Friday, October 28, 2011

Seven Winds

Life is a mighty experiment. My grandma always said, “Lighten up, sweetheart; it’s all learning.”

I never met my grandma. My mom adopted me soon after the loss of her mom. But if I had met Grandma in person, I would have told her I agree. It’s all about putting one paw in front of the other.
Hiking allows me to practice living while satisfying my primal urge to walk.

This hike took me to Punta Setteventi, the "Point of the Seven Winds", located approximately 40 miles north of Brescia, Italy. On the north side of the mountain, the foehn wind was so strong we could barely walk. Mom struggled to stay upright.

On the south side, however, the wind was nonexistent, and it was warm enough to take a nap.

A structure that looks like a spaceship lies right on the tippy top of nearby Dosso dei Galli, the “Hill of the Roosters”.

It hosts a former NATO facility that belonged to the Allied Command Europe (ACE) High System, a long-range communication network. Designed in the late 50s, ACE High connected northern Norway to eastern Turkey. After France left NATO in 1966, new facilities had to be built to keep the network connected without using the stations on French soil. The spaceship on Dosso dei Galli was one of these new stations. It became operational in 1969 to connect Italy and Germany; this specific location in the Italian Alps was chosen to bypass neutral Switzerland.

Located in the Black Forest, the nearest German station lies 200 miles away (as the crow flies) from the Italian station at Dosso dei Galli. Due to the Earth’s curvature, no line of sight exists between the two stations. To communicate with the German station, the NATO folks at Dosso dei Galli aimed their signals at a portion of the lower atmosphere (technically, the troposphere) within the line of sight of the Black Forest station. The troposphere is full of irregularities that scatter radio signals in all directions, so a tiny portion of the signal would hit the receivers at the Black Forest station. Of course, the Black Forest folks could leverage the very same principle, known as troposcatter, to communicate with the “Hill of the Roosters”.

I only discovered the true nature of the Dosso dei Galli spaceship after we came back home from our hike. At the time, waking up from my nap and staring at the “Hill of the Roosters,” all I wanted to do was bark at it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

In Memoriam

Bicontinental Dachshund was inspired by the dog diary my grandma wrote for her daughter, my mom. This dog blog is dedicated to her and written in her honor.

Susan Saxton D'Aoust
August 9, 1939 - October 27, 2010

"I have moments, moments when the veils between living and dying disappear and all that remains is an exquisite ecstasy."

We love you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Roll Over

Tootsie and Fluffo in conversation on the streets of Livigno, Italy.

Monday, October 24, 2011

From a Deep Dream

Engadine deserves its reputation as one of the most scenic valleys in all of Switzerland. It’s certainly one of the most famous, courtesy of St Moritz.

Engadine makes you feel as if you stepped inside the heart of the Alps. Strikingly craggy mountains rise on either side of an astonishingly green valley punctuated by alpine lakes.

We stopped in the town of Sils, which has an alpine lake with roe deer at its shores. The Waldhaus Hotel, a chateau that advertises in The New Yorker, overlooks the town. A peninsula sticks out into the lake, and we walked out to a point where another family with a big black dog was reading a plaque.

From a deep dream have I awoken:—
The world is deep,
And deeper than the day has thought.

"That's the Midnight Song from Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra," explained the big black dog with a loud bark.

"That's wotten-waven," I replied with a series of yips that were shushed by Dad.

O Man! Take heed!
What says the deep midnight?

Not sure what the deep midnight says in Engadine. We would have needed a bank loan to spend the night there.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dach-sound Finance

As you know, I am long and short. And my bicontinental status means that I have a perspective on both bulls and bears. In Switzerland, there are cows everywhere, so I'm confident I'll find a bull market where I can go long. In Idaho, there is no shortage of bears, so I can always go short.

As part of the 99%, I support OccupyWallStreet. I was shocked to read Naomi Wolf's piece about her arrest in The Guardian. Still, I find the dynamics of stock markets fascinating, especially given current volatility levels. The Dow is my favorite bellwether, but only if spelled D'Aoust, like my last name.

If you are into dividend stocks, I recommend Walgreen shares, because their ticker symbol is WAG. Because I make occasional piggy-pog grunting sounds, I follow Harley Davidson shares, whose TLA is HOG. I'm not planning to get into commodities any time soon, but the iPath Dow Jones-UBS Livestock Subindex Total Return ETN, which trades as COW, looks pretty good if you wish to gain exposure to live cattle and lean hogs.

Disclosure: I'm long on WAG, short on HOG. I have no positions in COW and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I am also a dog.

Disclaimer: This is a dog blog. These yips should not be construed as professional financial advice.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Being Cheesy

What is the favorite cheese of a college instructor?

Being Cheesy sounds prosaic, I meant to be caseic.

Monday, October 17, 2011

La Panoramica

Some 20 miles north of Lake Como lies Bregaglia, the Swiss valley where Alberto Giacometti was born. We drove over in a rental car early on a Saturday morning to hike the "La Panoramica" trail.

Near the town of Soglio, we saw a number of Japanese artists at work. They had sketching materials and tiny folding chairs, which were sized just for me. Some used oils, some charcoals, some pencils. Mom looked over their shoulders. One picture was a charcoal sketching of the town where the artist drew the mountains to look like town church spires.

I barked at one of the painters to show my appreciation of his drawing of Pizzo Badile.

My parents took this as bad form and reprimanded me. But my yip was meant as a joyous accolade.

