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
Live in Zurich? Like Thai food? See the results of our
quest to find the best Thai curry in Zurich - Thai
guide to Zurich
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).
You can call me Laird Bill ... just don't call me late to dinner!
Here's my family tree in brief and a name register. Got to get the
full version back on line someday!
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
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
Being, Milan Kundera; A Thief of Time and others, by Tony
the Fafhrd and Mouser stories by Fritz Lieber; many
by Orson Scott Card (Redemption: the Story of Christoper Columbus,
or some such is very good); Jazz, Toni Morrison; anything by
Sherlock Holmes series, by Arthur Conan Doyle. The
- Lempriere's Dictionary, by Lawrence Norfolk. Dickens meets
the surrealists. In his first novel, this guy managed to do write a
novel that really feels like Dickens but crosses the line from surreal
to bizarre. Wild conspiracies, tender love, lots of classical
references...I couldn't put it down. There really was a Lempriere, a
young man from Jersey who moved to London to write a dictionary of the
classics. I've been moved by this book to claim the existence of
a new genre of historical fiction, which I call Weird History.
More on that later!
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, by
Philip K. Dick.
The book that Blade Runner was very loosely based on. A quintessential
Dick story of the lonely struggle of the small guy and the elusive
nature of reality.
- The Golden Gate, by Vikram Seth. An amazing
achievement...a contemporary novel that you can't put down...written
entirely in verse. Check out his wonderful Indian novel A Suitable Boy, which is about 15
times as long.
- L'Amante Senza Fissa Dimora, by Carlo Fruttero and Franco
Lucentini. (English translation is titled "No Fixed
Abode", but out of print.) A French princess working as an art dealer
mysterious man in Venice. To say much more would spoil the
story. F&L both wrote the text for book jackets. When
they met each other and started to write each other, they were both
around 60, I believe. Lucentini committed suicide, ending their
- Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens. Hard to pick just
one Dickens book. This was very good...also Nicholas Nickleby, etc. See
also Carlo Fruttero and Franco Lucentini's completion of Dicken's The
Mystery of Edwin Drood. The recent pastiche Jack Maggs,
which is the story of Great
Expectations retold from the point of view of the convict who
was transported to Australia, is brilliant.
- the Castle Amber series, by Roger Zelazny. One of my
favorite authors of all time. It was a delicious pleasure to wait for
volume in the two pentalogies.
- Titan/Wizard/Gaea, by John Varley. Science fiction of
great humor and unbridled imagination.
- Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll. No computer
scientist could help loving this book, could he? I'd read it a dozen
just for kids.
- any of a dozen classics...the great thing about classics
is that they really are great books.
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.
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."
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
tax burdens. Read some excerpts from the
York Times - if you're American, you pay the least amount of taxes
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.