Archive for June, 2008

churches, cabarets, and a few quick words about trains

saturday:

Saturday morning, I woke up, feeling at least 20% more human. With great joy, I left my backpack, laptop and assorted other work accessories in the hotel. With a little bit of fiddling, I found out that I could fit the Lonely Planet Switzerland guide into my right shorts pocket. Five minutes later, I realized that if I turned it precisely in one orientation out of three, the Lonely Planet logo would not be sticking up out of the corner of my pocket. (Seriously, I think someone very clever and exceedingly evil did this on purpose.) Realized I’d spent five minutes re-adjusting a book in my pocket and realized that a cup of tea was probably a higher priority than I’d realized: I slipped out of the hotel quietly enough to not wake my snoozing coworkers, and grabbed a tram.

A moment, here, to talk about the trams of Zürich:

Elvis fucking wept.

According to a snippet of promotional video that I heard on my incoming flight, Switzerland has the densest public transit system in the world. I didn’t pay this much mind on my way in: I’ve lived in Manhattan and been a frequent visitor in London, so I consider myself pretty unflappable about such things. Like many such self-assured considerations in my life, this was dead wrong. Zürich’s public transit system is a miracle, and I’m here to testify.

The miraculous nature of the ZVV, to me, is that it successfully challenged one of my central prejudices about public transit. As a former resident of Philadelphia, Boston and New York, and a current resident of San Francisco, I’ve had an unshakable belief, grounded in harsh experience, that in order to do public transit right in a city of any size, you need subways. Multiple subways. Heavy rail, underground: no shortcuts, no wimping out. Light rail, trolleys, busses and Bus Rapid Transit all formed the Ugly and Broken parts of Boston and Philadelphia’s systems, and they form the core of San Francisco’s system which is all Ugly and Broken. There ain’t nothin’ like the real thing, and the real thing is the A/C/E Train: end of story. Right?

Wrong. Zürich does it all with street-level trams, and it works. To do it, some cabal of goddamn geniuses put together a system that merely does everything correctly. For starters, let’s look at the map:


(click for links to much bigger versions)


If you’re a trainspotter like me, you’re already sexually aroused. (If not, well, you probably skipped over this entire section and are looking at more pretty pictures now.) This is what a hub-and-spoke system is supposed to look like: multiple hubs, multiple spokes. Central Zürich is covered with a spiderweb of tram lines, and no matter where you’re going, there’s (a) a tram stop near you heading toward the right hub, and (b) a tram from that hub heading to within a few blocks of where you need to be.

But it doesn’t stop there. Ever stood in line for five minutes, waiting to get onto a city bus in the US because the fare is $1.95 or some other ridiculous sum, and every single idiot in front of you (and, let’s be honest, you as well) waits until they’re at the farebox before rooting around in their pockets trying to find the exact change? Doesn’t happen in Zürich: The drivers don’t collect fares at all, and you can get on or off through any door in the tram or bus. Fares are card-based, and it’s enforced by random card inspections. If you don’t have a valid card the first time, you get fined $60. If you don’t have a fare the second time, you get fined twice that and taken down to the police station to get yelled at. I think a third offense gets you deported to Lichtenstein.

How to get a fare? Simple: every single stop has an electronic ticket machine that sells one-way and round-trip cards with shortcut buttons for popular stops. If that’s not enough, prepaid daily, weekly and monthly cards can be bought at most stations, convenience stores and hotel lobbies. Just to hammer the point home that they know what the fuck they’re doing, the time-based prepaid cards don’t actually start ticking until you want them to, by activating via sticking them in a slot in one of the ticket machines… you know, the ones that are at every stop.

At this point, it almost seems unfair to mention that most of the trams are built so that the floor is roughly six inches above street level: there are no stairs to climb before getting on, so everybody boards in seconds. Every. Single. Time.

But of course, the best trolley system in the world does you no good if it’s stuck in traffic, and here is where the industrial-strength genuflection begins: it doesn’t seem to happen here. Through a fiendishly clever system of timed lights, lightless pedestrian crossings (that keep car traffic slowed down and wary) and dedicated right-of-ways (usually at the biggest intersections), Zürich’s city planners manage to put together a system where the trams just glide through the city like ghosts, unimpeded by any mere physical obstruction. To an American, this has effects that appear to bend the laws of space and time: on multiple occasions, I opted to walk the equivalent of two or three tram stops because I didn’t see a tram coming behind me, saw traffic ahead of me, and figured that there was no way a tram could beat me down the half kilometer to my destination. Each time, like an overconfident rabbit, I found myself staring ahead of me at the finish line, wondering what the hell happened.