"La Panoramica" winds up and down the mountainside and passes by several waterfalls.

Several sections have stairs.

Hikers on "La Panoramica" were different from the intense alpine trekkers we often meet. More relaxed. One man asked, in German, if the hike was too much for me. I appreciated his concern, but he doesn’t know how far these four short legs can take me.

I met several dogs, and one asked for my phone number. I also ran into the Cheshire cat just outside his Swiss residence in the hamlet of Roticcio.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Squeaky Symbols

In Tibor Déry’s “Niki: The Story of a Dog” (New York Review of Books Classics), Niki destroys a ball. Déry writes:

A few days later only fragments of the ball remained and these, one by one, were lost under this or that article of furniture. But the last shred of rubber left to her, although no bigger than a man’s thumb, still enabled Niki to fly into a passion of furious action as wild as when the ball was supple and brand new: she bit it and tore it and ripped it up for the hundredth time. It may be that, thanks to this anecdote, the reader will understand henceforth how symbols in religion and popular poetry are born.

The way I see it? Symbols—and abstractions, perhaps even metaphors—are born of balls.

For the record: I did not destroy a ball, but I did cause terminal squeaky damage to the squeaky toy in the picture.

P.s. Happy birthday to my hero: writer Lance Olsen!
P.p.s. Buon compleanno e tanti Auguri a Lance Olsen, uno scrittore fantastico!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A car my size

Here's the rental Smart car that got me home in my first post.

Monday, October 10, 2011


After crossing an enormous marmot-laden pasture in upper Val Bedretto, I felt the first raindrops at the top of a grassy knoll just when the deserted mountain hamlet of San Giacomo came into view.

A couple of ugly modern buildings sat across from an old-fashioned mountain chapel. Mom picked me up and walked right into the chapel, breaking her no-dogs-in-churches rule.

The sky crashed above us. Two bright flashes came through the door of the chapel. I started shaking uncontrollably, but I did not bark nor howl.

Dad and I monitor MeteoSuisse obsessively, especially if we are going to hike at 8,000 feet in the Alps. MeteoSuisse had mentioned storms—but only overnight. This was a rogue guest storm, crashing in from Italy.

The storm pushed its way farther east as quickly as it had arrived. Thunder and lightning still reverberated through the mountains, but the rain rapidly abated. Our route continued west, away from the storm. I couldn’t stop shivering, so Dad carried me for almost a mile.

Our mountainside trail afforded us a commanding view of the valley far below and the black clouds traveling away from us. Yet very quickly, a thick layer of fog—the backlash from the receding storm—engulfed us. The fog was not as eerie as it sounds because the trail was a veritable highway.

As we descended toward the Nufenen Pass road, we saw our reserved Swiss Postal bus arriving to pick us up. Super driver Mario had come specially just for us.

Mario asked Dad, “Cosa fate in montagna con la borsa da viaggio?” (“What are you doing in the mountains with a duffel bag?”)

Mario’s jaw dropped right next to the gas pedal as Dad and Mom showed him that the duffel bag was actually my transcontinental house, with me inside.

Friday, October 7, 2011

La Désalpe

Each fall, Swiss cows return home from their alpine pastures. They receive a warm welcome as they parade through their hometown during a cow festival known as Désalpe in French and Alpabzug in German. This year, my mom and I attended the Désalpe in the town of Semsales, in the canton of Fribourg.

The Désalpe in Semsales also features many other working animals, including goats, sheep, donkeys, and horses. Lots of dogs came to watch the parade and cheer on their comrades who were marching in it with their families. One St. Bernard decorated with flowers pulled a cart.

There was also a donkey family with an accordion player. The donkeys marched back and forth down the main street in Semsales, making the parade feel like a perpetual loop as cows and goats and donkeys and dogs and families all blended together. But then a Swiss marching band came through town. It’s as if some Swiss guy, some hundreds of years ago, woke up one day, and said, “Hey, we could all march together in unison and swing these big-ass, heavy cow bells in unison, too.” And that’s exactly what the young men do. It’s wotten waven.

After the Swiss marching cowbell band, a group of elderly men walked through carrying cheese wheels that sat on top of flat wooden boards above their heads.

At the festival there is, of course, cheese available for purchase: cow, goat, or sheep.

The neatest part of the parade was when a herd was led in by a little guy my size. My mom thought he was no more than eight years old. He led in his cows with his own call, and the crowd went wild. The cows didn’t take their eyes off the little guy. Neither did I. Unlike the older farmers who had cell phones (or wore Bluetooths), the little guy had only himself and his cow stick.

I’ve never heard so many “bravos” for cows before. When each family arrived with their cows, the crowd clapped and hooted and yelled, “Bravo!” The sounds of the human crowd combined with the clanging of the cowbells around each cow’s neck made an enormous racket. It made me shiver.

A woman from the local café greeted each family. She came out to the street with a tray full of red and white wine glasses. The farmers took a gulp of wine while nudging their cows forward.

Actually, the cows didn’t need much nudging—except for the Scottish Highland cattle. They were very shy, and stopped to stare at everyone before walking through town. Scottish Highland cows are super cute and very fuzzy.

They are supposed to be gentler on duff. Thanks to their smaller form factor, they don’t rip up alpine pastures as much as regular cows. Size-wise, they are to other cows what I am to other dogs.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Canine Courtship

On the "La Panoramica" trail in the Bregaglia Valley, Switzerland.
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