.

If you decide to travel to Switzerland (and you should), we recommend the Swiss Travel Pass. I also used Holafly with an e-sim on my iPhone to get unlimited mobile data to keep me in touch with Instagram. Do it for the gram!

Apple Watch Altimeter Fix

A few weeks ago I hopped on a plane and my altimeter on my  Watch has not been the same. Either it wouldn’t show a value (just three dashes) or it shows a wildly incorrect one. (off by 2,500-5,000 feet)

A live view of my elevation while hiking was one of the factors for upgrading my watch so this was a bit frustrating. I tried a lot of things on my own, and finally ended up contacting Apple support for the first time in … ever? Even unpairing my watch didn’t do the trick.

Last week I let my watch sleep overnight turned off. In the morning I decided to try something different. I turned my iPhone off, then I turned my Apple Watch on.

That was about a week ago. It’s been correct ever since, even through two additional flights.

Hope this helps someone out there.

1,200 Days

Yesterday I noticed my Day One streak is 1,200 strong.

I journal every single day. It’s fun to look back and see what I was doing a few years ago.

I have been using Day One for 10 years. It has its problems but it’s been a good app.

Mastodon

My entire news feed is filled to the brim with thoughts, opinions and articles about a certain bird website and its very rich owner. I felt left out so I wanted to say something on my own.

I’m trying out the Mastodon network. The iPhone/iPad apps are really great! You can find me on the server mas.to, under @ajbourg. The only problem I have experienced so far is that none of my bird website or real-life friends have a Mastodon presence. So let’s fix that!

What it is. Mastodon isn’t a social media site, it’s a network of a bunch of servers. Think about email. You can have your email hosted at Gmail, somebody else who used to be cool in the 90s can have their email hosted at Hotmail, and there are a billion other email servers out there. They all talk with protocols and know how to route a message for bob @ random domain dot com.

Mastodon is basically that but for short form blog posts. I have my ‘presence’ on one server, but I can follow anybody on any server as long as that server speaks the Mastodon protocols. Just like email. And anybody can follow me back, no matter what server they use.

Why that’s sorta cool. Anybody can start a server. It truly is a ‘public square’ where anyone with a voice and an internet connection can speak into the void.

But what about creating a hell house of content moderation problems? Most people believe there should be some content moderation in any public square. Everyone disagrees where those lines should be drawn. Mastodon allows you a lot more control. I can pick a server with moderation policies I like. Maybe the server I like is a free for all. Maybe it’s moderated to the 9s. Up to me. I can still follow other people on other servers that have other moderation policies. And if it becomes a problem, I can block servers that are full of any content I don’t like. Moderation becomes decentralized.

What server should I pick? This is probably the hardest decision to make because every server is different and I have only had a Mastodon presence for like 37 hours so I can’t really say which ones are good and which ones are bad. Worse, you have to pick a server as your first act. Yikes. This is where I always stopped in the past. But after reading something about your account being portable between servers — you can literally pack your bags and move servers and all your followers and followings come with you (but not, interestingly, your post history) — I decided it is a low impact decision I can change later when I know more about the network. I picked Mas.to as it was one of the more popular options I was presented with. Maybe at some point I will create my own server. Maybe I’ll migrate later. Who knows.

How do I get started? Download the app, pick a server, and away you go. Then find me and follow me! 😁

Other benefits… I re-tooted (I think that’s the official terminology and I do not like it) a post about how there are so many fewer metrics and gimmicks trying to bait you into using the Mastodon apps (web or mobile).

The big social media companies have all kinds of tricks to get you to keep posting, keel clicking, keep refreshing. At first it’s fun, but over time it gets overwhelming and I just don’t think our brains were wired to get dopamine or serotonin or whatever chemical reward it is we get when we refresh and get that little ding. There are teams of dozens or hundreds of people in these apps that want you to keep coming back and they have all the metrics around whether you do or don’t, and they’re constantly looking to make the app that much more addictive.