Did I mention that Zürich is a city that is, in both population and geography, roughly half the size of San Francisco? HALF. My modest proposal: put the entire staff of MUNI on a plane bound for Switzerland. Have a planted operative hijack the plane to Cuba. Meanwhile, kidnap the ZVV board of directors and say “hey, we’ve got this very understaffed public transit system in a lovely city in America that we’d like you to run…if you do a good job we’ll let you go back to Switzerland in 2020!” A boy can dream, right?

Right, where was I?

Oh yes: Saturday morning. After managing the purchase of an iced tea and a mandelgipfel at the Hauptbanhof, I started my tour of the old churches of Zürich. Zürich on a Saturday morning is a very quiet city: tourists and natives alike were mostly still asleep, and I had the streets largely to myself until around 10am.

Walking south along the river, the first stop was St. Peterskirche (St. Peter’s Church), the oldest in the city, and with a clock tower face that is allegedly the largest in Europe:



I poked my head inside, but nobody was home.



Next on the list was the Fraumünster (Church of Our Lady), which is apparently famous for having its interior stained glass windows designed by Marc Chagall. It was a bit further south and another block or two away from the river. Picking my way along with not much more than a sighting of the church tower for reckoning, I ended up going down a passageway where the original stone stairwell had been removed and replaced with rough steel over a rockfall, leading between two buildings each of which were probably older than my country:



As I got to the end of the passage, I heard the unmistakable sound of…brass. And sure enough, as I got closer, there was an honest-to-god amateur brass band seated in the courtyard the the passage opened out onto. Nobody around but me, a handful of shopkeepers, and 15 musicians in traditional Swiss clothes making oom-pah-pah sounds. I’ve never felt more like Number Six in my entire life.



A few blocks away, I finally found the entrance to the Fraumünster:



…only to find a small note on the door explaining that the Church was closed until 1pm today. Time to re-adjust my plans then: I headed across the river to the twin-towered Grossmünster. The Grossmünster doesn’t have stained glass by a famous modern artist, but it’s still plenty pretty on the inside, and more importantly for a small CHF 2 donation, they’ll let you climb up one of its towers. And I mean climb, and I mean up:



After about five minutes of carefully picking your way up the tightest stone staircase you’ve ever encountered in your life (medieval monks: small, patient creatures), secured only by an intermittently available rope, you emerge onto a wooden platform and realize that you’re only halfway up, and the rest is a series of increasingly step tiny wooden steps that slowly morph into rickety ladders by the time you reach the summit. No matter, onwards. Luckily, the view is completely worth it.



(Obviously I took more than one photo from the tower. More later. Many more. Same goes for any reasonably picturesque location, really.)

The ground floor of the Grossmünster wasn’t bad either:





…and beneath and behind the altar is the crypt, which has a statue of King Charlemagne (who founded the church) dating from the 1370s:





Temporarily churched out, I made my way to one of Zürich’s icons of Weimar-era decadence and modernity, the newly re-opened Cabaret Voltaire:



The Cabaret Voltaire is a small personal touchstone for me. There aren’t many art movements that I give a damn about, but dada is one of them, and this is where it started: a small, flickering light that guttered quickly and was lost in the advancing darkness of the 1930s. (If this is greek to you, go read “Lipstick Traces” by Greil Marcus.)

These days, the Voltaire is a cafe/bar on the top floor, a gift shop featuring wares from local artists on street level, and a performance space in the basement. The walls are covered with a mix of dada artifacts and works by contemporary Swiss artists. Every time I managed to find a free minute to stick my head inside over the weekend ended up being in the early afternoon, so of course the place was empty. 2pm just isn’t rush hour for underground performance spaces, no matter how historically important:



By this time, it was around 1:30pm, and I was getting hungry, so back over the river again and through a bit of the business district to Cafe Sprungli, the cafe and confectionary run by the Lindt company, mostly known in the States for their ubiquitous chocolate spheres. In Switzerland, they’re a much more wide-ranging chocolatier, featuring everything from bulk confiture for restaurants and bakeries to truffles, macaroons, pies, tarts and cakes, as well as a full-menu lunch and breakfast cafe. I spent a few minutes wandering around the immense salesfloor with a wolflike expression on my face before coming to the important realizations that (a) it was still midday, (b) it was already over 80f outside, (c) it was probably going to get hotter, and most importantly (d) they would be open at 7am on Monday morning, giving me ample time to do a last-minute chocolate run before fleeing the city. That sorted, I bought a sandwich and some mineral water and grabbed a table outside to watch the (sigh) absurdly good-looking people pass by. Many of whom seemed to be exceedingly well dressed for a hot-verging-on-muggy saturday afternoon. (That’s foreshadowing.)



