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Thursday, September 29, 2016


So, as I think I mentioned, we moved back to Switzerland. It's the, what, fourth or fifth time I've done this. It's the second time for the kids. Noah's mean geographical location, averaged over his lifetime, is probably somewhere a bit west of the Azores. (This is in Earth’s frame of reference. I presume in the galactic core’s frame of reference, Noah’s mean location is speeding somewhere out past Voyager, which is an odd thought).

This time around, I kept my U.S. day job, so I'm telecommuting to Washington DC. The last time I tried this — in 1994 or so — it was a horror. I was lonely, isolated, bewildered by Swiss bureaucracy, six hours out of sync with my U.S. co-workers over crackly phone lines, and — with no Swiss office to go to — cut off from the possibility of meeting anyone here. Also the project itself was kinda doomed, and I was in over my head.

I was pretty averse to trying telecommuting again.

Turns out, in 2016 -- in the age of Google Hangout and github, and now that I’m a seasoned software guy and, as they like to say at the Bundesamt für Migration, “integrated” here (I’m on the board of a club, and being on the board of a club is of course the epicenter of Swiss civic life and de rigeur for its citizens), I love it. Also I’m working five hours a day — from 7am to lunchtime on the East Coast, which means only when there’s some chance my co-workers will be up. That’s 1pm to 6pm my time, meaning the whole morning to write, and dinner (and breakfast and lunch) with my wife and kids. It’s pretty terrific.

An odd side effect is that I don’t go anywhere. I write each morning on the main street a block from my house (usually in Sutter Begg, which is a chain bakery, basically an Au Bon Pain except actually in Europe; sometimes in Cafe Tat, the eco-organic-crunchy-granola shop across the street). I shop and recycle and get my hair cut in the building adjoining Sutter Begg. The city hall of our little suburb-town is next door to that; getting a new ID required going there, and to the photo store across the street from it. There is a gym across the street from my house, where I would go if I got my act together to go to the gym. I play touch rugby at the field around the corner, which is close enough that Noah and I always debate whether it’s faster to bike there (in which case traffic laws require you to turn an extra corner) or just to walk. Within this tiny radius — the “is it worth biking?” radius — there is an embarrassment of options that I’m not even making use of. The secondhand store. The pharmacy. The wine store. The bakery I don't go to.

The primary school and its playground are in my radius, between the store and the compost collection tank. Yesterday, a small pack of children were entranced with me — in my black fedora, black ankle-length coat and sunglasses, I must have looked like I has stepped out of a cyberpunk Western — and followed me along the street, giggling, and hiding whenever I turned back. Maybe they were hoping I’d pop into a Tardis.

They’re right, of course. I am an alien, and a traveler. Sometimes, though, in one’s wanderings, one finds a cozy little planet to stop over on, where one’s path through spacetime can meander in a tiny, lazy little tangle for a while.

Posted by benrosen at September 29, 2016 03:21 PM | Up to blog
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