I don’t know if Mastodon is literally a one man shop, but probably the whole sum of people working on Mastodon (including server admins) is less then just the people who are dedicated to juicing metrics at the big social platforms. That means Mastodon is not quite as sticky, there have been times I’ve opened it and nothing new has appeared since the last time I opened it — wonderful!

In some ways it feels like a return to the early 2000s when I used to surf message boards on niche topics just for fun. Nobody is here for money. Just the fun. And social media, at least on Mastodon, is starting to feel fun again.

But I’m only 37.5 hours in. We’ll see how it goes.

Voting

A kid recently asked me why there are so many ads on YouTube about voting. I told him that it’s an election year and that as citizens it’s important for us to stay informed on all the issues so when we fill out our ballots we make informed decisions.

Sometimes the things and people we vote for win, and sometimes they lose. That’s democracy. We can complain about it and be frustrated but we always take the wins with the losses.

I showed him my ballot and showed him how voting works. You just fill out the little boxes, put it in your envelope, sign it!, and then drop it off. Really easy. Really monumental.

I didn’t tell him this but I really worry about the future of our country. It seemed like in the past, people strongly disagreed with each other, but they accepted whatever the majority said. I don’t think 2020 is a complete aberration, I think there’s been a general trend towards distrust of democracy. I hope more people realize how special what we have is and wake up and protect it, even if it means accepting losing specific races or issues.

New Car

I posted about this one month ago and we now have a new car! And it’s electric. It’s nearly impossible to find an electric car that fast and I don’t know how we got lucky. I just decided what I wanted after doing a bunch of research and emailed a bunch of dealers.

Most of my email contact with dealers was somewhat negative. I asked upfront how much each dealer was charging over MSRP. Every dealer gave a direct answer, and I eliminated every dealer that charged $5k-$10k. Way more than I was willing to spend.

One dealer I was emailing back and forth with said they just had someone drop their reservation, do I want it? It was a higher trim (and higher price) then I really wanted to buy, but it was on a boat and it would mean waiting a month instead of 2 years, so I said yes. I figured, and confirmed, that if it came and we didn’t like it we could just walk away, they would sell it to the next person on the list, and we would all be happy.

Anyway. We paid a bit more than we planned, but not on dealer markups, just on extra features and all these extra features are so nice. The other cars in our garage are 15 and 17 years old, so all the new features are amazing. It’s like upgrading from a kids trike to a spaceship.

The only downside so far is the slow charger is slooooooow. Completely expected and we can manage for now. Doing research on level two chargers and just need to get an electrician out to install the service.

Self Driving Cars Are Going Nowhere

Great article on how little progress has been made in self-driving cars.

I have always thought most self driving systems were too ambitious. There are so many variables, and you can’t account for all of them. I have for years thought that they should set their sights a bit lower.

Here in Colorado we have various HOV/toll lanes on many of our highways. Why don’t we start out with self driving in those lanes? I, as a driver, can handle the city driving, the accelerating to highway speeds, and the changing lanes. But after that? Let the computer do most of the work from there on out.

All the adaptive cruise control shows most of the work is ready for highway driving. And on a highway there are far fewer corner cases to consider, no turns, no bicycles, no pedestrians. If you encounter a cone zone, you hand it over to the human driver. If there’s inclement weather, sorry, you’re driving yourself.

Sure. It won’t “revolutionize” travel. But as a car owner, it would make a lot of difference on road trips. And if I still commuted, it would help probably for about 30% of my commuting.

But then no idiot is going to pay Musk or anyone else thousands and thousands of dollars for a system that just helps on the highways. And the billionaires can’t commoditize all the Uber/taxi/bus/truck drivers and suck out billions of dollars in profit for themselves. And that’s the main reason self driving needs to be complete. If there’s a driver involved, they can’t print money by hijacking a major part of day to day life.