My lunch disposed of, I wandered in the direction of the Fraumünster. Getting there, I found that most of the better-dressed people I’d seen walking up Banhof Strasse during the last 20 minutes were all gathered in front of the church: apparently it had been closed for a wedding. (In a town comprised 80% of bankers, I don’t want to know what your net worth needs to be to reserve the Fraumünster for your wedding ceremony.)



The wedding itself was apparently over, and the tourist entrance at the back was open, which was how I found out that alone among all of Zürich’s churches, the Fraumünster prohibits all photography in its interior, all the better to sell you CHF2 postcards and CHF20 picturebooks of those fabulous Marc Chagall stained glass windows. Alas, no snapshots for us.

My last stop on Saturday was the Le Corbusier Pavilion, about a kilometer south of the Fraumünster, in the park alongside Lake Zürich. Now, any time you get within eyesight of the river or lake in Zürich, you’re going to see an inordinate number of white swans: they’re gorgeous, but after a few days even I got tired of taking photos of them. This afternoon, however, I spotted something that was unusual-looking enough to warrant a photo:



“What an odd-looking bird,” I thought to myself. “I wonder what it is? Oh well, there’s no way I’ll actually remember to look it up tonight…” And then twenty feet later, directly in front of me, I found an enormous sign helpfully labelling every single bird that a tourist might ever see along the river:



The Swiss are apparently not merely efficient, but well-nigh telepathic. The English name for that bird is apparently the European Coot. I was, and remain, delighted.

Several dozen large lawns and patios of half-naked sunbathing Zürichers and Euro-2008 tourists (an entirely unexpected fringe benefit, I assure you all) later, and after a bit of backtracking through an enormous outdoor childrens’ sports center once I realized I’d overshot, I found the Corbusier pavilion, which as advertised looks like a Mondrian painting sprung into three dimensions:



The building is actually officially the Heidi Weber Pavilion, but was designed by Le Corbusier and holds a permanent collection of his papers. Or so the guidebook said: while the building was beautiful, the sign on the door kindly informed visitors that it was only open between 3pm and 6pm Friday through Saturday, and it was only 2:30.

At this point, I took a quick inventory: I was 2km from my hotel, hot, tired, and sweaty. I had a camera, a guidebook, a small bottle of sunblock, my passport and a pocketful of Swiss coins and lint. My shoulders still felt like rocks, not in the good way, and my ankles were starting to make their own complaints heard. Next to me was a large, cool lake and several thousand sunbathing europeans. My course of action was obvious. CHF12 got me entrance into the nearest reserved bathing area, a secure locker for my camera and a towel rental. No swimtrunks, but the lake water was clean and I was wearing shorts anyway.

The next few hours passed uneventfully.

Around 5pm (give or take), I managed to drag myself up off the lawn and back in the direction of the Pavilion. Which was still closed. Closer examination of the sign revealed that it is only open between 3 and 6pm… in July and August. Apparently the lure of a million tourists in town for Euro 2008 wasn’t enough to convince them to open a few days early. Perhaps next time, then.

My plan for saturday evening had been to grab a wurst and a bier, and to park myself somewhere along the promenade and watch the Euro 2008 final match with the rest of the city. (When in Rome, etc.) This plan was foiled by the inconsiderate fact that the final game was actually on Sunday night. Sausage and beer happened anyway, and then as I was limping back toward the hotel, I found the greatest thing ever: one of the many, many vendors along the river park was, like you’d find at any street fair. 20 minutes later, if I wasn’t quite a new man, I was at least able to walk with my spine and shoulders in something approximating their normal configuration.

