whistlestop caboose

The view from the back.

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www.zidao.com Apprentice harmonizer, for sheer fun. Journeywoman writer, for work and pleasure. Starting point was Iowa, current stopping point on this journey is Switzerland, with frequent pauses around the world to watch and listen to the crowd, and occasionally make comments.

Tulips 2006 for Gran ellengwallace's Tulips 2006 for Gran photoset

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Secret life of lavendar

Secret life of lavendar
Originally uploaded by ellengwallace.
I snipped a bit and brought it indoors. I can't decide if I like this or the garden rosemary better. They both carry the scent of summer in their perfume, a real treasure.

French Alps suspended over Lake Geneva

I was on my way to the Swiss Alps and was not far from the lake front when I was so distracted by this view off to my right that I thought I should get off the busy road and just look at it. So I took a detour down to the lakefront in St. Prex, where the boats shivered in the darkening air but the French Alps just grew more magical in the last light of day. Tthese are above Evian, of water fame, which you can just make out in the large version on flickr - click on photo or my name to get to it.

And then, suddenly, the mountains faded away.

sky unstitched

sky unstitched
Originally uploaded by ellengwallace.
Winter sky moving, winter fields at rest. I hardly have time to sleep at the moment because I'm working on a big job due early next week, but there is always time for photos! More writing here soon.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Lake Geneva cruising bird

Lake Geneva cruising bird
Originally uploaded by ellengwallace.
What a lovely fellow he was! He finally skidded down a wave and along the top of the water.

Lake Geneva icy waves

Lake Geneva icy waves
Originally uploaded by ellengwallace.
We're having wild winds and below freezing temperatures so the lake and shoreline along Lake Geneva have turned wild. I put on a hat but forgot about gloves and had to warm my hands around a hot mug for a verrrrrrry long time when I came in!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

An Iowa Garden: Pristine Snow

An Iowa Garden: Pristine Snow

I was just feeling good about our snowflakes and then I saw this and remembered the piles and piles of Iowa snow I grew up with. But as a kid I never noticed that I was making a mess of it and I guess the animals don't, either. I kind of like the idea they've all had a good time out there when we weren't looking.

Swiss snow arrives!

We have lovely snow coming down, right down to Lake Geneva. Magic, at last!

Hope for the over 60 don't-get-it blogging crowd

The Huffington Post is a powerful news and blogging center in American politics, for those who haven't tripped over it. I've been chuckling over a story told by its founder, Arianna Huffington, which Bruno Giussani shares on his Lunch over IP blog. When she asked Arthur Schlesinger to contribute a blog he first said he didn't really know what a blog was and secondly, he didn't have a computer.

Not a problem, she said. He started faxing his texts.

So you don't have to know what a blog is, to write one.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The edges of clouds

On my listof things to learn: where do clouds begin and end and why?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Physics spaghetti

A closeup of some of the wiring being put in place on one piece that will be part of the CMS at Cern in Geneva, Switzerland. These bits and bobs will help us learn why particles have mass and what the 96% of the universe that is unexplored is made up of. Some bowl of spaghetti! (Click to see it larger)

One of the best things about being over 50, or 40 if you're smart or 30 if you're really smart, is that you can suddenly find things passionately interesting that you thought were unbelievably boring when you were younger.

I would put physics right up there. Today I visited Cern in Geneva, the world's largest particle physics lab, and by the time I left I was ready to become a nuclear physicist because it was so interesting! Unfortunately, I never even studied physics in high school, which seemed a blessing at the time.

I will have to settle for trying to write some articles that let other people see why a 27-kilometer circular tunnel 100-150 meters under the ground can be interesting. Meanwhile, I had a great time taking pictures of the view from the top waaaaaay down to the inside of an accelerator now being built. I will post those later on Flickr, as you need to see them big to make sense of them.

And it was equally fun to take closeups of some of the parts, tiny bits and pieces that all put together should help us better understand our universe.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The courage to make a book list

I am filled with admiration for Overlalune after visiting her blog just now. She posted a comment here which reminded me that I have been recalcitrant in visiting her online "house" so I dropped in but didn't leave a calling card. That's because I was awestruck by her courage in making an online list of books that she has read or is reading. She's in the book business and is an ardent bookcrosser (visit her to find out more about that or read this bit in GenevaLunch). Even so, I love to read but I would probably panic if I started a list here of my books.

I love the idea but I think the list of not completed but still trying would depress me. As it is the unfinished books next to my bed cause an accident at least once a week because the pile is too high. I'm not yet up to page 200 of Katherine Graham's autobiography despite enjoying it thoroughly. I've been reading about 2 pages a day for weeks of Green Gold, the history of tea. I was given three wonderful looking police novels by Chinese-American writer Qiu Xioalong which I haven't been able to touch because the rat who gave them to me stole them back to read. In fairness, I was the one who decided where to hange the artwork I gave him.

