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 Portrait courtesy of Kerry Kalathas. (C) 1992.

 Born: 1957, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania

 Education: Chambersburg Area Senior High (CASHS) 1974, B.S. Mathematics & Chemistry, 1978, Lebanon Valley College, Annville, Pennsylvania; M.S. Computer Science, 1980, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Hobbies: reading, buying books, buying CDs, listening to CDs, genealogy, bridge, ballroom and Latin dance (thanks to Titus at DanceUp), painting, skiing, cross-country skiing, hiking, bicycling, travelling, computational linguistics.

Thai Quest

Live in Zurich?  Like Thai food?  See the results of our quest to find the best Thai curry in Zurich - Thai food lover's guide to Zurich 

Java Hacks

I contribute to the open source Java genealogy software, GenealogyJ, I created the multilingual "narrative" report, which prints a text description of the births, marriages, deaths, and other life events in your family tree, complete with name and place indexes. And it's mostly grammatically correct. For instance, here's a PDF and Web page of my ancestor William Wyse's ancestors.


Since May 2002, when I acquired a small piece of land in Scotland (one square foot, to be exact), I carry the title Laird of John O'Groats.  (The land is a nature preserve; by selling the deeds and accompanying titles, the land is saved from development as e.g. commercial pine farms).

Oops, no picture.

You can call me Laird Bill ... just don't call me late to dinner!


Family Tree

Here's my family tree in brief and a name register.  Got to get the full version back on line someday!

Photo Gallery

Photos of my ancestors

2002 Trip to Western Pa.

Photos from research trip to Huntingdon and Cambria Counties, Pa.


Here's the information I'm currently seeking for these surnames: Wyse, Kelly, especially Isaac Kelly, b. 1815, McMullen. (See also Kellys in Indiana Co).

Pennsylvania 67th Regiment Info

Some stuff I learned about the Civil War unit my great-grandfather served in.

Top 10 Book List

I tried to pick my top ten books of all time. In no particular order, here they are: Honorable mention: Watership Down, Richard Adams; Little Big, Alistair Crowley; Justiz, Friedrich Duerenmatt; Homo Faber, Max Frisch; War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy; Shadow of the Torturer and the rest of the series, Gene Wolfe; The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera; A Thief of Time and others, by Tony Hillerman; the Fafhrd and Mouser stories by Fritz Lieber; many things by Orson Scott Card (Redemption: the Story of Christoper Columbus, or some such is very good); Jazz, Toni Morrison; anything by Mark Twain.

A thousand more books.


Flight Noise at the Swiss-/German Border - Fluglärm an der Grenze Schweiz/Deutschland

Both my native and my adoptive homelands have a certain tendency to aggressive, ultra-patriotic nationalism. Both countries would be shocked to hear it - the US, since they think Switzerland is full of Heidi clones and is located in Sweden; and the Swiss, who scorn the US because of its aggressive, ultra-patriotic nationalism. I've never heard a Swiss admit that patriotism here is more than below-average - but you can look long and hard to find a higher density of national flags (or flag T-shirts) anywhere in the world.

Smoldering Swiss nationalism bursts into flame when Germany enters the picture. I think this is because this is the defining quality of German Swiss national identity: "I'm not German." They're arrogant; we're superior in every aspect, but too humble to mention it, well, really only rarely, or at least no more than twice a week. The German guy at work, the German woman around the corner, and in fact my German mother are all ok - but the Germans are idiots.

At any rate, the main thing you need to uphold a prejudice is to never actually look at the facts behind it, which could be confusing. In the case of noise from the Zurich/Kloten airport, this is especially necessary. Geographically the airport is problematic: it's near a city, so obviously you'd prefer to send the planes in the other direction. The German border however, is only a short distance in the other direction. It's obvious that some of the flights need to fly over Germany. It's not obvious that nearly all of the flights make a beeline for Germany and then go where they're going. And that's where 95% went, until the people running the airport decided to expand it into a hub - and the German border communities said, "Enough".

At this point, they demanded a fair distribution of the flights -- which is oddly enough what the Swiss now say they want. However, the Swiss definition is apparently 95%. (Most Swiss apparently believe Germany no longer allows flights over its territory - in fact 40% of flights still overfly Germany.) When Moritz Leuenberger negotiated a new treaty with Germany, reducing the number of flights over the German border towns, how did the Swiss react? With outrage - and the parliament voted to reject the treaty. Now the game of poker is growing in popularity here, but one thing people apparently didn't understand is that you either need to hold something in your hand or be willing to have your bluff called. The Germans called it. 5 years later, the Swiss still approach the German government saying, "We want a a fair solution, namely the one before we ever started new negotations and certainly nothing like the one we actually worked out with you." So nothing happens.

George Bush understands this: if you're not with me, you're against me. No compromise. Oddly the Swiss self-image is still that neutrality = justice = we get whatever we want. Strange.

I couldn't have said it better than Peter Frey: "Bei aller Kritik gilt es aber in Erinnerung zu rufen: In der Verwaltungsvereinbarung von 1984 wurde eine «ausgewogene Verteilung» der Anflüge und eine Nachtruhe zwischen 22 und 6 Uhr festgelegt. Und weder diese «ausgewogene Verteilung» noch die Nachtruhe wurden in all den Jahren sichergestellt. Rund 95 Prozent der Anflüge auf Zürich-Kloten wurden über Süddeutschland geleitet, und die Nachtruhe wurde ebenfalls oft gestört. Es ist bequemer, den Lärm zu exportieren, als sich mit der ohnehin schon genervten lokalen Bevölkerung rund um den Flughafen auseinander zu setzen."

U.S. Taxes

No one said it better than Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization.

Living abroad, I notice that most Americans are ill-informed about their tax burdens.  Read some excerpts from the New York Times - if you're American, you pay the least amount of taxes of any Western nation - so stop complaining and pay your fair share!  (In an odd footnote, on September 28, 2004 the Swiss Department of Finance reported that 34% of Swiss believe their taxes are higher than in the rest of Europe - a belief that is only possible if you never read a newspaper or travel within Europe - while only 32% are aware that in truth, Swiss taxes are significantly lower than in the rest of Europe. Our representative democracy works surprisingly well considering this level of ignorance.