By this time, it was past 9, and while Zürich was still out to see and be seen along the river, I was getting a bit tired of being a lone face in the crowd. Solo travel is fun during the day, but it palls a bit at night when you’re on your own somewhere you don’t speak the language: everyone around was having a good time, but my social skills are all built around what is, in Switzerland, everybody’s third-favorite language. I apparently didn’t look completely like a lost American tourist, since during the day people would occasionally come up to me and ask for directions in German, but conversations tended to trail off once it became obvious English was my only language. My urge to play the Chatty American being minimal anyway, I called it a night and walked up the riverside to my hotel, through the gathering dusk.

beware of gauls bearing bottles

Oh, a little bit from thursday that I missed. An important lesson: if a Frenchman offers you a sip of somethine called “Gentiane”, and notes cheerfully in passing that the reason it’s being poured from a bottle that claims to be chablis is because it’s from an illegal distillery somewhere near his home village?

Run as fast as you can in the other direction.

The stifled laughter from my coworkers as I poured myself just enough to cover the bottom of the shot glass was enough to give me pause. Caution appeared to be indicated. I merely touched the tip of my tongue to the pooling clear liquid, and suddenly my entire head was suffused with horror. The high notes were gasoline, ammonia, stomach acids and isopropyl. Other, slowly developing aromas spoke of industrial solvents, chemical spills and newly laid asphalt. Swallowing started a fast burn down my throat, coupled with the constricting feeling of swallowing soap. A few seconds later, I burped. Words at this point fail.

I have sampled some foul liquors in my life. I’ve sipped snake liquor in Vietnam. I’ve had Maotai repeatedly. A former employer made an initiation rite of drinking Riga Black Balsam (AKA Latvian Pine Tar). I’ve been force-fed shots of Fernet by Doctor Hal himself. I regularly enjoy Laphroaig. Nothing, nothing had prepared me for this.

You win, scary French liquor. You completely win. I surrender the field, and we shall never do battle again.

constructed from notes, pt 1

thursday and friday, from memory and the photographic record:

thursday:

On Thursday night, my coworkers and I went to have a lakeside barbeque in a small park overlooking Lake Zürich. Because I’m an idiot, I decided that the fact that I was once again carrying a backpack with a laptop (the same one I’d schlepped up and down the Uetliberg the day before) was no reason not to hike the 6km from our office out to the park instead of doing the sensible thing and taking the train.

For the record: this was not a sensible decision. The knots in my shoulders by the end of that evening? Indescribable.

As a small bonus, the walk took us through some of the less touristed areas of Zürich, which afforded me the chance to see some of the local graffiti. Now, back on my trip to Iceland, I indulged in some mild mockery of the local street art (the phrases “Hrothgar was here” and “Icelandic homies reprazent” may have figured), but that’s actually pretty unfair: Europe’s graffiti tradition dates back to the Romans after all. And I have to say: Zürich’s taggers could probably pass muster in Queens:



Also seen on the way: one of a disturbing number of the garden gnomes of various sizes that I spotted in various locations across the city. There were many of them, and nobody seemed to be being ironic about it.



Dinner at the lake involved more meats-on-a-stick than a sane person should ever consider eating in a single evening: the Swiss are quite serious about their Wurst. And when I say “on a stick”, I mean that quite literally, as the following (slightly fictionalized, highly slanderous) conversational excerpt will demonstrate. The scene: we have just gotten the coals going on the portable grills, and your humble narrator has wandered over to the Bag o’ Meat to inspect the goods:
Your Humble Narrator: So I see wurst, chicken and beer. Do we have buns, knives, napkins or mustard?
Coworker Who Will Remain Anonymous: Um… I knew we forgot something.
YHN: Really?
CWWRA: Really.
      [Uncomfortable pause]
YHN: You came in a car, right?
CWWRA: Yes
YHN: So you could… go get them, right?
CWWRA: Shops close pretty early in Zürich.
YHN: …when?
CWWRA: Around eight?
      [YHN checks his watch. It is 7:45pm.]
      [Uncomfortable pause]
YHN: I suppose you’d better get going then?
CWWRA: I guess so.

While the Co-Worker Who Will Remain Anonymous did eventually return with bread, napkins, condiments and plasticwear, the first round of wursts came off the grill long beforehand, so being the clever engineers that we were, we sent one of our number into the nearby bushes with his swiss army knife. He returned, victoriously, with a fistful of sharpened sticks, which we used to eat the wursts from.

In the meantime, I amused myself by standing still and being used as a climbing pole, fencing partner and tickling target by the adorable 6-year-old daughter of my co-worker Ben and his wife. I’m not sure what it is about me that prompts all children under the age of 10 to think “toy!”, but it appears to be a pretty consistent reaction.