The Art of the Tale, an anthology of international short stories edited by Daniel Halpern is so wonderful that I'm treating it like Ricola sweets and taking ages to swallow it.

And then there is the story of the color mauve which I take in small drops now and again and Robert Kaplan's Mediterranean Winter which I enjoy but have to read slowly because I've never visited North Africa.

Now I shall rush to finish these so I can read some of the ones on her list, almost all of which I would happily put on my shelf.

A Whistlestop visit to the land of home cooking!

Started work very early today - I have the English version of a magazine to complete by the end of January for EPFL, the polytechnic institute in Lausanne, Switzerland (thus, my relative silence here). I had a lovely surprise visit from the good folks at the Whistlestop Café who are writing a blog these days and who were kind enough to say they feel right at home here!

I have never been to the café itself, not an oversight but just a fact of life: my wanderings around the globe have never landed me in Alabama. I'm beginning to think I should head that way. I paid the café's web site a visit back when I set up this blog in 2005, to make sure there wouldn't be a problem with the name I was using. It seemed our businesses were different enough - international journalism versus good home cookin' - that it would not be a problem.

Now, looking at those delicious recipes and the food I'm thinking I'd better offer to be their European distributor - special deal on all food for me, of course! Sandi, maybe you would like me to become one of your pie bakers? Over on Flickr I have a pie fan club of sorts - if you go to my Flickr page and search for pie you'll find about 50 photos.

And, I'm yet another redhead, to boot (well, it's a bit gray these days). Apparently Sandi and Bill are redheads.

If any of the rest of you are still scratching your heads and wondering why their cafe name sounds familiar, you should consider reading Fannie Flagg's book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe. The 1991 movie by Jon Avnet is fun, too.

And now, a confession: when I was in Phoenix in September I bought a box of onion ring batter mix at the last minute, in a rush at the supermarket, and got home to Switzerland with it before I realized it was THE onion rings from Whistlestop Cafe. Mmmmm, lucky me.

Just about time for a pecan roll here; wonder if the café has any they could ship over, real fast. The coffee's already on here.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Hotel Terminus: soup course

Hotel Terminus: soup course
Originally uploaded by ellengwallace.
For those of you who were around 20 years ago for a wedding in Switzerland, here is the continuation of the party. Read the whole story and get the photos here: http://www.genevalunch.com/node/2721

Please do visit, as we'd like to share our party with you!

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Originally uploaded by *Ariel*.
I probably shoud not encourage the image of quaint, cute little Switzerland with toy box towns, but this photo, by one of my favorite photographers on Flickr, is a wonderful image. It evokes early mornings on Swiss Intercity trains, running from Lausanne to Bern and seeing little hamlets and towns in the mist. It's worth a visit to the original on Flickr to click on "all sizes" and see it large - you'll spy out another whole layer of life at the top of the photo.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

My Swiss chimney sweep

For those of you who don't make it over to GenevaLunch (where something is always cooking), here is one of the photos from a little story about a Swiss tradition, not to mention legal obligation: the annual visit from the chimney sweep. Follow the link above for the rest of the story.

Yeeeeah, I can fly! said the big orange fella

...said the big orange fella to the little gray guys who were trying to hold him back.

And off he went! Go for it, buddy.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Originally uploaded by ellengwallace.
A very soggy winter's tale here in Switzerland. Click to see it enlarged, or visit the original on Flickr. There are two other raindrop photos on Flickr, if your life is not gray enough (grumble, grumble).

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Places to go, back to work

The lights began to come on down in the valley, then at mid-mountain, but up in the sky travellers - so many of them on this last day of vacation! - grabbed the light of day and kept flying with it. Unless they were going to Russia, as one plane appeared to be doing. The jet streams tonight didn't die away rapidly but faded into fat comfortable drifting bits, much like our memories of vacations just ending.

May you fly safely, those of you still in the skies! And to borrow an old Irish travellers phrase, may the wind be always at your back.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Moonpine in Switzerland

The full moon is setting behind Farmer Bernard's barn and the pine trees that lead up to the top of the mountain. The cows (and Bernard) are up early, milking to the sound of classical music on the radio, which is turned up loud so they all catch it. Later in the day they'll listen to a talk show.

The moon, the mountain, the barn, the swing, and a moon shadow on the snow.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Gone snowshoeing (a kind of Swiss dance)

Nearly. Getting ready. Lacing my shoes. Here's why:

But before I go, here are some of the ways we measure snowfall in the Swiss Alps.

By the single swingful -

By the double swingful -

Or by the snow on the rocks above the pond, where the indifferent waterfall carries on working -

Off I go. I can hear that snowy music calling me! It's got a kind of swish-swish beat alternating with whoooooosh that might have to do with all the skiers and sledders on the mountainside today.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Swiss Alps in the snow

Oooooh, we have snow and more snow and it is beautiful! As dusk began to fall people abandoned their cars and went home to cozy fireplaces and warm kitchens.