Eventually, the sun went down. And when I say ‘eventually’, I mean around 10pm: I’d forgot how much I missed the way summer nights stretch in the far north.



…and we took a train home:



friday:

work work work. meetings meetings meetings. drink with coworkers. dead on feat. shoulders still twisted into Erlenmeyer flasks. wandered out onto the riverfront, got a caphiriña from a vendor. they turn out to be tasty. also sleep-inducing. stumbled back to the hotel, fell asleep. least glorious day as a solo traveller so far.

Oh, one funny note. Google, like a lot of big companies, has a weekly ‘TGIF’ function every friday afternoon to let people unwind a little before the weekend. (Not that the work environment there is so tightly wound to begin with, ahem.) At the Zürich office, the beginning of TGIF is sounded by — and I swear I am not making this up — the theme to “Heidi” being played at top volume over the building P.A. system. I can only shrug my shoulders and say “the Swiss do like their Cheese.”

To be continued.

Das Internetten ist nicht für das fingerpoken…

 
Several once-popular internet humor memes that are intermittently applicable to Zürich:

Actual content to follow once I’m guaranteed of network access for more than 10 minutes continuously.

pfaugh

bulletin: the internet service at Ema House Zürich is bad enough to make it worth your while to stay anywhere else. No long-winded update on the weekend’s festivities, unless maybe I manage to grab the time at one of the airports that I’m about to head into. In the meantime, look at the pretty pictures.

up up up up up up up

Briefly:

I hiked up a mountain today. A small mountain, but a mountain nonetheless. Probably doing this with my laptop in my backpack was not the brightest idea I’ve ever had, but there you go: along with several of my coworkers, I walked straight from Waffenplatzstrasse all the way to the summit of the Uetliberg, which has a rather nice restaurant and an observation tower from which (if you don’t mind climbing 15 flights of steps after having just walked up a mountain) you can see some amazing panoramas of the city and countryside. Sadly it was too hazy to see the alps in the distance, but I managed a few decent photos nonetheless.


the path up the mountain


…which went on for a while


looking back down the path


me looking like a gormless tourist
on the observation tower at the summit


sunset over Zürich


Then because I hadn’t abused my legs enough for one day, we walked down the mountain as well. This turned out to be substantially trickier than going up: we took a different, gravel-strewn path, and it was consistently steep enough to make staying upright both difficult and hard on the knees.

But we got back into town just in time for me to head into the river plaza area to see how insane things would be when an actual game was going on. And about 5 minutes after I got there… well, either Germany won the semifinal or they annexed Switzerland. Either way, a lot of German flags, shouting and honking going on. It was pretty pleasantly insane.





germany wins it


And now, your intrepid narrator falls over.

a few more notes, and a picture or two

The downside of a working trip is that I don’t really get to do much. Wake up painfully early due to jetlag, head into the office, work, go out for an evening drink and/or dinner, crash into a jetlagged heap at the hotel, rinse and repeat. I’ll be at liberty over the weekend; hopefully I’ll have more entertaining things to report on then. Until then, more disconnected notes, and maybe a picture or two if I can summon the energy.

  • Speaking of work: Google’s Zürich office has two inter-floor fire poles, one inter-floor slide (which terminates in the cafeteria), and a chill-out room with fishtanks. I am, frankly, mortified.


    the slide, entrancethe slide, exitthe firepolethe fishtank chillout room


  • On a brighter note… this is going to sound weird, but the toilets at Google Zürich make me inordinately happy. The reason is the flush button: it’s one of those little triumphs of design that brings a warm glow to my stomach: you look at it, there’s a space of a second, and then you realize exactly what the two buttons do and why. Neither icons nor words necessary: the thing speaks for itself. And in its small way, it’s beautiful. There should be more things like this.


    res ipsa loquitor


  • This city has gone nuts for the Euro 2008 cup in a way that’s difficult for an American to fathom. Imagine if, for the Super Bowl or the World Series, the host city(ies) didn’t just hang a few banners, but turned their entire downtown into a festival area with open-air bars, restaurants, band stages and dance clubs for a horde of people who include not just ticket-holders but thousands of sports fans who are just in town for the party, even though the team they’re supporting isn’t even here. Now imagine that this goes on for a month. Zürich’s riverfront is one long party, less of it on the weekday nights, more of it on the weekends. It’s really berzerk. Oh, and then there’s the 30-foot-high footballers in the train station…


    big ballin’the lone holdout


  • And on a related note, having now had the occasion to see pedestrian traffic not entirely composed of young underdressed football fans, I am relieved to report that there are people here of average attractiveness levels. Just not many of them.

  • …but then this evening, one of my coworkers took me down to a river-side area where Zurichers tend to congregate on sunny days to swim in the river and sunbathe. Dear god. I almost swallowed my tongue. There’s some horrible secret supermodel breeding program going on in the bowels of this city, I’m sure. And now I’ll shut up about the hot Swiss people. Until next time.


    the old swimming hole


  • Zürich’s public transit system makes me want to cry with joy. No subways, but the city is blanketed with streetcars: they run everywhere, and they run on time. Then on the rare occasion that a tram doesn’t take you to within a few blocks of your destination, there’s an equally extensive network of busses and commuter trains filling in the gaps. It’s like the parallel-universe version of San Francisco where MUNI, BART and CalTrain all work. The only bad thing I can say about it is that it isn’t 24 hours…


    tram at night


  • …but the city is small enough, safe enough and pedestrian-friendly enough that it almost doesn’t matter. Getting caught out after the trams stop seems like in most cases it would mean at worst an hour’s walk home, usually by some lovely scenery.


    zurich in the evening

what’s your price for flight?

A few scattered, highly jetlagged notes so far:

  • Unless I was hallucinating — and after 13 hours in the air I’m not entirely sure — I was checked in on the last leg of my flight (Copenhagen to Zürich) by a woman actually named Syter Kristiansen. No clue if she’s found Mister Right or not.


  • Business class travel lounges: holy god, the land of the white people. Actual overheard conversational snippet: “We’ve been to Thailand seven times now. It’s great, there’s McDonalds, 7-Eleven, everything you’re used to.” I have no words.


  • Speaking of white people: the air staff on Scandinavian Airlines? Very, very blonde. As blonde as you can get. Blondest. None more blonde.


  • There appears to be some sort of sporting event going on here in Zurich. People seem to be somewhat excited about it. Expressing one’s affection for the game seems to involve large bands of attractive young people wandering around wearing not-very-much, but not-very-much of coordinated colors and logos. (Actually there’s a lot more to it than that, but more on this later.)


  • …actually the general attractiveness level here is a little intimidating. I had thought that I had, over the last two years, done a little raising of my game with regard to my own personal hotness level (whatever that might be), but I really appear to have nothing on the average person wandering the streets here. It’s unclear if it’s just a temporary influx of pretty young sports fans or if the general cuteness status quo in Switzerland is just a sigma above what I’m used to. Obviously further investigation is necessary.


  • My hotel has the single dumbest internet connection system I have ever encountered. To begin with, no wireless. Okay, fine, they made their investment in the tech a little too early to catch that wave and don’t want to rebuild, and there’s an ethernet cable on the desk. But then it gets better: internet access is billed per hour. Better still: you cannot just punch in your credit card from your computer in your room, you have to go down to the reception desk and buy a “ticket” that gives you a username and password good for whatever amount of time you’re willing to pre-pay for. (n.b., this is allegedly a hotel catering to business travellers.) But the bsst part of all is this: while you can buy a “7 day unlimited” pass for the internet service, the system they use to do the billing cannot sell such a thing. So when you buy a ‘7-day unlimited’ pass, what actually happens is that the desk clerk prints up two 10-hour tickets and instructs you to come back and get more printed out when you run out of time. You really have to appreciate the amount of effort that’s gone into making sure that a shared DSL line operates like a long-distance phone line from 1977.


And now, I fall down.

maintaining neutrality

So next week I’m going on a somewhat last-minute business trip…

…to Zürich. Yike.

I’ll have a day or two at liberty. Suggestions?

and we’re back

 
Well, that pretty much sucked. After about two days off the air, blank.org/sneaker.net is back. Many thanks to the lovely people at The Planet for some truly heroic efforts at getting all of their customers online after what is pretty much the nightmare/game-over scenario for any datacenter manager. No thanks to the laws of physics for making high-voltage electricity such an unforgiving bastard to work with.

Email is slowly starting to trickle back in, but will probably still be delayed for several hours as my poor little CPU chokes and sputters on processing all of the queued up spam.